Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Annual Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting

In just a few hours (my time), one of the greatest Christmas Tree lighting ceremonies in the United States will unfold in my homestate of New York at Rockefeller Center in NYC! So, I thought today would be the perfect day to share some Christmas tree stories the help open up the Christmas season!
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Say, Allen.
Tree of Cranes.
November 2009 (Paperback).
Review Copy provided courtesy of: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A young Japanese boy is introduced to a new holiday, Christmas, for the first time as his mother brings in an unusual looking pine tree and begins decorating it with white candles and paper cranes (origami representing their Japanese heritage) that she has spent hours folding. When the little boy inquires of the reason for the tree being in his home suddenly, she reveals to readers that she's thinking of her own childhood days and the Christmas celebrations she experienced growing up in "a warm place called Ca-li-for-ni-a."

This book is a unique way to introduce children to the idea that different cultures have different ways of celebrating Christmas, if celebrating at all! It is also unique in that it infuses together different cultures and heritages to make the holiday season meaningful to the specific family! I have to wonder if this book is based on Allen Say's own life, as several of his books are... I could see the events that take place here unfolding during his own childhood! I tried to research the topic briefly, but didn't really find any information as to whether or not the book is based upon a true story.

Suggested Activity:
  • Fold a paper crane with your child(ren) and add it as a decoration to your own Christmas Tree to celebrate aspects of other heritages (Japanese origami) as part of your own. Directions to fold a paper crane can be found here, or you can watch a video showing the steps here.
Obed, Ellen Bryan.
Who Would Like a Christmas Tree?: A Tree for All Seasons.
September 2009.
Review Copy provided courtesy of: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Who knew that throughout the entire year, there is always someone who would like a Christmas tree? Ellen Bryan Obed introduces children to the concept that a Christmas tree is a part of nature all year long and used during each of the twelve months of the year and not only during the holiday season by repeatedly asking the question, "Who would like a Christmas tree in..."

This book is definitely a book that could be used in numerous ways! I think it would make a wonderful addition to any classroom or home library, as it shows how so many animals depend on the pine tree for so many different reasons.

Suggested Reading Activity:
  • Discuss with child(ren) how each of the animals depend on the Christmas tree throughout the year for survival. Once children thoroughly seem to have an understanding that a Christmas tree isn't just for people to decorate to celebrate Christmas, ask them what we, as humans, could do differently so that Christmas trees aren't wasted once Christmas is over (rather than cutting down a tree and letting it die after the holidays, buy a live tree with roots in tact, so the tree can be replanted after humans are finished using it for the month of December)! Then, actually put this practice to use - buy the live tree with roots that can be replanted and start a new family tradition this holiday season!
Mora, Pat.
A Pinata in a Pine Tree.
September 2009.
Review Copy provided courtesy of: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The well-known Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is adapted here for a Latino audience! This unique story teaches not only a song, but allows children to pick up bits and pieces of the Spanish language as they are able to use context and illustration clues to decipher the language shared here. The story itself is nearly identical to the song we're familiar with! The special gift that's revealed as twelve angels rejoice will have readers gleaming with joy alongside the little girl celebrating the twelve days of Christmas!

Suggested Activity:
  • Prepare an agenda and spend one evening before Christmas with your family out Christmas caroling (perhaps at a local nursing home or even just through your neighborhood. Incorporate A Pinata in a Pine Tree (the song is simple to learn and all of the Latino words are sounded out for readers and if you practice a few times with the music of The Twelve Days of Christmas, children will quickly catch on) as one of your caroling songs. Almost all communities today have some kind of a Latino/Spanish population - surprise those families with this special rendition to show that their culture is appreciated and recognized! The song, minus the lyrics (perfect for practicing A Pinata in a Pine Tree) can be listened to here or the sheet music is also located in the back of the book!
Brown, Margaret Wise.
The Little Fir Tree.
July 2009 (Paperback).
Review Copy provided courtesy of: HarperCollins Publishers

The little fir tree has waited out the seasons year-to-year... has watched with jealousy as all the other fir trees in the forest grew big and tall, grouped together and not at all lonely. Just when he thinks it's in his destiny to be little and alone for his life, a father sets out in search of the perfect fir tree to grow alongside his crippled son year-to-year. Spotting the little fir tree, he digs him up (rather than chopping him down), intending to keep the tree inside throughout the winter months to help his ailing son and then replanting him come springtime. This happens over the course of several years, until one day the man doesn't return. Fear not (like I did), of course the story has a happy, even unexpected ending that makes it well worth reading!

This could be perhaps one of my favorite holiday stories of all time! It's sweet - tender and focuses on a simple little gesture, something that I feel the holidays are all about - making someone happy! I'd say this is definitely a winning title for the 2009 holiday season!

Suggested Family Activity:
  • When you're out purchasing your Christmas tree this year, pick up a fir (or any evergreen) sapling. Find a special place in your yard and plant the seedling. As you throw the dirt back into the hole, sing the song that is sung throughout this story,
    O Christmas Tree,
    O Christmas Tree!
    Your greenest branches
    Live for me.
    As a family, nurture your tree throughout the year and photgraph each single member of your family as well as the entire family as a group, from year-to-year to mark the growth of not only the tree but your entire family. Remember, these trees will not only provide your family with a lifetime of memories, they will also provide for the environment!
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to