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Reviewed by Geoff Habiger for Readers' Favorite
Christmas is a magical time for many people, filled with secrets and mystery. What sort of present might be under the tree this year? Will Santa bring you what you asked for? Jonathan is curious about what sort of secret his neighbor, Mrs. Sweetwater, might have. Every Christmas she loads a toboggan up with a bale of hay and several sacks and heads into the forest. In The Tree, Paul Hock explores the magic and wonder of Christmas through Jonathan’s eyes as he tries to figure out where Mrs. Sweetwater goes, and what she does in the forest on Christmas Day.
Through the short, magical tale of The Tree, Paul Hock explores the mystery and wonder that is Christmas. Jonathan is a typical boy, dutiful to his family, and curious about his neighbor who was “just a little bit different.” Through Jonathan’s eyes we experience the wonders of wishing for a special gift – in Jonathan’s case a Flexible Flyer sled – as well as the value of helping a neighbor. When Jonathan follows Mrs. Sweetwater into the forest on the next Christmas Day and discovers her secret, we experience the magic that always seems to be present at the holiday season.
Paul Hock’s story of The Tree is illustrated with wonderful pencil drawings by Hock. These excellent illustrations highlight the world of Jonathan and Mrs. Sweetwater and enhance this magical story for children. Being set in a time before the modern era (the exact year is not stated, but references to a Brownie camera and a wind-up Model T clue the reader in that Jonathan lives long before today) gives the story a strong sense of nostalgia. The Tree is an ideal tale to tell around Christmastime and will be one that young children will want to hear again and again.