Archives for December 2017

The Christmas Ship

On November 21, 1912, the schooner Rouse Simmons set sail from a small northern Michigan town across Lake Michigan. Affectionately dubbed the “Christmas Tree Ship,” this was an annual trek for the Rouse Simmons. With its cargo of Christmas trees, the ship was bound for Chicago. There Captain Herman Scheunemann would sell the trees for 50 cents or $1.00 and even gave many away to needy families. But in 1912 the schooner never makes its destination. The Rouse Simmons, with all hands and cargo, disappears into the cold waters. The ship’s wreckage is not found until 1971.

Drawing from stories told by her grandfather, author Carol Crane weaves a fictional tale based on the true events of the doomed schooner. And she explains how the captain’s widow went on to continue his tradition of delivering holiday trees to Chicago.

Since my husband is from Michigan, I was immediately interested in getting this book and learning more about the Christmas Ship – so buy it, I did.  (Actually it doesn’t take much to convince me to buy a new book.)

 

Little did I know there was a musical written about this story!  A double win for me.  Here’s a video from The Mercury Theatre where they performed The Christmas Schooner, a musical about the Christmas ship.   I would love to see this someday…  In the meantime, I have do the book.

The Christmas Schooner (excerpt)

(sorry about the color bars at the beginning..)

Night Tree

Author:  Eve Bunting
Illustrator:  Ted Rand

In my autographed copy of Night Tree Eve Bunting wrote, “The woods are filled with wondrous secrets!”

Indeed, you may find yourself almost whispering as you read and turn the pages of this starry, moonlit story. As the young boy and his family make their way deep into the woods, carrying their special box and big red lantern, you’ll witness the wondrous secrets they see along the path. When, at last they arrive at “their Night Tree”, the box is opened and a special and heartwarming tradition begins to unfold.  After the tree is properly adorned, the children choose carols to sing.

Later that night, as the young boy lies in bed gazing up at the moon, he  thinks of what might be happening deep in the forest.  He knows that his family has brought Christmas in an unusual way to the forest animals, and wonders if they might be singing their own songs around the Night Tree.

Mary Kline

Publisher’s Weekly Review

A refreshing alternative to the tinsel and sugarplum commercialism of many Christmas offerings, Bunting’s arrestingly simple tale resonates with genuine warmth. A boy recounts his family’s annual Christmas Eve outing to a nearby wood, where they decorate a special tree (“It has been our tree forever and ever”) with fruit, seeds and strings of popcorn for the animals. Rand’s ( Knots on a Counting Rope ) atmospheric watercolors create a mood of hushed excitement as they enhance the festivity of the occasion–apple-cheeked figures exude a homey cheerfulness, their brightly colored caps and blanket sparkling against the deep tones of a nighttime forest. After a mug of cocoa in front of their masterpiece and heartfelt renditions of favorite songs, the family returns home, keenly aware of “the secrets all around us” and pleased with the notion that the animals have a place to celebrate Christmas. Parents will take heart at this uplifting book that celebrates the spirit of the season without undue moralizing.

Christmas Farm

Author: Mary Lyn Ray

Illustrator: Barry Root

Wilma had grown petunias and sunflowers for years. Now she was ready for something else. But what? When snow fell on the last of her sunflower stalks, Wilma still hadn’t decided how to make her garden different next year.  And now there was Christmas to think of. . .

Wilma bundled up, took her hand saw and climbed the hill behind her home. She selected the perfect tree for her parlor, and as she began to wrap it with lights, she knew. She knew what to plant instead of petunias. But she would need the help of Parker. Parker lived next door. He was five. Their adventure was about to begin. They would plant Christmas trees- dozens and dozens (over sixty dozen!)  Each year as the trees grew and matured, Parker was also growing along with them.

“During the winter some trees were lost to mice and deer, storm and ice. When spring came, Parker ran between the rows, counting. Six hundred and fifty-two was a big number to count, but Parker could do it now that he was eight.”

When Wilma and Parker had sold their last tree, they had the deep satisfaction of knowing that in places they never knew, there were trees they had grown wearing lights and balls and tinsel in their branches – green balsam branches that smelled the sweet smell of Christmas.

 

“This lovely tale celebrates intergenerational friendship and determination, growth and nature, and the joy of the holiday season.”  School Library Journal

Mary Kline

The Carpenter’s Gift

Author:  David Rubel
Illustrator: Jim LaMarche

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Henry and his out-of-work father have just finished a long day selling Christmas trees in Midtown Manhattan. Before heading home, they give away the last few trees to construction workers, who decorate the tallest one—the first Rockefeller Center tree! On Christmas morning, Henry awakes to a surprise. The workers have gathered outside his family’s drafty shack with enough lumber to build a simple, decent home. The gift of a hammer from one of the carpenters changes Henry’s life.

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With renewed hope for the future, young Henry plants a pine cone he has saved from the Rockefeller Center tree. Over his lifetime, the pine cone grows into a towering spruce. But the circle of giving is not yet complete….

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Written by children’s historian David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, and illustrated by Jim LaMarche,The Carpenter’s Gift celebrates the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, an American tradition. Each year, the tree is milled into lumber that Habitat for Humanity uses to build a simple, decent home with a family in need.

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LaMarche conveys emotional resonance with gauzy, soft-hued paintings of the inspirational proceedings. An afterword highlights Rockefeller Center owner Tishman Speyer’s recent partnership with Habitat for Humanity, which earmarks the tree to be milled for lumber post-Christmas for a family in need.

My dad was a carpenter who built the house we grew up in, and this book brings to mind his gentle nature and generosity.
 —Garrison Keillor

The heartwarming tale told in The Carpenter’s Gift brings together—through beautiful illustrations and a moving, multigenerational story—two great traditions: the Rockefeller Center tree and the neighbor-helping-neighbor program of Habitat for Humanity.
—Jimmy Carter