Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ever-green Evergreen Tale II: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston

It's almost Christmas, World War I has finally ended, but Ruthie cannot quite enjoy the season until her father returns from the war. Still, she remembers the beautiful evergreen tree he marked to cut for Christmas, and lit by lantern light, she and her mother walk through the darkening woods to bring the tree back for their church. It's her family's turn to provide the tree for the Christmas Eve service, and Ruthie's mother is determined that she won't let the Pine Grove congregation down.

The snow-covered tree is beautiful as it stands in the woods and beautiful decorated for the performance of the Nativity Play in the little church. Ruthie herself plays the Herald Angel, dressed in a costume fashioned by her mother from her own silk wedding gown. Her family has little to spare, but what they give makes all the difference to their little community.

A beloved read-aloud since its publication twenty years ago, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story is one of those perfect collaborations between author Gloria Houston and Caldecott Award artist Barbara Cooney. While the setting, glowingly illustrated by Cooney, is of a time past, the theme is evergreen, like the perfect tree itself.

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