The true story of a ship loaded with Christmas trees that was lost in a storm on Lake Michigan in 1912 is interwoven with a nostalgic reminiscence by an adult narrator recalling storytelling grandfather.
The unnamed narrator recounts how, as boys, he and his younger brother lived with their grandparents in a lighthouse on the shore of Lake Michigan. One Christmas, Grandpa Axel told his grandchildren the story of Captain Santa, who each November took a shipload of thousands of Christmas trees from northern Michigan to Chicago to sell. The ship and its crew were lost in a fierce November storm, but the following year the captain’s widow and his daughters brought another ship loaded with trees to Chicago to continue Captain Santa’s tradition. Grandpa Axel’s retold story of the Christmas-tree ship is illustrated in sepia tones to distinguish it from the later story, which is illustrated with vibrant paintings with an appealing, Impressionistic flavor. The wreck of the ship is glossed over with a blurry illustration of the sinking ship and no mention of loss of life. The transition back and forth between 1912 and the era of the storytelling grandfather (with no specified date) may be confusing to some readers, and a map of the Lake Michigan area would have been helpful.A dramatic but lugubrious subject for a Christmas story. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-10)