Night Tree

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Ted Rand
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Short Review: 
This evocatively illustrated story captures the wonder and simple pleasures of a family’s holiday tradition of decorating a tree in the forest with food for the woodland animals.
Long Review: 

A young boy tells of his family’s annual Christmas Eve trip to a wooded patch outside of town where they find “their tree” – a perfect little fir tree that they decorate every year with food for the forest animals. Approaching the tree with cheerful familiarity, the boy and his little sister string popcorn chains around it, hang apples, tangerines, and sunflower seed balls on its branches, and even sprinkle nuts, breadcrumbs and pieces of apple under the tree, for the animals who can’t climb very well. Then they sit and admire the tree, drinking hot chocolate and singing Christmas carols. Once home, the boy happily thinks about their tree and hopes that all the animals of the forest are enjoying their Christmas feast. And on the last double page spread of the book, we get to see the animal’s feast of the boy’s imagination – a scene of glorious harmony in which all manner of animals – bears, raccoons, skunks, foxes, porcupines and birds – are sharing in this family’s Christmas gift to them all. Both text and illustrations make you feel as if you were there: the boy describes smelling the tree smell in the forest, and the bright full moon, “big as a basketball” shining down on their little tree. You can feel the crisp cold of the moonlit winter night through the deep blues of the star-studded night sky and the shadows of the nighttime forest, and the white foggy clouds of the family’s (and the animals’) exhalations in Rand’s evocative watercolor illustrations. In case you’re wondering, this story is not a veiled screed against having Christmas trees in homes (in fact, you can see this family’s indoor Christmas tree through the front window of their house as they’re packing up to leave for their pilgrimage to the forest.) Rather, it is a heartwarming tale of a family tradition of sharing the joy and bounty of the holiday with other creatures at Christmastime.

Lauren Mayer

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Eve Bunting