As each year passes I desire more and more for my family to escape the commercialism surrounding Christmas and focus on family, traditions and meaningful gifts including the true gift of Christmas, Jesus. While Apple Tree Christmas is not a religious book, it is a work of historical fiction that harkens back to simpler times, modest gifts from the heart and family togetherness.
Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble. Dial Books for Young Readers (October 1984); ISBN 0803701020; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from our public library
Noble's story is set in the late 1800's. The Ansterburgs, a close-knit family, reside in one side of an old barn and live a simple, rural life. They cherish their beloved apple tree -- the tree provides a bountiful crop of apples every fall, and the family uses the apples to make applesauce, cider, apple butter and Christmas tree decorations. The tree also serves a special play space for the two Ansterburg kids, Katrina and Josie.
"Now that all the apples were picked, Katrina and Josie could climb the tree as much as they wanted. The snowy weather didn't stop them. Every day after school they would play in its branches.Unfortunately, a blizzard comes in with a vengeance and a terrible ice storm knocks down the apple tree. The whole family feels awful about losing the tree. Katrina especially morns the loss of her favorite tree and her drawing perch. Christmas day arrives, but to Katrina "it just didn't feel like Christmas." However, her parents have a surprise in store. The apple tree, though in different form, continues to spread warmth and joy in a new way.
On one side Papa had pulled a thick vine down low enough to make a swing for Josie.
The other side of the tree belonged to Katrina. One limb made the perfect drawing board."
The lovely watercolor paintings in Noble's book provide children with a glimpse into a rural 1880s life, and this emotion-filled family story is similar to those found in Laura Ingalls Wilder's much-loved books. The story also provides a great example of how to craft thoughtful, handmade gifts with determined resourcefulness and shows how to make the most of what you are given even when faced with difficult situations. The suspense of the storm and the aftermath are particularly heart-wrenching and powerful. My daughter sat tightly against my side, her forehead scrunched up with a worried expression that changed into one of happiness as the book ended. Inspired from Tinka Hakes Noble's memories of growing up in Michigan, this is a story of resilience, joy and, most of all, family love. It leaves a deep impression. In my opinion, it is a Christmas book every library should own, especially libraries in rural midwest locations.
The copy we borrowed from our library is the original book published in 1984. This version is now out-of-print, but in 2005 Sleeping Bear Press republished Apple Tree Christmas with a new cover. Trinka Hakes Noble is also the author of the well-known picture book, The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash.
Trinka Hakes Noble - Website
Like in Apple Tree Christmas, we decided to make something special for Christmas out of a tree. We recently lost our pussy willow tree during a windy storm. I saved a few of the tree branches to use for crafting. The smooth, straight branches of the pussy willow make lovely twig star ornaments.
We broke the branches into six inch pieces. The kids practiced making stars out of the twigs, using a star drawing as a guideline. We talked about how stars have five points and it takes five twigs to make a star. I challenged my daughter to make a star without using the guide, but that task proved a little difficult for her skills. We also made stars using popsicle sticks and talked about how popsicle sticks are uniform and straight unlike twigs from trees.
I used a hot glue gun to glue the twigs together into the shape of a star. This is not a project for kids because even I didn't manage to escape touching the hot glue with my fingers. I made a star template to use when gluing the stars together. We could have tied the ends of the branches together with string, but I thought that sounded like even more work than using the hot glue gun. While I glued the twig stars, the kids worked on painting their popsicle stick stars (I hot glued those stars together beforehand).
not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness.
- Bob Hope
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