cover image Calvin the Christmas Tree

Calvin the Christmas Tree

Stephen G. Bowling, illus. by Vitali Dudarenka. Valley of Mexico, $19.97 (40p) ISBN 978-1-950957-15-6

The littlest pine at Stumpstinkle’s Tree Farm determines to be picked for Christmas in this holiday story that follows a Stumpkin story line. Situated among the other anthropomorphically rendered trees in the field, Calvin appreciates “the stories of the famous trees from long ago” and does his best to grow, hoping to be chosen. Relating the tale “all the trees hear every Christmas,” Bowling’s lengthy, workmanlike text details the verbal barbs of Calvin’s grumpy fellow-tree naysayer, the young tree’s eventual trip to the outdoor shop, his slow abandonment and realization that he’s the only tree remaining, and the 11th hour turn that finds him a home. Dudarenka’s nostalgic, postcardlike vignettes, which center an all-white-presenting cast, lend a Norman Rockwell feel. Though the trees’ sometimes startling facial expressions can feel disorienting against otherwise realistic depictions, the story’s affirming message—“a Christmas tree is more than just branches”—precedes a final ennobling event. Ages 3–9. (Self-published)