I have a special section on my bookcase of holiday books to pull out at different times of the year, and my favorites are the Christmas ones. My boys all loved Goodnight Moon when they were little, and it led to our discovery of more books by Margaret Wise Brown. I was happy to find that her book, The Little Fir Tree has been reissued with illustrations by Jim LaMarche, whose book The Raft is another of our all-time favorites. The Little Fir Tree, first published in 1954, is a timeless story of love, hope, and miracles. A small fir tree sits alone in the forest over the years until it grows big enough to become a Christmas tree. A father, looking for a tree for his young bedridden son, finds the little tree and digs it up to take home:
So—tenderly the man dug into the not-quite-frozen ground. He dug a big wide hole around the little fir tree. Tenderly he took all the far-flung roots and tied them in a gunnysack.
The anticipation of the little boy is captured in both the text and the illustrations as the father brings the tree home and places it in the little boy’s room for Christmas. Each spring, the father takes the tree back to the forest and replants it. This occurs each year, until one year when the father does not come:
There he was, a little fir tree in a big empty field. The big trees in the great dark forest were far away. The stars were far away.
And without Christmas the world seemed big and cold and empty.
This is so poignantly true, and we are reminded of a deeper message here.
Jim LaMarche’s illustrations are so beautiful and perfect that almost any page of The Little Fir Tree would be suitable for framing. The family and friends are depicted as warm, caring, and loving as they all gather around the tree in the little boy’s room and sing carols, bringing the “great celebration of Christmas” to him. Nature plays a vital role in the book—the change of the seasons, the little fir tree in his element, the little boy’s nature shelf, and his view from his window:
After Winter, Spring came in, flashing with birds and flowers, and the little fir tree was returned to the woods.
Summer droned its bee-buzzing days around him.
And Autumn came and whirled milkweed parachutes past his head.
Both the pictures and the words are lovely and sweet and complement each other to create a captivating world for the reader.
My boys and I look forward to reading The Little Fir Tree again and again.