cover image Grandfather's Christmas Tree

Grandfather's Christmas Tree

Keith Strand. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201821-4

With the hushed, assured tone of a seasoned fireside storyteller, debut author Strand frames a stirring tale within a tale to explain a family's cherished holiday tradition. A grandfather flashes back to 1886 to describe how his own parents, then young and settling new territory in Colorado, prepare for the imminent arrival of their first child as blizzards howl. In a desperate moment, the couple refrain from cutting the spruce that could heat their home, in favor of letting a wild goose family use the tree's shelter. The act of kindness is commemorated in a homemade wood carving of the geese that the grandfather's descendants still place on the branches of the spruce each Christmas. Strand emphasizes strength, not sentiment, while Locker's darkish oils, characteristically sweeping nature studies, evoke a fresh, wild and awe-inspiring time and place. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)