The Christmas Tree Ship

Overview

On November 21, 1912, the schooner Rouse Simmons set sail from a small northern Michigan town across Lake Michigan. Affectionately dubbed the "Christmas Tree Ship," this was an annual trek for the Rouse Simmons. With its cargo of Christmas trees, the ship was bound for Chicago. There Captain Herman Scheunemann would sell the trees for 50 cents or $1.00 and even gave many away to needy families. But the schooner never makes its destination. The Rouse Simmons, with all hands and cargo, disappears into the cold ...
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The Christmas Tree Ship

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Overview

On November 21, 1912, the schooner Rouse Simmons set sail from a small northern Michigan town across Lake Michigan. Affectionately dubbed the "Christmas Tree Ship," this was an annual trek for the Rouse Simmons. With its cargo of Christmas trees, the ship was bound for Chicago. There Captain Herman Scheunemann would sell the trees for 50 cents or $1.00 and even gave many away to needy families. But the schooner never makes its destination. The Rouse Simmons, with all hands and cargo, disappears into the cold waters. The ship's wreckage is not found until 1971. Drawing from stories told by her grandfather, author Carol Crane weaves a fictional tale based on the true events of the doomed schooner. And she explains how the captain's widow went on to continue his tradition of delivering holiday trees to Chicago. Carol Crane's many books for Sleeping Bear Press include the best-selling P is for Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet and The Handkerchief Quilt. As a literacy advocate, Carol speaks at schools and conferences. She lives in North Carolina. Chris Ellison has illustrated children's picture books and adult historical fiction for nearly 20 years. His book Let Them Play was a 2006 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Chris lives in Mississippi.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
Two young boys live with their grandparents in a lighthouse on Lake Michigan. The boys and their cousins listen to Grandpa tell a story. Grandpa tells of the ship that each year brought Christmas trees to Chicago. During a storm in 1912 the ship sank. When some of the trees washed up on the Michigan shore, Grandpa and others put one on top of the lighthouse. The next year, in honor of the Captain, the Captain's wife and daughters brought trees to Chicago in another ship. Grandpa pulls from his pocket a metal tag that had been on the trees and which he later found in the sand. In an "Author's Note" we learn the facts on which this story is based: In 1912, Captain Herman Schuenemann went down with his ship with 5,000 Christmas trees. Also, we learn that the grandparents of the story are of Swedish background. The boys and Grandfather are shown in colored pictures while the back story is in browns. This seems a rather bitter-sweet Christmas story. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—A narrator tells of his boyhood with his grandfather, a lighthouse keeper on Lake Michigan. The man likes to tell the stories at the holidays while he carves ornaments. The boy's favorite is a tale about a schooner that went down in a November 1912 storm while on its way to Chicago with a full load of Christmas trees. This anecdote is not enough to hang a picture book on, despite its being based on a historical event, and the basic prose of the story occasionally breaks into awkward rhyming stanzas. The nostalgia is reinforced by attractive, old-fashioned oil and acrylic paintings; unfortunately, the scenes with Grandpa Axel telling his "old" story of the 1912 wreck seem to be set in 1912 themselves, judging by Grandma Hannah's clothing. Mildly pleasant but flawed.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews

The true story of a ship loaded with Christmas trees that was lost in a storm on Lake Michigan in 1912 is interwoven with a nostalgic reminiscence by an adult narrator recalling storytelling grandfather.

The unnamed narrator recounts how, as boys, he and his younger brother lived with their grandparents in a lighthouse on the shore of Lake Michigan. One Christmas, Grandpa Axel told his grandchildren the story of Captain Santa, who each November took a shipload of thousands of Christmas trees from northern Michigan to Chicago to sell. The ship and its crew were lost in a fierce November storm, but the following year the captain's widow and his daughters brought another ship loaded with trees to Chicago to continue Captain Santa's tradition. Grandpa Axel's retold story of the Christmas-tree ship is illustrated in sepia tones to distinguish it from the later story, which is illustrated with vibrant paintings with an appealing, Impressionistic flavor. The wreck of the ship is glossed over with a blurry illustration of the sinking ship and no mention of loss of life. The transition back and forth between 1912 and the era of the storytelling grandfather (with no specified date) may be confusing to some readers, and a map of the Lake Michigan area would have been helpful.

A dramatic but lugubrious subject for a Christmas story. (author's note)(Picture book. 6-10)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585362851
  • Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
  • Publication date: 9/8/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 799,889
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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