Written and Illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa
Philomel Books, 1999
It is almost Christmas, and at the edge of the forest, the fir trees begin to stir their branches with excitement. None of the trees has been to a Christmas party before, but they are excited to go.
What’s up with this tree? It isn’t sure how to dress for Christmas
All the trees are excitedly discussing what they would like to wear to the Christmas party. One tree wants to wear a dress of beautiful spring flowers. Another tree wants to be covered with gold and another dreams of wearing a rainbow dress. The biggest tree wants to be dressed in a thousand twinkling lights. During all this discussion, the smallest tree listens, but is never asked for her opinion. Men come to harvest the trees and when they’ve gone, the smallest fir tree and an old bare tree are the only ones left. The old tree asks the little fir about her dream and the fir, happy to have someone to listen, tells her that she wanted a dress of white, like a veil of moon. She asks the old tree, who says she is too old to dream, which the fir protests. On Christmas morning, snow is falling, covering the fir in the white dress of her dreams. And the old tree is filled with singing birds of all colors. The trees agree that they are having their own party and they have a wonderful Christmas together.
This beautiful story has a real sweetness that is helped along by the beautiful watercolor artwork of author/illustrator Satomi Ichikawa. Somehow, without the benefit of faces, she conveys the emotions of these trees in the pictures and gives the reader a real sense of who they are. The idea of ‘the little tree that no one wanted but just had to learn to believe in itself’ is a Christmas story staple, but I love the take Ms. Ichikawa takes here, giving the tree a friend who has her own drawbacks, but shares the same dreams. It’s a nice touch, too, to have the singing birds remind the trees of flowers and starlight and rainbows, which were components of the dresses the other trees had wanted. An altogether lovely story.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, with a positive attitude and imagination, anyone’s dream can come true.