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BOOKS: A gift for mama — and everyone else

“A Gift for Mama” follows a little boy’s quest to bring the perfect treasure home for his mother. (Submitted photo)

“A Gift for Mama,” by Linda Ravin Lodding, begins when Oskar fi nds the perfect gift for his mother — a yellow rose.

The premise is not particularly intriguing. But tension sets in when an artist begs Oskar for the precious fl ower. In exchange, he gives him a paintbrush.

At this point, it’s hard to tell if Oskar is just gullible — or if he received the better end of the deal. After all, he now can paint his mother a beautiful picture.

Next, a conductor (who has lost his baton) begs Oskar for his paintbrush. Oskar gives it up, receiving in return a newly-composed piece of music. From there, Oskar meets a man who begs him for the music (which he needs for his lyrics). In exchange, Oskar receives a book.

Of course, the trading continues.

The pathos of the tale is strong. Oskar is a boy who cannot help but give to others. Even when he finally gains the perfect gift, he gives it away to a girl who needs a gift for her own mother.

Fortunately, the story has a satisfying ending — not just for the girl, but for Oskar too.

The art of Allison Jay provides a strong complement to Oskar’s tale. Her combinations of teal yellow and green provide luminous warmth. Also, the crackle-glazed finish gives her illustrations a European atmosphere.

The importance of this old world connection is heightened in the author’s note. Lodding (who lived in Austria) explains that she imagined Oskar “darting through the old town” of 19th Century Vienna, meeting artist Gustav Klimt, musician-composer Johann Strauss, author Felix Salten and others.

Although “A Gift for Mama” is a bit sophisticated for broad kid appeal, the book provides a rich experience for a child ready to enter an intricate tale.

“A Gift for Mama,” by Linda Ravin Lodding. Illustrated by Allison Jay. Knopf, 2014. 32 pp.