Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

Pick a Pine Tree

Patricia Toht, Author

Jarvis, Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Sep. 19, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Choosing  a Christmas tree, Nature, Decorating, Family traditions, Holidays

Opening: “Pick a pine tree from the lot — slim and tall, or short and squat. One with spiky needle clumps, scaly bark, or sappy bumps.”

Book Synopsis: One of the most beloved Christmas traditions begins each year with … picking out a pine tree! Then bringing out boxes stuffed with trimmings, string garlands from bough to bough, and finally turning on the twinkling lights. Once that’s all done it’s not just a pine tree anymore — it’s a Christmas tree!

Why I like this book:

Patricia Toht’s lyrical and rhyming text flows nicely and pairs beautifully with Jarvis’ joyful illustrations. It reminds children and parents of the magic and wonder of this time-honored family tradition. This story will become a favorite family read each year. It’s imaginative and will stir up so many memories.

I like that the family is interracial, with a white father and dark-skinned mother. Other characters helping in the festive activity represent different ethnicities.

Jarvis’ large, colorful digital illustration are done in pencil, chalk and paint. They are all double-page spreads that are filled with a lot of detail kids will enjoy exploring. The illustrations have a retro feel to them and illuminate the entire adventure. Once the tree is decorated, the page turn reveals the completed tree in all its splendor.

I would recommend giving this picture book to children before Christmas to give them ideas and increase their excitement. The book is filled with so much nostalgia, especially for parents who remember a time when we all had real trees.  This is also a great classroom book. Visit Patricia Toht at her website.

Resources: Every family has its own traditions for picking and decorating their Christmas tree. My favorite activity is to share a memory about many of the ornaments your family has collected over the years. The author also has some wonderful activities for decorating your Christmas tree on her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Edward’s Eyes

Edward's Eyes41gicCObHuL._SX371_BO1,204,203,200_Edward’s Eyes

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Family relationships, Baseball, Death, Donation of Organs

Book Jacket Synopsis: “Jake is part of an extraordinary family. He has a life filled with art, music, and long summer nights on the Cape. He has hours and days and months of baseball. But, more than anything in this world, Jake knows he has Edward. From the moment he was born, Jake knew Edward was destined for something. Edward could make anyone laugh and everyone think. During one special year, he became the only one in the neighborhood who could throw a perfect knuckleball. It was a pitch you could not hit. That same year, Jake learned there are also some things you cannot hold.”

Why I liked Edward’s Eyes:

  • Patricia MacLachlan’s unforgettable story is about family relationships, love, laughter and loss. It is a well-written story that is uplifting from the start. It may be about a loss, but is also realistic and inspiring. Some may feel the story is sad, but I experienced it with wonder and awe.
  • Edward’s Eyes is narrated by Jake, who is the youngest until Edward is born. From the first moment Jake looks into baby Edward’s beautiful dark blue eyes, he knows his brother is special. Jake becomes his brother’s teacher. Through Jake we get a sense of a very strong family (five children) that love, play, and raise each other. Edward grows into a a kind, friendly and thoughtful old soul. He seems to know things before anyone else, like his mother is going to have a baby girl and she’ll be named Sabine.
  • The characters are all memorable and well-developed. The pacing is perfect for this short novel and it has the right amount of tension, especially when tragedy unexpectedly strikes the family and community.
  • MacLachlan succeeds in creating an experience for young readers. The language is simple and not complicated. I love the emphasis on a family that supports and treats each other with respect. It’s also a good baseball story that includes community and Edward’s famous knuckleball pitch. And MacLachlan knows how to pack an emotional punch. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but this heartfelt story will tug at your heart, put a smile on your face, and fill you with hope.

Patricia MacLachlan is a Newberry Medalist for her book Sarah, Plain and Tall. I reviewed her powerful 2013 picture book about grief and renewal, Snowflakes Fall, which was dedicated to the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook, CT. I also reviewed Fly Away and The Truth of Me,  both middle grade novels about complicated family relationships.

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