Free Fridays: The Great Spruce


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 yay2communication 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 sensoryfifie 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




Traditional Thursdays- A House for Hermit Crab


When discussing great children’s literature, Eric Carle is certainly an author who comes to mind.

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While everybody has read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, there are so many other amazing Eric Carle books out there! I picked Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab for today’s “Traditional Thursday” because it was one of my favorite books growing up. A House for Hermit Crab is a classic example of how Carle is able to use his distinct, bright collage-style illustrations to entertain children while also educating them.

The story starts with a hermit crab who has outgrown his shell and needs a new one. He finds a shell but thinks it’s too plain. He plans to try to spruce it up a bit to make it feel more like a home.

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The next month he stumbles upon some beautiful sea anemone and asks if one of them would like to live on his shell. A sea anemone agrees to and he gently picks it up and places it on his shell. This pattern of interaction repeats every month throughout the year with other sea creatures including sea urchins, coral, lantern fish, star fish, snails, and pebbles until his shell is full and beautiful.

However, by November he realizes that he has grown throughout the year and his house is now getting too small for him again! The sea creatures on his shell have become like family to him and he doesn’t want to leave them. He then meets a smaller hermit crab who says he would love to live in and take care of hermit crab’s shell. Hermit crab agrees to give his home to him and finds a larger, plain shell for himself that he plans to decorate all over again.

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I think A House for Hermit Crab is a wonderful book to read to early elementary school students, especially when they’re going through some sort of major change. Hermit crab shows children that change can be a positive thing and you can do your best to make the most of the necessary changes in your life. Hermit crab also demonstrates that when you are kind to others, they will help you out and you can create friendships for life.

Additionally, this book is a fantastic educational resource. The text includes lots of sea-life vocabulary words, including a glossary of terms at the end of the book. This book would fit wonderfully in a curriculum that includes learning about the ocean and aquatic animals and would help reinforce a lot of terminology. It is also useful for teaching kids about the sequencing of months and passage of time. The story unfolds throughout a full calendar year, and having a repetitive pattern every month makes the timeline easy to follow for children.

Although the color scheme of the illustrations can be kind of plain and boring, it just makes it that much more pronounced when color is added as the shell gets increasingly more decorated with each page.

Overall, I would say that A House for Hermit Crab is a wonderful picturenew doc 12_1 book that can be utilized for both entertainment and education in an elementary school classroom. The themes of accepting change and creating friendships are powerful sentiments that help make learning facts about sea life more accessible and engaging. In Eric Carle’s vast collection of children’s books, A House for Hermit Crab is a hidden gem that the children of today should definitely get a chance to read.

-Jenna Ravasio