We have been so lucky to receive such an amazing array of books to read in the run up to Christmas - books with sounds, pop-up books and even books that have twinkling lights! However, The Christmas Eve Tree, written by Delia Huddy and illustrated by Emily Sutton, has to be one of the books with the strongest message about Christmas spirit and that is why it is our pick for Christmas Eve.
So what's the story about?
"It's late on Christmas Eve, and the little fir tree
is the only tree left in the shop. What a poor, crooked
thing I am, it thinks. But then in comes a young
boy who doesn't seem to mind that the little tree
isn't tall and straight like the others..."
It becomes apparent that the boy who takes the tree away is sleeping rough in a cardboard box under the arches of a railway bridge. He uses his last coin, not to buy food, but to decorate the little tree with candles and soon a crowd gathers and they start to sing:
"The little fir tree felt it would burst with happiness,
for... the boy had forgotten
that tonight he would be sleeping in a cardboard box...
and tomorrow he would eat not turkey, but soup in a soup kitchen
if he was lucky."
We are told that a few days later the boy moves on leaves the little tree. The tree is collected by a road sweeper. The story ends sometime later with the tree standing big and tall in the park, looking forward to another spring.
Well, by the end of the story I was an emotional mess and, Mini Reviewer, Izzie, was incredibly concerned and had many, many questions! Where was the boy's family? Why didn't he have a home? What was a soup kitchen? Was there a soup kitchen nearby? Could we visit the soup kitchen? I took my time to answer all her questions as best as I could.
As we have been joining in with #foodbankadvent throughout November and collecting food for our local food bank, I was quite surprised by the huge impact the story had on Izzie as we had already discussed similar issues. The book was certainly a good way of addressing gratitude and kindness, as well as reiterating how lucky we are as a family and how we should always think of those who are less fortunate than us and especially at Christmas time.
Overall I found this book to be unexpectedly moving and an incredibly refreshing read. All the materialistic ideas that we often find ourselves distracted by at Christmas are stripped away. The story together with the atmospheric illustrations capture what most take for granted, a sense of sheer Christmas joy! Although we do not find out what happens to the boy, the happy fate of the little fir tree leaves us with hope for the future. This is definitely the book we will be reading as a family this Christmas Eve.