cover image Night Tree

Night Tree

Eve Bunting. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-257425-3

A refreshing alternative to the tinsel and sugarplum commercialism of many Christmas offerings, Bunting's ( In the Haunted House ; The Wednesday Surprise ) arrestingly simple tale resonates with genuine warmth. A boy recounts his family's annual Christmas Eve outing to a nearby wood, where they decorate a special tree (``It has been our tree forever and ever'') with fruit, seeds and strings of popcorn for the animals. Rand's ( Knots on a Counting Rope ) atmospheric watercolors create a mood of hushed excitement as they enhance the festivity of the occasion--apple-cheeked figures exude a homey cheerfulness, their brightly colored caps and blanket sparkling against the deep tones of a nighttime forest. After a mug of cocoa in front of their masterpiece and heartfelt renditions of favorite songs, the family returns home, keenly aware of ``the secrets all around us'' and pleased with the notion that the animals have a place to celebrate Christmas. Parents will take heart at this uplifting book that celebrates the spirit of the season without undue moralizing. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)