The Picture Book Buzz

The Queen and the First Christmas Tree - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

September 14, 2018

I adore Christmas, decorating trees, and baking cookies. I know, I know it isn't even October yet. I suppose it IS a bit early to talk about Christmas. Guess we've got to deal with the ghouls first. 

 

However, I hope you'll forgive my brief foray toward the holidays. I've had the pleasure of reviewing an advance copy of a special book. I just had to offer a sneak peek at this beautiful treasure which Nancy Churnin and Luisa Uribe have created. One that I know you will want to add to your nonfiction and/or Christmas collections. 

 

If you love Nancy's other nonfiction books - The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, Manjhi Moves a Mountain, Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier, and Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy who Made America Sing - you will not be disappointed when this newest one is released October 1st.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Queen and the First Christmas Tree: Queen Charlotte's Gift to England

 

Author: Nancy Churnin

 

Illustrator: Luisa Uribe

 

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (2018)

 

Ages: 5-7

 

Nonfiction

 

 

 

Themes:

Christmas, helping others, being true to yourself, and traditions.

 

Synopsis:

Queen Charlotte brought her family's festive holiday yule bough from Germany to England. While planning a Christmas Day party in 1800 at Windsor Castle for over 100 children, she realized a single bough isn't enough. So she brought in the whole tree instead, making it the first known Christmas Tree in England. This story tells a little known fact about a favorite holiday tradition.

 

Opening Lines:

Charlotte wasn't like other princesses.

While her sister looked forward to dressing up for balls, Charlotte bundled up and scurried outside to check on her winter thyme. Seeing the evergreen leaves shimmer in the chilly wind, she blanketed them in pine boughs to keep them warm.

Her parents shook their heads when she raced in, late for dinner, her cheeks red from the cold, her plain dress smudged, her hands filled with yew berries and a few extra boughs.

 

What I Love about this book:

I love Christmas and enjoyed discovering this little known fact about Queen Charlotte bringing the Christmas tree tradition to England. As Nancy Churnin mentioned in her interview Monday, I too had always believed that the tradition started with Queen Victoria. 

 

The opening scenes of Princess Charlotte  (in contrast with her sisters excitedly dressing for a ball), scurrying outside in the cold snow to look after her winter thyme plants perfectly capture this nature loving, unusual German princess. 

Born in Mecklenburg, Germany, in 1744, Princess Charlotte started a tradition of bringing in and decorating a yew branch for Christmas.

Text © Nancy Churnin, 2018. Image © Luisa Uribe, 2018.

 

When she turned 17, she married King George III of England. Unable to speak English and worried about fitting in, she found comfort in a yew branch she'd packed. "With this, she could make magic in her new home." Happily, Charlotte discovered that her husband also preferred being outside to attending balls and encouraged her planting efforts in Kew gardens. 

 

In 1800, as a new century began, Charlotte decided to do something for more than just her 13 children. She invited 100 children to the palace for a Christmas party. But when her traditional yew branch didn't seem festive enough, Charlotte requested that the gardener bring in an entire tree. Thus beginning the Christmas tree tradition in England.

 

As with her other nonfiction picture books, Nancy shows how a young German princess overcame "obstacles, persisted and used the very thing that made [her] different" as the way to make a difference in the lives of others. Wanting to continue helping children, Charlotte started maternity hospitals and built orphanages. 

 

The watercolor illustrations are simply magical. They capture both the period and the spirit of Charlotte (as a princess and a queen). And I love how Nancy connects the smudged princess in Germany with the woman who became a beloved English queen who still "didn't like fancy balls, and sometimes (well, a lot of times) smudged her gowns." Luisa and Nancy make this period of time and the origin of this tradition easily accessible and have created a real Christmas treat.

 

Resources:

- brainstorm ideas for how you could help someone for the holidays - coat or toy donations, toy or food collection at school, handing out meals, helping an elderly neighbor, etc.;

- after you help someone for the holidays, go to Nancy Churnin's website (http://www.nancychurnin.com/a-kind-holiday/) and describe what you did;

- volunteer to wrap books or gifts for the holidays; 

- write or draw a story of the first Christmas tree you remember.

 

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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