the christmas eve tree

My mother and grandmother did their best to foster a love a reading in my siblings and me. That meant gifts of books at birthdays, Christmas, as rewards for good behavior or excellence, and sometimes “just because.” My birthday falls just after Christmas, so for much of my childhood those gift books were Christmas books (or if they weren’t explicitly holiday-themed they were winter-themed!).  To this day I have a soft spot for picture books that depict snowy landscapes, holiday cheer, and/or hibernating animals. I picked up a proof of The Christmas Eve Tree by Delia Huddy and illustrator Emily Sutton on a whim at Book Expo America, and it has already found a special place in my heart.  This picture book is sure to join other classics on the shelves of any family that celebrates Christmas.

the christmas eve tree by delia huddy illustrated by emily sutton cover
In a deeply moving story with the hallmarks of a classic, a homeless boy’s rescue of a spindly Christmas tree sparks a glimmer of hope that has far-reaching effects.

It’s late on Christmas Eve, and the little fir tree is the only tree left in the shop. What a poor thing I am, it thinks. But then a young boy enters the store, drawn in from the damp by the warmth and lights and the wonderful smell of Christmas, and he doesn’t seem to mind that the scrawny tree isn’t tall and straight like the others… This magical story, beautifully illustrated by Emily Sutton, captures an unexpected and unforgettable moment of happiness that brings a whole city together.

Delia Huddy’s story of a misshapen Christmas tree that finds its way into the exact place it was meant to be is the sort of tender, heartwarming tale that could easily veer into maudlin territory.  Instead, the story strikes a balance with poignant, bittersweet moments juxtaposed with Christmas cheer and community spirit. 

Huddy includes themes of feeling unwanted and introduces homeless characters with care, highlighting both issues without downplaying their seriousness.  That said, there are a couple of convenient loose ends and a resulting happy finale. The result is warm, heartfelt, and sure to spark important family conversations (and possibly new traditions!).  This story might not be 100% perfect, but it is very good and it has the hallmarks of a classic.

It’s a little crazy that I’ve gotten this far into the review without talking about Emily Hutton’s fantastic illustrations.  They’re… everything.  The rows of Christmas goodies in the shops, the holiday lights in the night, the cityscapes – they’re fantastic.  I don’t know the last time I was this charmed by the complimentary combination of text and pictures.  Hutton’s art is vibrant, evokes a sort of every-city-at-Christmas feeling, and takes the titular crooked little tree through its life cycle.  Humans feature in the story but the tree is the understated star of each page (even if the reader must search for it in a different location on every spread), an artistic choice that elevates the pictures from sweet to layered and read-again worthy.

All told, The Christmas Eve Tree is a treasure. I’ll be gifting it to all of the children I know this upcoming holiday season.

Recommended for: anyone who celebrates Christmas and enjoys gorgeously-illustrated picture books.

The Christmas Eve Tree will be released by Candlewick on September 27, 2016.

THE CHRISTMAS EVE TREE. Text copyright © 2015 by Delia Huddy. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Emily Sutton. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

Additional fine print: I picked up a copy of this title for review consideration at BEA.  I did not receive any compensation for this post.


Meg @ write meg! said...

This looks like such a sweet, beautiful story! I'm obsessed with building my son's library, especially with new holiday stories, so I'll definitely be looking for this one. Thanks!

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Awww, this looks wonderful! I've got a nephew about two weeks from arrival, and I want to make sure his personal library is VAST. My family is big big into Christmas, and so shall my nephew be. Books are KEY.

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