Rabbits are soft, hedgehogs are prickly. Rabbits are vegetarians, hedgehogs eat slugs. Rabbits sleep in gloomy and damp burrows, hedgehogs sleep in the wide open where it's frightening and noisy. So what happens when you put such opposites like Rabbit and Hedgehog in the same book? Why, they become best friends, of course. At least that's what happens when author Paul Stewart and illustrator Chris Riddell combine forces in The Birthday Presents. Rabbit and Hedgehog have been best friends ever since the debut of Paul Stewart's A Little Bit of Winter. Now these contrasting characters team up in a second Rabbit and Hedgehog story. Although they are best friends, neither knows the dates of each other's birthdays. Actually, they haven't a clue when their own birthdays are, either. Sound like a problem? Not for Rabbit and Hedgehog. They do what any present-minded child might do in this situation: They improvise.

Let's celebrate our birthday's tomorrow. But they might not be tomorrow, said Rabbit.

But they might be, said Hedgehog.

It would be a shame to miss them if they are. You're right, said Rabbit. That's a good idea. With their first conflict resolved, these best friends are met with the problem of what to give each other. After careful consideration, both friends come up with what they think is a suitable gift for their very best friend. Hedgehog thinks Rabbit might be afraid of his very, very dark burrow. So Hedgehog brings his friend moonlight in a bottle to light up his night. Rabbit thinks Hedgehog might be disturbed by the bright, noisy day so he gives Hedgehog a box of coziness. Fortunately, both presents end up being perfect, although not in the way that was originally intended.

Paul Stewart takes a subject that any child can identify with and gives it a sweetness that leaves the reader feeling satisfied. With tenderhearted humor, Stewart shows that friends even ones who are so different can always give the gift of friendship. Chris Riddell's warm, friendly illustrations go hand in hand with the gentle text, just like a good friendship, making this book a wonderful gift for birthdays or any day.

Katie McAllaster Weaver writes from her home in Benicia, California, where she often makes up the date of her birthday.

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