Night Tree

Our Holiday Favorites: Night Tree

A family sets out on Christmas Eve to find their tree; it is a familiar tradition they keep every year. Bundled up in warm clothes, they drive through town, “to where the dark and quiet begin.”

Eve Bunting’s lyrical prose, along with captivating illustrations by Ted Rand, pulls readers into the story from the first page of Night Tree, a nature lover’s must-have picture book for the holiday season. The book portrays a surprising and wonderful Christmas experience as the loving family heads out into the woods with blanket and supplies in hand to find their tree:

   It hasn’t snowed yet. It’s so cold my breath hurts.

The sky is spattered with stars, and the moon, big as a basketball, slides in and out between the treetops.

When the family arrives at the spot where “their” tree is growing, readers suddenly realize they are not there to chop it down to bring home. They stop to admire how much the tree has grown, and they compare its growth to that of the kids. As Dad sets down his box and opens it up, he does not bring out an axe, but instead pulls out popcorn chains, apples, and tangerines:

   For weeks we’ve been making balls of sunflower seeds and pressed millet and honey. We hang those, too.

We scatter shelled nuts and breadcrumbs and pieces of apple underneath for the little creatures who can’t climb very well.

Our tree looks so pretty.

The illustrations in Night Tree are so detailed that even the fog on the characters’ breath is shown in the cold. The animals look as if they belong in a nature journal as they discover the decorated tree and scurry to sample a treat: from deer and bears to raccoons, foxes, and skunks, and even a curious owl. My children study each picture to catch all the little details—be sure to notice the boy’s quilt once he settles into bed. The colors are vivid, with lots of touches of red and green, and even tiny twinkling stars appear in the midnight blue sky.

Eve Bunting’s descriptive writing makes readers feel as if they are a part of the story, and it reads like poetry. Night Tree is a wonderful depiction of a caring family, respect for nature, selflessness, giving, and togetherness—all things worth celebrating anytime.

After reading Night Tree, my children and I were inspired to create garlands and natural bird feeders to decorate our outside trees for the critters in our neighborhood. We were proud to have our own “night tree” covered with popcorn and cranberry garlands and tiny hollowed out pumpkins filled with seeds last year. Night Tree may inspire you to start a new tradition as well.

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