The Little Fir Tree

The Little Fir Tree
Christopher Corr
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Christopher Corr’s reworking of the Hans Christian Andersen classic story is a cautionary tale that ends rather differently from the original.

Christopher’s characteristic dazzling folk art style illustrations follow the little fir tree from its place deep in the forest where it stands feeling discontented with its lot, as other, bigger trees around are felled. Learning that they are to be used to build cabins and ships, the tree insists it too wants to “become a ship and sail on the sea.”

“Don’t wish your life away … Every moment is precious” is the sage advice from the birds that comment on its beauty, as do others – human and animals during the next couple of years.

But then comes the fir tree’s opportunity to have a sparkling adventure of its own. Having been cut down it’s taken into a grand house where children adorn its branches with festive decorations.

Its time of glory though is short-lived, although the fir tree does enjoy a sharing of The Snow Queen

before its branches are stripped of all its adornments by eager hands just before bedtime, leaving the tree eagerly anticipating their replacement the following day.

But it’s not to be, for next morning the tree is taken outside and put in the shed where it stays abandoned with nothing to do but reminisce about its life back in the forest – “It was the best place in the world … If only I’d known it then.”

Corr doesn’t leave the tree rueing its fate though, for come spring, the children drag it outside once more and there they give it a new persona; and thanks to its old friend Squirrel, there’s also an opportunity to create life anew.

Live in the moment and appreciate what you have is the gentle message that emerges from this fine book.

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen
retold by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Laura Barrett
Orchard Books

Like everything else she writes, award-winning author, Geraldine McCaughrean’s retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen classic tale is simply stupendous: the way she uses words herein is sheer enchantment: ‘From that moment, Kai was full of goblin mischief … and empty of joy. … And when in the market square, he saw the beautiful lady again, in her curlicue silver sleigh, he just climbed in beside her. Had to. Something made him. A magic bigger than mischief.’

That’s when Kai disappears in the company of the wicked Snow Queen and thus begins the search for Gerda’s dearest friend.

During her search Gerda encounters a kindly witch, a clever crow, a prince and princess,

a den of robbers and in particular a Robber Girl. It’s the latter who gives her a pet reindeer to ride.

At the top of the world she comes to a house wherein dwells a wise woman who knows the way to the palace of the Snow Queen. This woman urges Gerda to find courage and sends her on her way.

And find Kai she does, once the Snow Queen has departed leaving him with a puzzle to solve, but convinced he’ll fail.

However with Gerda at his side, a word takes shape …

and then it’s time to flee for their lives, Gerda, Kai and two brave reindeer …

Geraldine’s out of this world telling has the perfect illustrator in Laura Barrett. Putting me in mind rather of Lotte Reiniger and Jan Pieńkowski’s work, her silhouette illustrations are incredibly beautiful.