This year I went shopping for a Christmas story for my five-year-old nephew. When I looked at the range of titles on display, before I realized it, my hand had picked up The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. In so many ways, it was the perfect book for him.
Although it is a very sweet story of love and hope fulfilled in an earlier time than ours, it isn't necessarily a simpler time because the story occurs during and immediately following World War I. It was a time of such upheaval in the world that it reached even to the farthest places in the Appalachian Mountains where the story takes place.
The real connection for my nephew is that his mother went to school not far from where this story takes place at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina. And he actually has come to visit a friend in a cabin in Maggie Valley - also in the same mountain range. Since he lives in Florida where there is not much of a chance for a white Christmas, I know that he will be able to relate this story to his post-Christmas visits in our snowy mountains.
There doesn't have to be a personal connection for a story to have an impact on us, of course, but I think it's a lovely bonus when there is one. This story by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney is one of the handful of modern classic Christmas stories that stands the test of time year after year. It is a story that is gently told and beautifully illustrated about love and hope and the magic of Christmas.