The Great Spruce by John Duvall, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon, is a beautiful holiday story with a message that goes beyond just spreading cheer.
The story follows a little boy named Alec, who loves climbing trees in the countryside. His favorite tree to climb is the great spruce, which his grandpa transplanted there a long time ago. One day, someone from the town asks if they can put the spruce in the square for Christmastime. This is a great honor, but they want to chop down the tree to do so. Alec has to come up with a plan to save his tree.
The reader is immediately drawn in to the story with its atmosphere; still set during Christmastime, thought there’s not any snow yet. The entire book exuded early December, with brown expanses of grass and leftover fall colors. This subdued wintery background allowed brightly dressed townspeople and the strong green of the spruce tree to really pop. Gibbon’s artwork is careful and delicate, with shadows in all the right places and magnificent color choices.
The author John Duvall is actually a tree-care consultant, which made the eventual solution of transporting trees interesting since it was based on actual fact. Though the idea of saving trees is an important message, the communication of this moral doesn’t overpower the beauty and simplicity of Alec’s story. Each line is carefully crafted to be elegant and full of impact. The language is sensory and metaphorical, but simple enough that it won’t soar over kids’ heads (“shone like a Christmas tree lighthouse”). Even the smell of smoke is present in a scene in the city.
The Great Spruce leaves readers emotionally struck by its atmosphere, little Alec’s bravery, and its incredible hope. A must read for anyone looking for an original story this holiday season!
Post by Sophia Denney