“Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree” by Robert Barry
The Snuggery is all about celebrating classic children’s picture books that are the portal for everything in reading beyond those early first reads.
As Christmas approaches, in that vein, I want to celebrate Robert Barry, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and former teacher at the design school at the University of Massachusetts-Darmouth.
His book, “Faint George” was selected by the New York Times as one of the “Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year in 1962.
I have always wondered if they have CHILDREN on these boards of selection. Taking NOTHING away from Robert Barry for his story of the knight named George who is a dragon hunter and his story, described as “ridiculous and touching,” I also posit that kids might want a say as well on what is considered “BEST” from their pint-sized point of view.
It is a beautiful book, but how about giving young readers a vote on the books up for selection of the ten, New York Times?
“Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree,” which came out in 1963, is the delightful story of the tree that keeps on giving…only here, it is NOT Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Fir Tree,” who gives and gives till it is pillaged and burned. Live in the moment is the moral here.
Here, it happens to be Mr. Willowby’s ginormous fir!
Measure once is unfortunately not in his Christmas wheelhouse.
As the plaid-jacketed man delivers the tree to Mr. Willowby’s mansion and thence to the parlor, its tippity top bends a bit.
And so, it commences to be sawed off at the top and given away. First, by Baxter the butler to Miss Adelaide, the upstairs maid, for which it is almost perfect.
But, not too perfect. And so the lopping off of the tree continues so on down the line, from tallest and wealthiest to smallest of creatures and poorest; Christmas trees come to all!
From Timm, the gardener, who passes by and dislikes to see the tree tossed in the bin. And so, the finding and discovering continues as Timm’s wife cuts the top off of THAT tree and Barnaby Bear takes IT home, and Mama Bear slices a top off of it.
Outside the door it goes to be found and spied by Frisky Fox who scampers home to the Mrs. It’s just a wee bit too big, and Benjamin Bunny gloms on to this toss away, until the teeniest piece to be pried off finds its happy home with the mouse household who find it to be just mouse-size.
And the tiny tree has a star fashioned out of, you guessed it, CHEESE!
Each recipient, from Mr. Willowby on down, is pleased and that is the joy of this classic Christmas story. Each rejoices at the perfect grandness of their own tree.
This is the Christmas to appreciate what we have, even though we may not receive what we want.
Thank you, Robert Barry, for reminding us through your glorious picture book that someone’s trash may be another persons treasure, for Christmas!
Please listen to the link below to Nat King Cole sing the song that seems appropriate here and is called, The Little Christmas Tree.”
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