a list of…five oh, christmas tree! stories

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, written and illustrated by Robert  Barry

From the upstairs window of his grand mansion, Mr. Willowby watches with glee as the delivery truck arrives with his tree — and it’s a doozy!  In fact, it towers so tall in his elegant parlor that the top bumps into the high ceiling.  Not to worry. In steps Baxter, the butler, who expertly lops off the top.  Voila!  The tree fits the room.

The tree top, a very nice size in its own right, Baxter delivers with aplomb to pretty Miss Adelaide for her use.  But, wouldn’t you know it?  When Miss Adelaide sets it on her sweet table, it’s just a tad too tall; the top bends down against her ceiling.  No problem.  Snippity-snip — Miss Adelaide trims the top off in a jiffy, and out it goes into the rubbish…where Timm the gardener spies it.

By tale’s end, a lot of folk right down to Mistletoe Mouse are enjoying a very merry Christmas with the remnants of Mr. Willowby’s tree. How nice.

Barry’s story in rhyme, written nearly 50 years ago,  is accompanied by charming ink and watercolor illustrations.  The capable butler and prim parlor maid, portly bears, keen foxes, frolicking rabbits and bright-eyed mice, and all their various-sized abodes amid the snowflake-filled night skies, make this an enchanting read for kindergarteners and up.  An old favorite of ours.

Christmas Tree Memories, written and illustrated by Aliki

It’s Christmas Eve.  With the ching of a bell, the children eagerly hurry into the cozy living room to see the tree, aglow with candlelight, beautifully decorated,  and to snuggle with Mom and Dad over Christmas cookies while sharing memories of Christmases past.  The ornaments on the tree are what spark the memories, for most of them were made by the family over the years, and each one brings back memories of the particular Christmas when it was created.

Remember that little red heart made of dough?  Remember there was a blizzard that year, and our water and electricity went out and we had to melt snow and huddle by the fire telling stories?  You were two.  On and on go the memories associated with pine cone and nut shell ornaments, origami and wooden spool ornaments, Christmases at Grandma’s and Christmases in the midst of chicken pox.  The stories go on until it’s time for bed.  Christmas will be here in the morning, a new Christmas with it’s own set of memories.

Ahhhh.  I simply love this book.  The simple joys of family life together, the sweetness of reminiscing with children, the dearness of homely, homemade ornaments gracing the Christmas tree, the quietness, the love of extended family that exudes from Aliki’s text and her gorgeous, colorful drawings taking us from snowy woods to sunny beaches, hushed hearthsides to boisterous family reunions.  It’s been one of my favorites over the years, and it continues to inspire me to proactively create unpretentious traditions and memories in our family.  An especially sweet story for preschoolers and up.

The Bird Tree, by Frans van Anrooy, illustrated by Jaap Tol

In this quiet story, a young boy named Mark travels from his home in the city to his Grandma’s lovely house in the woods for Christmas.  Grandmother may be poor, but she has always shared her breadcrumbs with the forest animals, so many of them flock to her doorstep.

Grandma and Mark are able to buy a tree from the village market, but do not have the money to decorate it, which is so disappointing.  But marvelously, while they sleep, her friends the birds come and settle in the tree providing their own colorful feathers as magnificent decorations.  Mark tells the village boys about this splendid tree, but only the kind boys can see its splendor; the birds flee from those who have mistreated them in the past, and all they can see is a bare tree.  In the end, Grandma’s patience and wisdom redeem the situation for all these boys, and the glorious bird tree is thoroughly enjoyed.

This old (1966) story has an old-fashioned quietness to it, yet its message of appreciation for the Earth’s creatures is always current.  The paintings by Jaap Tol are a riot of color, one seeping into another, jeweled forests and joyous birds, the warm, kind face of Grandma contrasting with the bad-tempered scowls of the children, which mellow as Grandma’s wisdom touches their hearts.  It’s out of print title, which is a pity.  Our library has a copy — maybe yours does, too.

Little Tree, by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

“little tree
little silent Christmas tree…
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly…”

e.e. cummings’ poem, written in 1923, follows the gentle ramblings of a young child upon finding a little Christmas tree for sale.  She   imagines what this very little tree must be feeling and assures it that she will love and care for it.  She tells it how wonderful the tinsel and shiny balls are as they emerge from the crates where they’ve been waiting since last year, how elegant it will look when it’s dressed in this finery, how much she and her little sister will adore it.  It’s a lovely, glad poem.

Deborah Kogan Ray has illustrated it with her characteristically soft, warm, colored pencil drawings.  She sets the story in an urban neighborhood and a homey, brownstone apartment,  filling the pages with a glow of happiness and contentment.  I adore the obvious closeness and affection between these siblings, their delight in this imperfect tree, their radiant faces when the tree is trimmed.   Altogether, it’s an incredibly endearing book.

A Christmas Story, written and illustrated by Mary Chalmers

In a small white cottage, tucked snugly in the hills, lives Elizabeth — a pint-sized girl with a mop of curly blonde hair — and Harry Dog, Alice Rabbit and Hilary Cat.  A happy little household if ever there was.

It is a snowy Christmastide, and they have just fetched in the tree on their dashing red sledge.  After a darling cup of hot chocolate they parade down from the attic carrying armloads of colorful boxes and spend a merry time trimming the tree.  It’s brilliantly done, but…there’s no star for the top.  Not to worry. Elizabeth bundles up and trudges off through the deep snow to find one.  She meets several interesting persons in the forest, even gets a ginger cookie, but has no luck with a star until!  she finally meets “the Santa Claus for rabbits and other small animals” and yes, tucked in his pack, he’s got just the right sort of sparkling star for the top of their tree.  Perfect!

This charming story, written in 1956,  has all the feel of one spontaneously told at bedtime to a little not-sleepy-yet person.  It’s got a delicious helping of captivating detail, no unnecessary explanation, all topped off with a tidy, perfectly-happy ending.  Short and sweet.  The illustrations will tickle you pink!  From the delightful endpapers profusely decorated with gingerbread boys and toy drums, wind-up mice and tiny brass trumpets, to the inhabitants of this household sitting about their wee green table enjoying hot chocolate in china cups…so unabashedly cute!  A delight for the 2-5 year old set.

Here are Amazon links to all these lovely tales of Christmas trees!

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
Christmas Tree Memories
The bird tree
Little Tree (Dragonfly Books)
A Christmas Story