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Poinsettias and Christmas trees

CHILDREN’S BOOKS | Four books about Christmas

Poinsettias and Christmas trees
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The Legend of the Poinsettia

Tomie dePaola
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1994)b

Beloved children’s book author Tomie dePaola tells why poinsettias are a symbol of Christmas through this rendition of a Mexican legend. Lucida’s village is preparing gifts for the Christ child, gifts that the people will give during the annual Christmas Eve procession. When Lucida’s mother becomes ill, though, she can’t finish weaving a blanket for the manger scene. Lucida tries but fails to complete the project on her own. She is devastated her family will have nothing to give baby Jesus this year. But then an old woman reminds Lucida that “any gift is beautiful because it is given,” and Lucida’s unlikely gift transforms into something truly beautiful. An author’s note explains how the poinsettia later found its way into U.S. tradition. Ages 4-9

Christmas Farm

Mary Lyn Ray
(Clarion Books 2008)

When Wilma decides to convert her summer garden into a Christmas tree farm, she recruits her young neighbor Parker to help. After they plant 62 dozen saplings into 24 straight rows, they must weed, mow, trim, and carefully tend them. The years pass, and Parker and the trees grow, although some trees are lost to “mice and deer, storm and ice.” Finally the trees are ready for harvest, and families come to pick and cut a balsam tree that smells like “the sweet smell of Christmas.” Twenty-nine trees remain to grow taller for next year while Wilma and Parker look forward to spring when they will plant again. The conclusion offers a brief history of Christmas tree farms. Ages 4-8

The Carpenter’s Gift

David Rubel
(Random House 2011)

At the height of the Depression, Henry’s family lives in a drafty shack as they struggle to make ends meet. Henry’s wish for a warm house becomes reality when kind strangers arrive on Christmas Day to begin building them a new home. To celebrate, Henry plants a pinecone beside the house, and over the years the spruce grows. Then one Christmas, when Henry and the tree have grown old, a man asks Henry to donate his tree to the Rockefeller Center. Henry is reluctant until he learns that after the holidays his tree will be milled and used to help build a family a new home. The endnotes share more about the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and its connection with Habitat for Humanity. Ages 5-9

Night Tree

Eve Bunting
(Harcourt Brace & Co. 1991)

On a crisp winter night before Christmas, a father and mother load their two children into the family truck and head for the woods. Every year the family hikes through the trees until they come to one special evergreen. From a box they pull popcorn chains, apples, nuts, sunflower seed balls, and more, all of which they use to decorate the tree for the animals that live in the forest. When they are finished, they spread out a blanket, pour cups of hot chocolate from a thermos, and admire their tree. Readers may find, as this reviewer’s family has, that the story will inspire them to embrace a new Christmas tradition of decorating an outside tree for God’s creatures to enjoy. Ages 3-7

Kristin Chapman

Kristin is the children's book page editor and an editorial assistant for WORLD Magazine. She graduated from two World Journalism Institutes, including one in Asheville and one in Austin. Kristin resides with her husband, Jarrett, and their three children in New Castle, Pa.


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