The Beautiful Christmas Tree
By Charlotte Zolotow
I’m always looking for Christmas classic picture books to share with my Snuggery readers and the children of family and friends this time of the year, even when the classic is as recent as 1999! So I was excited to discover this special picture book by Charlotte Zolotow that had, for some reason, escaped my attention.
The Beautiful Christmas Tree has a very gentle story to tell of the kindly Mr. Crockett who moves into a neighborhood of snobby neighbors. While their houses are fine and fancy in this row upon row of brownstones, he chooses the traditional “fixer upper” that has been vacant for a long time. It definitely needs some tender loving care and Mr. Crockett is the perfect one to undertake some ministrations to the old house
When Mr. Crockett moved in, it was plain that he was not fashionable. His neighbors saw him washing the dirty windows of the brownstone himself. “A peculiar man,” they said, watching him scrub and polish until the windows shone and sparkled like a sheet of mountain air – fresh and clean.
The night before Christmas, Mr. Crockett stops at the local florist and stares past healthy red poinsettia plants and bushy fir trees to “a wooden pot with a wizened little tree in it.” What I love about the character of Mr. Crockett is his innate sense of sidestepping what has obvious appeal and opting instead for something, that with a little care and love, can grow and blossom – like a house, like a tree – like people! When the florist protests Mr. Crockett’s choice of a plant the owner terms, “Ugly”, Mr. Crockett, who sees something beyond the present picture, insists on paying for it. But the owner announces, “I can’t really charge you for it,” as Mr. Crockett counters, “I want to pay for it.” “There is an old saying, Beauty is as beauty does”, followed by his wisely astute, “We’ll see what this plant can do.”
Mr. Crockett is a grower and feeder – of trees, of sparrows and of his young neighbor David who, with Mr. Crockett sits on the stoop and watches the passage of time and growth in trees and birds as the gentle Mr. Crockett feeds them all.
Time passes as it does with all things – children, trees and birds. The caroling of children and colorful birds nesting in the now bushy green and beautiful fir tree he planted and nurtured, serenade the now older Mr. Crockett one starry Christmas Eve, as he stands in the window and overlooks the scene.
It was a chorus of love, and Mr. Crockett knew this is what Christmas was meant to be.
Christmas and the picture book; it presents a special opportunity to introduce your young reader to some special classic books that wonderfully represent in art and narrative what the season is about. And Ms. Zolotow’s The Beautiful Christmas Tree, enhanced by the vibrancy of color of Yan Nascimbene’s illustrations lend a feel of calm “I’ve seen this place before” to the graphics.
Wander down this row of brownstone houses with The Beautiful Christmas Tree and you and your young reader just may be inspired to find a “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” all your own and give it life and love this Christmas. Hope you meet a Mr. Crockett along the way, or better yet, become one!
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