The Little Fir Tree

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They put golden tinsel on his branches
And golden bells
And green icicles
And silver stars
And red and green and blue and purple chains of shining Christmas balls.

All alone in an empty field grew a little fir tree. It dreamed of being part of a forest-or part of anything at all. Then one winter day, a man ...

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Overview

They put golden tinsel on his branches
And golden bells
And green icicles
And silver stars
And red and green and blue and purple chains of shining Christmas balls.

All alone in an empty field grew a little fir tree. It dreamed of being part of a forest-or part of anything at all. Then one winter day, a man takes the little fir tree away and it finds itself at the center of a little boy's very special celebration.

This treasured story by the legendary Margaret Wise Brown has been newly illustrated by award-winning artist Jim LaMarche. Warm, glowing paintings complement the gentle text to capture the true heart of Christmas.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Another Christmas gift comes courtesy of Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon), The Little Fir Tree (first published in 1954 with illustrations by Barbara Cooney) is here given an updated look with artwork by Jim LaMarche (The Rainbabies). Gossamer portraits of a bright-eyed, injured boy and the sapling fir tree that helps him heal are enough to melt readers' hearts. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This sweet Christmas story was written in 1954 and has now been given a new opportunity to touch the hearts of young and old. The beautifully glowing illustrations—all new in this 2005 edition—are perfectly matched to the endearing story. A little fir tree gets taken indoors once a year to help a very special little boy celebrate the Christmas season,—"a living tree" to bring the smell of the forest into the home of a little boy who has "a lame leg." Lamarche's faces are, as always, full of love and delight in life. The mother and father strive to give the little boy lots of experiences, even though he is confined to his bed. They share the season with neighborhood children and everyone is filled with obvious happiness. The seasons come and go and each year the father returns to dig up the tree for the holiday season and then to return it to its field to grow for the rest of the year. After several wondrous celebrations we see the tree standing in the snowy field all alone, longing to be part of the festivities yet again, but the "man with the long boots" has not appeared to collect the little fir tree. "The world seemed big and cold and empty" when the tree hears the sound of music and realizes that people are coming out into the field. To the tree's surprise and pleasure, the little boy is leading them in a joyful march to decorate the tree with bright red apples, berries, and cookies for the birds to eat. They surround the tree and sing the song the little boy had sung when he first saw the little fir tree " . . . your greenest branches live for me." This is a lovely family story to share during the Christmas season. 2005 (orig. 1954), Harper Collins, and Ages 4 up.
—Sheilah Egan
Kirkus Reviews
LaMarche updates this sentimental story, first published in 1954, with new illustrations showcased through an oversized format and many double-page spreads. The little fir tree of the title was chosen by a kindly father as the special Christmas tree for his disabled young son, a child of three or four with a "lame leg" who "had never left his bed." The tree is brought to the little boy for two Christmases and then returned to the forest to be replanted each spring. The third year, the tree waits to be part of the boy's Christmas again, but this time the boy and his family and friends come out to the forest to celebrate because the boy has learned to walk. The story is rather dated in both its anthropomorphized tree and in its treatment of someone with a disability, although it is made clear through the illustrations that the setting is long ago and far away in a remote mountain village. LaMarche's paintings capture the beauty of the forest and the warmth of friends and family in a cozy, old-fashioned home. Though the little boy is appealing in some illustrations, his age progression is inconsistent in the concluding spreads. Still, this is a lovely way to revisit an old favorite. (Picture book. 3-6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064430838
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1985
  • Series: Trophy Picture Bks.
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Few writers have been as attuned to the concerns and emotions of childhood as Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952). A graduate of Hollins College and the progressive Bank Street College of Education, she combined her literary aspirations with the study of child development. Her unique ability to see the world through a child's eyes is unequaled. Her many classic books continue to delight thousands of young listeners and readers year after year.

Muy pocos escritores de literatura infantil han logrado captar las emociones e inquietudes de la niñez como Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952). Sus numerosos y ya clásicos libros y grabaciones continúan deleitando a lectores y oyentes de todas las edades.

Jim LaMarche wrote and illustrated The Raft. He also illustrated Little Oh and The Rainbabies, both by Laura Krauss Melmed. He lives in Santa Cruz, California. In His Own Words...

"It's funny how things turn out. I wasn't one of those kids with a clear vision of the future, the ones who know at age five that they will be writers or doctors or artists. I liked to draw, but then, so did most of the kids I knew, and growing up to be an artist never really occurred to me. What I did want to be, in order of preference, was a magician, Davy Crockett, a doctor, a priest (until I found out they couldn't get married), and a downhill ski racer.

"But I always loved to make things, and once I got going on a project I loved, I stuck with it. Once, when I was five or six, I cut a thousand cloth feathers out of an old sheet, which I then attempted to glue to my bony little body. I was sure I could have flown off the back porch if I'd just had a better glue. Another time I dug up some smooth blue-gray clay from the field behind our house, then molded it into an entire zoo, dried the animals in the sun, and painted them as realistically as I could. I made a grotto out of cement, a shoe box, and my fossil collection. I made moccasins out of an old deerhide I found in the basement.

"I grew up in the little Wisconsin town of Kewaskum, the soul of which was the Milwaukee River. In the summer we rafted on it and swam in it. In the winter we skated on it, sometimes traveling miles upriver. In the spring and fall my dad took us on long canoe trips, silently sneaking up on deer, heron, and fields of a thousand Canada geese. And almost all year long we fished for bullheads and northerns from the dam.

"I began college at the University of Wisconsin as a biology major, but somewhere along the line—I'm not sure when or even why—I switched to art, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in art. I still had no idea of becoming a professional artist, however. In the meantime, I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and moved to Bismarck, North Dakota, to work with United Tribes of North Dakota creating school curriculum materials. It was a great job. Because there were only a few of us, I was able to try my hand at a little of everything: writing, graphic design, photography, and illustration. It was then that I slowly realized that it might be possible for me to make a living at art. I moved to California, and in the evenings-after working all day as a carpenter's assistant—I put together a portfolio.

"Twenty years later, I'm still here, living in Santa Cruz with my wife, Toni, and our three sons, Mario, Jean-Paul, and Dominic. The Pacific Ocean is only a few blocks away, and the scenery is very different from that of the Midwest, but somehow Kewaskum and the Milwaukee River show up in almost everything I draw. They provided the details of setting for The Rainbabies, Carousel, and Grandmother's Pigeon, and they are the setting for the book I'm working on now, my own story about the magic of a raft.

"I feel very lucky to have ended up as an illustrator of children's books. And maybe that isn't so different from my childhood dream of being a magician after all. Starting with a clean sheet of paper and with nothing up my sleeves, I get to create something that was never there before."

Biography

When Margaret Wise Brown began to write for young children, most picture books were written by illustrators, whose training and talents lay mainly in the visual arts. Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon, was the first picture-book author to achieve recognition as a writer, and the first, according to historian Barbara Bader, "to make the writing of picture books an art."

After graduating college in 1932, Brown's first ambition was to write literature for adults; but when she entered a program for student teachers in New York, she was thrilled by the experience of working with young children, and inspired by the program's progressive leader, the education reformer Lucy Sprague Mitchell. Mitchell held that stories for very young children should be grounded in "the here and now" rather than nonsense or fantasy. For children aged two to five, she thought, real experience was magical enough without embellishments.

Few children's authors had attempted to write specifically for so young an audience, but Brown quickly proved herself gifted at the task. She was appointed editor of a new publishing firm devoted to children's books, where she cultivated promising new writers and illustrators, helped develop innovations like the board book, and became, as her biographer Leonard S. Marcus notes, "one of the central figures of a period now considered the golden age of the American picture book."

Though Brown was intensely interested in modernist writers like Gertrude Stein (whom she persuaded to write a children's book, The World Is Round), it was a medieval ballad that provided the inspiration for The Runaway Bunny (1942), illustrated by Clement Hurd. The Runaway Bunny was Brown's first departure from the here-and-now style of writing, and became one of her most popular books.

Goodnight Moon, another collaboration with Hurd, appeared in 1947. The story of a little rabbit's bedtime ritual, its rhythmic litany of familiar objects placed it somewhere between the nursery rhyme and the here-and-now story. At first it was only moderately successful, but its popularity gradually climbed, and by 2000, it was among the top 40 best-selling children's books of all time.

The postwar baby boom helped propel sales of Brown's many picture books, including Two Little Trains (1949) and The Important Book (1949). After the author died in 1952, at the age of 42, many of her unpublished manuscripts were illustrated and made into books, but Brown remains best known for Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.

More people recognize those titles than recognize the name of their author, but Margaret Wise Brown wouldn't have minded. "It didn't seem important that anyone wrote them," she once said of the books she read as a child. "And it still doesn't seem important. I wish I didn't have ever to sign my long name on the cover of a book and I wish I could write a story that would seem absolutely true to the child who hears it and to myself." For millions of children who have settled down to hear her stories, she did just that.

Good To Know

When Goodnight Moon first appeared, the New York Public Library declined to buy it (an internal reviewer dismissed it as too sentimental). The book sold fairly well until 1953, when sales began to climb, perhaps because of word-of-mouth recommendations by parents. More than 4 million copies have now been sold. The New York Public Library finally placed its first order for the book in 1973.

If you look closely at the bookshelves illustrated in Goodnight Moon, you'll see that one of the little rabbit's books is The Runaway Bunny. One of three framed pictures on the walls shows a scene from the same book.

Brown's death was a stunning and sad surprise. The author had had an emergency appendectomy in France while on a book tour, which was successful; but when she did a can-can kick days later to demonstrate her good health to her doctor, it caused a fatal embolism.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Golden MacDonald, Juniper Sage, Timothy Hay
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 23, 1910
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, N.Y.
    1. Date of Death:
      November 13, 1952
    2. Place of Death:
      Nice, France

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  • Posted February 12, 2010

    Delightful

    Good reading while standing in the bookstore, even more delightful in hand with a child sitting next to you!

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