Name of Book: The Gift of Nothing
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Audience: Ages 3-8.
Summary: Mooch wants to give his friend, Earl, a special gift. But what do you get someone who has everything? Nothing, of course! Mooch goes in search of nothing and finds the perfect gift in the end—the gift of “nothing but us.”
Literary elements at work in the story: This delightful story of Earl and Mooch—two popular characters from McDonnell’s comic strip, “Mutts”—explores the common dilemma many people face as the holidays approach. What gift will most satisfy and please a loved one? Mooch realizes that Earl has everything. And so, he sets out in search of “nothing.” As his search unfolds, the reader sees that our world is filled with many nothings – nothing to watch on TV, nothing to do, and nothing to buy. The ironic truth, of course, is that there is plenty to watch, do and buy, but none of it satisfies the longing of one’s heart for the friendship of another person. When Mooch confirms that the gift contains “nothing but me and you,” the reader experiences the simple joy of watching two friends enjoying each other’s company. The whimsical, yet simple, illustrations and brief text work in concert with this theme to create a wonderful celebration of the most basic bonds we share with others.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability: In subtle ways this story points out the potential emptiness of a culture that is obsessed with things. Instead, it celebrates the universal need for relationship. Additionally, the unlikely best friends—Earl the dog and Mooch the cat—prove that meaningful relationships can form even between those who appear to be quite different.
Theological Conversation Partners: The Gift of Nothing provides a simple, yet profound, context for exploring the ways that worldly things fail to satisfy the deep desires of our hearts. As we move closer and closer to Christmas day, we are told by our culture that some new bauble or trinket will fulfill us. Yet, we have also experienced the emptiness that sometimes follows the giving or receiving of a gift. Why do I still feel unfulfilled? Lonely? Lost? The ancient Hebrew people longed for a Messiah that would come as a great and powerful king—a king with brilliant courts and military might who would bring security and safety to the people. Instead, God sent the people a Messiah, born in a lowly place, who satisfies empty hearts through being in relationship. The great gift of Christmas is the person of Jesus Christ. Potential scripture texts: Luke 2 (The Nativity), Psalm 23 and John 10 (The Good Shepherd).
Faith Talk Questions:
- What are some of the special gifts you remember receiving? Why are these gifts special?
- Have you ever really wanted something, only to find that it was disappointing, once you received it? Share your story.
- Some of the best gifts we receive are not gifts of things, but gifts of time spent with those we love. We hold these gifts in our hearts and memories. What are some wonderful memories that have become gifts of the heart for you?
- The ancient Hebrew people expected the Messiah to be a powerful king or military leader. Instead, God sent Jesus, the Good Shepherd. How does the Good Shepherd care for you?
- What are some of the gifts you have received from God, through Jesus?
- In what ways does Jesus fill your heart?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Catherine Lovejoy.
The Gift of Nothing by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.