Book Review: Apple Tree Christmas

Rating: ★★★★★

The Ansterbergs live in the end of their old barn which they share with their animals, and they look forward to the time when Papa will be able to build them a real house.  Every Fall they harvest the apples from their old apple tree, and then the tree is free for the two girls to play.  One makes a swing out of the vine which wraps around the trunk and branches; the other makes a drawing “studio” out of a broad limb.  In the days filled with hard work and chores, the tree provides a great deal of joy to the children.  But one night a blizzard destroys the tree, and for two weeks before Christmas the barn is filled with the sounds of Papa sawing the tree up into firewood.  The girls are so distracted by grief that they are barely able to prepare their homemade Christmas gifts for the family.  Even on Christmas Eve, he stays up late into the night, sawing.  On Christmas morning Papa unveils their presents: a section of vine, nailed to the overhead beam, with homemade rag doll astride, and a drawing board affixed to the rescued “studio” limb, adorned with real paper and willow charcoal.  The second child draws a picture to commemorate these events in 1881, and it stays on the family’s wall for many years.

This book is exceptional in many ways: the drawings are skillfully evocative, and the text is just right in its level of descriptive detail and emotion.  The story compellingly draws its audience in to share the girls’ fear as they huddle under the table listening to ice strike their roof, watching Mama feed the fire that keeps the cold at bay.  And listeners are disappointed along with the girls when their favorite place to play is destroyed.  When the children’s joy is restored due through the generous love of their parents, the effect is of a deeply joyful experience of a strong family which chooses to embrace love, hard work, and determination in the face of significant challenges.  It’s an outstanding addition to the Christmas basket.

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Publication Information: Noble, Trina Hakes. Apple Tree Christmas. Sleeping Bear Press. 2005. ISBN: 1585362700.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 04-08, Honey For a Child's Heart
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Posted on November 29, 2010

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