Review: Little Tree

Little-Tree

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book
Ages: 2-6
Author: E. E. Cummings and Chris Raschka
Illustrator: Chris Raschka
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 1-4231-0335-1
ISBN-13: 978-1423103356
Caldecott Medal winner (2006)

The holidays are a magical time of the year. Well, they’re supposed to be, anyway. Sometimes, between the cookie baking, gift buying, drop-ins and open houses, it can all feel a little overwhelming. Now that Little E is three and Tiny J is one, I’m finding it absolutely essential to slow things down this year. We’re just not doing as much. We’re giving fewer gifts, sending fewer cards, and trying to maximize our time with each other and with extended family. It’s so easy to forget why we’re doing all this: to be together and celebrate. (Unless you’re super into Christianity. Because then your reasons for enjoying Christmastime might be different than mine.)

This is Little E’s first year really Getting It when it comes to Christmas. She is stoked. And she loves, loves, loves our Christmas tree. It’s nothing fancy: just a charming, not-too-big balsam fir we picked out at a tree farm. We didn’t cut it ourselves, though we did get hot cider and reindeer cookies. But Little E runs over to it every morning when she wakes up and admires the branches from every angle, adjusts a few ornaments here and there, and often exclaims, “I love our Christmas tree!” You can’t beat a three-year-old an enthusiasm contest.

I think E. E. Cummings would have loved our tree too.

This little book beings with Cummings’ poem about a Christmas tree and then tells the tree’s story with sweet, whimsical watercolour illustrations that remind me of stained glass.

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see    i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

The poem is a simple, lovely, small jewel and the book takes the story of the tree further. “The little tree had a little dream. The little tree dreamed of being a Christmas tree, a beautiful Christmas tree in a city, far, far away in a place he’d never seen but only dreamed of, with his own little family in his own little house.” After its journey to a Christmas tree lot, the tree is purchased by “[a] little boy, a little girl, a little mother and father and their little dog.” The illustrations show the life and beauty of the city, and observant readers will spot Santa playing his role in fulfilling the tree’s Christmas wish, as the “little tree lifted up his little branches, like little arms, to show off all the little ornaments, ribbons, chains, and lights.”

“The little tree had found his own special place in the world, a special little place that was waiting for him all his life.”

(The only catch, of course, is explaining to the little ones that the Christmas tree winds up in a garbage truck after Christmas.)

But in the meantime, this book is a winner. And taking a few moments to read poetry with my kiddos is the perfect reminder of what the holidays mean to us.

Note: This edition does not seem to be in print anymore. But there are lots of copies available cheap on AbeBooks.

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