Young Mandy and her little sister Katy live in a tight-knit village, brought to life by first-time British author Carol Clark in her picture book entitled The Christmas Tree. The story is based on Clark’s own family’s Christmas tradition and has a definite English flavor, the atmosphere reminiscent of a slightly bygone era.
Mandy and Katy are beyond excited. Christmas is only a few days away and now they can finally decorate the Christmas tree that waits patiently in the sitting room. The family has special ornaments — Father Christmas, Snowman, Mouse, Man on the Moon, the Three Wise Men, Teddy Bear, Baby Jesus and the special topper, Angel — and the girls take great pleasure in giving each piece the perfect place on the tree. Only Harry the dog knows how unusual these ornaments are: while the family sleeps, the ornaments play, much like Woody and Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies, though the ornaments can only move about on the tree, rather than throughout the house.
The story’s five chapters revolve around decorating the tree; having hot chocolate with a family friend; The Carol Service (a tradition in their little town); Christmas Eve, and finally Christmas Day. Although The Christmas Tree is described as a picture book, the illustrations consist of clip art and stock photographs that are not as prominently featured as they are in traditional picture books.
The narrative often sputters, especially regarding the “living” ornaments story, which starts off promising but seems to go nowhere. It also suffers from spelling and copyediting errors. Ultimately, it is a slice-of-life vignette that offers a glimpse into the lives of a nice family during a special time, but with no page-turning tension or compelling ending.
As such, it might appeal to families with holiday traditions similar to Mandy and Katy’s or who like to discover how others celebrate Christmas, but it is unlikely to attract a wider audience.
Also available as an ebook.