Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Twelve Gifts of Birth by Charlene Costanzo

My baby girl just turned one, and it's only going to be a matter of time when she's not a baby but a little girl. I don't think I'm alone when I say that as a parent, I often wonder how I'm going to raise a strong, self-assured, and happy child. It's a daunting and sometimes frightening task to achieve what with bullying, poor body image, young children developing eating disorders, and so much more I read about in the news. I also know that however hard I may try, I can't shield her from everything, but it is my job to remind her often about how much she's loved and about her inner strengths, and I'm going to use The Twelve Gifts of Birth to help me.

Charlene Costanzo sent me an autographed copy of this touching book a couple of weeks ago, and it's already become one of my favorites that I've read to my daughter many times. The book opens up talking about how in fairy tales, princes and princesses always received gifts from wise women or fairies when they were born. These wise women longed to give these gifts to every child that was born, but were forbidden. Well...the time has finally come that ALL children inherit these twelve gifts when they are born. The rest of the book names these twelve gifts:

  • Strength
  • Beauty
  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Hope
  • Joy
  • Talent
  • Imagination
  • Reverence
  • Wisdom
  • Love
  • Faith
As each gift is named, a short affirmation follows. For example,

"The first gift is strength. May you remember to call upon it whenever you need it.
The second gift is beauty. May your deeds reflect its depth. "

Accompanying the text are sepia-toned photographs by Jill Reger and illustrations by Wendy Wassink Ackison that give the book a magical, dreamlike feel.

What I like most about the book is its universal message that every person has these inherent gifts within them regardless of where they're from, what they look like, and even what they've done, and it's up to them to use them wisely and bring them out in others. While it's absolutely an excellent choice for any new or expectant parent, it would also make a great gift for anyone celebrating a milestone such as graduation, a new job, and for anyone who may be experiencing some sort of adversity.

This book bridges all religious boundaries and is appropriate for people from all walks of life. As stated in a letter from Charlene Costanzo, it's been used in baptisms, bat mitzvahs, funerals, schools, churches, and even prisons. It is a book that I will cherish and that I will give often as a gift and that I would recommend to any parent.

There are two other books in the series, The Twelve Gifts for Healing and The Twelve Gifts in Marriage. In addition, Charlene Costanzo has developed a website full of resources for readers, parents, and educators, including a free classroom curriculum.

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