This week I'm preempting Trixie Belden to share with you my favorite Christmas book.
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston; illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Dial; 1st edition (September 30, 1988)
Although this book was published in 1988, I didn't discover it until 1995, when my youngest was 3 years old. We first read it from the Mercer Public Library, but we checked it out so many times, I finally had a local bookstore order it for us. The library was kind enough to laminate the dust jacket for us.
Ruthie has been waiting patiently for her father to return from the war. As Christmas approaches, Ruthie's mother begins to worry about the Christmas tree tradition in their small Appalachian town of Pine Grove. The Pine Grove Church chooses one family each year to supply the Christmas tree. Ruthie and her father were so excited, because their family had been chosen to provide this year's tree.
During the spring before Papa left for the war, he and Ruthie climbed to the top of the rocky ridge to pick out the perfect tree. To mark this tree from all the rest, Papa takes one of Ruthie's hair ribbons and ties it to the top of the tree. Ruthie is so happy, because as the provider for the traditional tree, she will also get to portray the "heavenly angel" in the Christmas pagent.
When Mama realizes her husband may not make it home for Christmas, she and Ruthie set out in the wee morning hours of Christmas Eve in search of the marked tree. The trip is long and hard, but Ruthie and her Mama stick together and after many hours of hard work, they are able to deliver the tree to the church.
Back at home, Mama settles Ruthie in for a long winter's nap. Exhausted herself, Mama can't sleep because she is determined to make Ruthie's wishes come true. Because her husband had not returned, there was no money to buy Ruthie a new dress for the Christmas pagent or to buy her the doll she asked for from Santa. But Mama has a plan.
All day as Ruthie slept, Mama was at work on a new dress. Taking her beloved wedding dress, Mama cuts it down to make Ruthie an angel costume. Then she takes her last pair of stockings and fashions an angel doll, using the rest of the wedding dress to cloth the angel just like Ruthie.
When Ruthie awakens on Christmas Eve night, she is overjoyed with her angel costume. When they arrive at the church, Mama and Ruthie are so proud of the beautiful Christmas tree. After the Christmas service and pagent, Santa arrives to hand out presents to the children. Santa hands Ruthie the beautiful angel from the top of the tree (Ruthie had no idea her mother made the angel).
But the best present was yet to come. Leaving the church happy and joyful from the pagent and the present, Ruthie sees her father waiting outside the church door.
No matter how many times I read this book - and I still read it yearly, even though my children are grown - I still cry. This book has such a good morale and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough - it is the perfect Christmas story.