The Christmas Eve Tree

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The Christmas Eve Tree
Delia Huddy and Emily Sutton
Walker Books
The author, of this book, Delia Huddy, who I knew as an editor at Julia McRae Books, was working on the story at the end of her life and it’s wonderful to see it in print as a beautiful, moving picture book illustrated by Emily Sutton.
The story begins with a ‘carelessly planted’ little fir tree growing yes, but crookedly, so that when finally the trees are cut years later, it is stunted and tangled with its neighbour. Nonetheless it’s taken along with all the others to be sold, this ‘bottom of the pile’ tree. As the rest are sold one by one, the little tree fears for its fate until on Christmas Eve, a boy comes into the shop and the shopkeeper gives him the sad-looking object. A better fate than the black rubbish sack assuredly.
Indeed once outside the shop, the boy heads for the river,

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plants the tree in a box he discovers at the waterside and heads off back to his own, larger box shelter.
The Christmas spirit begins to descend upon both boy and the tree, that now feels a sense of belonging.

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Soon others join them and before long the traffic’s at a standstill as everyone gathers to listen to the Christmas song. And suddenly …

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Eventually, as rough sleepers do, the boy moves on. And the tree? It’s put into a road sweeper’s barrow and taken off to the park, planted in a corner and now against all the odds there it still stands ‘cheerfully stout’

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and giving pleasure to so many all year round.
Giving pleasure to many is assuredly what this wonderful story will do to what I hope will be its many readers and listeners, all year round too.

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Nina engrossed in the wonderful story

Emily Sutton’s retro-modern scenes portray an almost fairytale atmosphere of a wintry London.

Previously reviewed in hardback, but now out in paperback is a totally contrasting presentation of Christmas:

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A Stork in a Baobab Tree
Catherine House and Polly Alakija
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Subtitled ‘An African Twelve Days of Christmas’, this book is far more than just a reworking of the traditional English version of the song. Readers are treated to a superb experience of African village traditions and customs, animals, food and clothing, and much else. Christmas in southern Africa, we are told, comes during the rainy season. …

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when the grey branches of the Baobab are covered in leaves and white flowers.
Each of the twelve days, portrays a different African country and is given a double page spread where,

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in addition to the main text, there is a paragraph in smaller print explaining the particular scene. There are many allusions to the biblical story of the nativity woven into Polly Alakija’s fine illustrations;

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in fact the more you look the more you see. Indeed the whole book is one to be revisited over and over allowing considerable time to be spent exploring each setting.

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