In this true story based on a familiar Christmas ritual, Stulginsky recounts her family’s compulsion to buy their festive tree from the same source each year, hoping to keep a timeless tradition alive in an age of plastic trees and artificial decorations.
With its aisles of tall evergreen trees that “smelled like a forest,” May’s Christmas Tree Yard was like a child’s dream. There among the beautiful pines and firs, a mother and father found their first big, fat tree, then take it home and decorate it with handmade wooden ornaments, making it so perfect that they keep it up until Valentine’s Day. The ritual return to May’s continued each year until, one day, they discovered that the yard was gone. When a replacement tree didn’t feel the same, the family tracked down the company, May’s, to a poorer neighborhood, where it sat behind a chain-link fence. For the family, it was worth driving to the suburbs to buy a tree from May’s each year; even when it moved away, the family continued to travel there from another state. The annual group photograph in the yard expanded to include “other tree shoppers, and even Mr. May’s doctor and his wife.” Stulginsky’s short book is hard to categorize, particularly since the semibiographical story feels like a compromise between fiction and nonfiction; similarly, it’s written in verse, but it’s not really a poem. And though buying a Christmas tree is a common activity familiar to many children, it’s hard to get away from the feeling that this piece better belongs in a family album, complete with the photographs included here of the kids all grown up and now taking their own children to May’s. There’s not enough happening in the story, and it tends to be short on the buzz needed to keep young readers excited. The relatively bland, cartoon-style illustrations don’t really add anything striking to the story, either.
A positive, relatable story that doesn’t reach far enough.