Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Great Spruce

Well, I've found a book after my own heart. It's a book about Christmas, family, traditions, and protecting the life and longevity of trees.

I just love trees. I like having lots of trees on our property and having our house shaded by them. I love their beauty and history. I love the way the sun catches the leaves, making them glow and sparkle. I love their beauty in the fall, and the sounds of crunching leaves under my feet. And I love to see and hear my kids climbing them -- just as I loved climbing them when I was little.

And I hate to see trees cut down. I know that there are many valid reasons for tree removal -- they might be dying or posing a danger to others if they are prone to breaking. I get it, but I still miss their beautiful presence.

So when my kids and I read The Great Spruce by John Duvall, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2016), I fell in love with it. I think you will, too.

The book begins with Alec and his love for climbing trees -- especially the great spruce. "It was the most magical of all the trees, tall and strong and spreading ever upward." Such lovely writing.

Alec's grandpa had planted the spruce long before Alec was born, and together they decorate it each winter with lights and tinsel.

Alec and his grandpa are not the only ones who love the tree: visitors arrive who ask if they can take the great spruce for the city's Christmas celebration. Alec is appalled that his tree would be gone forever, and he blocks the men from cutting it down. Instead, he convinces them to dig the tree up by its roots and borrow it!

And that's just what they do. They dig up the great spruce and it is transported to the city where it is enjoyed by thousands. One girl, in particular, loves the tree, so Alec gives her one of its cones, encouraging her to plant the seeds that are inside so that she might grow her own great spruce.

By spring, the spruce is replanted and is thriving at home, and Alec is still spending his days climbing its beautiful limbs.

Exquisite endpapers
The writing in this book is beautiful and lyrical, the story is sweet, the characters are selfless, and the spruce's legacy lives on. And the illustrations by Gibbon are so perfect for this story: they are colorful and detailed and convey, page by page, a world that is full of life, beauty and goodness.

Sigh. It's just such a wonderful and hope-filled story. And here's the best part: there's an author's note at the end of the book.

It tells of the history of the giant Christmas trees used for celebrations like those in New York -- how the trees used to be dug up and borrowed for the season, and were later replanted in their home. Because it is cheaper to just cut down a tree, though, this practice changed. Now, John Duvall devotes his work to gently removing trees for celebrations such as these and then returning them to the earth. I love that. To preserve these magnificent trees so that they can continue thriving is a beautiful thing, indeed.

I hope you get a chance to share this book with your little ones this season. It's a special one!

Happy reading,

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