Dia Calhoun, one of the readergirlz divas, was kind enough to send me a copy of her new children's book: The Return of Light: A Christmas Tale. The Return of Light is a small, slim volume, perfect to give an 8 to 12 year old for the holiday. It's a whimsical tale about a young pine tree named Treewing. Every year, the Christmas Deer blesses all of the Christmas trees before they are cut down, promising each one that his or her life will "bring the Return of Light to humans." In an unprecedented incident, he blesses Treewing a year early. Although most Christmas trees are harvested when they reach six years of age, Treewing is chosen at five, smaller than the trees around him. His goal, he thinks, is to have a jolly family take him home, and decorate him as their tree. However, Treewing's path is different. He has to overcome his own expectations before he can find his special destiny, and bring the Return of Light to the group of people who need it most.
I'm not quite sure how Dia managed to get into the mind of a young tree, but the limited third-person voice in this story really works. Treewing is excited, worried, insecure, and hopeful by turns. He keeps wistfully repeating: "This isn't how I thought it would be", as he learns about the broader world outside of his tree farm. He's blind to what's right in front of him at first, and occasionally lashes out against his friends, but he always displays heart. I think he's like the tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas would be, if it could talk to the other trees. (Come to think of it, this book would make a lovely Christmas special for TV.) My favorite passage is one that describes a young boy who visits Treewing in the Christmas tree lot:
""Hi," the boy said. He was thin; his wrists stuck out of his brown jacket. Something bulged in the right pocket. He wore a baseball cap over his short acorn-colored hair. His green eyes peered out from beneath it." (Page 24)
I just love the detail of the boy having, not brown hair, but "acorn-colored" hair. How perfect is that?
Though primarily a sentimental story, The Return of Light also features flashes of humor, particularly in poking fun at the people who pick out Christmas trees. For example:
"But many were suspicious, like the man down the aisle who was shaking Dewsylva to see if any of her needles fell off. Some people were spinners; they spun the trees around searching for hidden flaws... Once, a woman had spent two hours snapping her tape measure up and down the trees. Finally, she had chosen Mossbranch, a tall, elegant, noble fir." (Page 34)
I don't think I'll ever search for a Christmas tree again without thinking of this. Beware of reading this book with your children, too, because they might start talking to the Christmas tree. Depending on each child's age, that might or might not be cute. You may also have trouble getting them to let you take down the tree after the holiday. But it's a small price to pay for the warm feelings.
One other nice thing about this book is that the non-tree characters consist of the marginalized, rather than the usual upper middle class family. The woman who manages the Christmas tree lot is grouchy and bitter. The boy who visits the tree is homeless, and lives in his car with his mother. Several other homeless people, including "one woman, in an enormous blue coat with sleeves flapping like wings", and a man with a torn bow tie, play key parts in Treewing's story.
But the real reason to read The Return of Light is for the touching (if not entirely unexpected) ending. It's a perfect mood-lifter for the holidays (at least for those who celebrate Christmas). This is would be a lovely book to read aloud with your kids on the days leading up to Christmas, in front of your twinkling tree.
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Publication Date: October 2007
Source of Book: A gift from the author (I am a readergirlz postergirlz, and have worked with Dia in that context, though we've never met)
Author Interviews: Lectitans
See also Dia's favorite reads of 2007 at Bildungsroman
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.