December 18, 2008

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Christmas Farm, by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Barry Root, Harcourt, 2008
By Lisa Parsons news@hippopress.com

In this attractively illustrated children’s book, a woman named Wilma plants 62 dozen Christmas trees on her back hill, with help from a five-year-old boy neighbor.

By the time they’re ready to sell the first batch of trees, he’s 10 years old and 597 trees are still standing, 147 having been lost to weather and nibbling animals.

And finally, “Far away … in rooms they never saw, in places they never knew, five hundred and sixty-six trees that Wilma and Parker had grown wore lights and balls and tinsel in their branches … that smelled the sweet smell of Christmas.”

Author Mary Lynn Ray (who also wrote Pumpkins and many other children’s books) lives in South Danbury, N.H., so it’s easy to imagine that the Christmas tree farm so lovingly drawn here is up in the North Country, and that the “family who had a Christmas tree lot in the city,” who buy 210 trees for resale, maybe is selling us trees in Manchester. In any case, the pictures are idyllic and this tale of patience and steady work is suitably cozy for a New Hampshire winter’s night. A —Lisa Parsons