The Great Spruce

illus. by Rebecca Gibbon. 40p. Putnam. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399160844.
K-Gr 2—In this picture book debut, the author addresses a subject close to his heart. Alec is a boy who lives in the country and loves to climb trees, particularly a great spruce, planted decades ago by his grandfather. Every winter he and his grandpa decorate the tree for Christmas, until one year when some men ask his parents if they can use it for the distant city's annual Christmas celebration. Alec's parents consider it an honor, but Alec protests, declaring that the tree could be borrowed instead. It takes time and work, but the tree is carefully dug up, shipped to the city on a barge, and placed in the city center to be enjoyed by everyone. After the holidays, it is returned to Alec's yard and continues to grow, while a sapling takes root in the city square. In an author's note Duvall discusses the tradition of decorating a tree for Christmas, as well as the origin of the annual Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City. There was a brief time when the center used live trees, and Duvall makes the case for returning to this practice rather than killing a valuable living tree. Gibbon's illustrations are large and brightly hued, with a naive style and a shifting perspective that highlights the size and grandeur of the great spruce.
VERDICT An attractive holiday offering with an environmental focus.

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