Wednesday, November 4, 2009

O Christmas Tree

Most of us will remember singing "O Christmas Tree" in English or "O Tannenbaum," in its original German rendition. The book O Christmas Tree is one of several books in Augsburg Books Sing-It! series. Written by Debbie Trafton O'Neal, and illustrated by Ande Cook, O Christmas Tree simply states a line or phrase of the song on each page, with a fitting illustration. Even though the song is familiar, I had forgotten some of the lyrics. Of course we sing, "How lovely are your branches," but we also sing, "The sight of you at Christmastide/spreads hope and gladness far and wide." Even more importantly, we sing, "The gifts beneath you that I see,/remind me of God's love for me."

The book also includes decorating and craft ideas and instructions, including a handprint tree skirt, a pattern for paper chains shaped as Christmas trees, pipe cleaner stars, colored fire cones (to start fires with), and Christmas dream pillows. There is a page with song lyrics illustrated by corresponding actions, such as wiggling your fingers while singing "Your lights shine out so brightly," and waving your arms when singing "How lovely are your branches."

The last page contains sheet music for the song, along with the three verses in the book.

What I Like: I like the note at the beginning of the book reminding us of the greater purpose in reading the book and singing the song. It states, "As the evergreen tree remains green throughout the year, may it always remind you of God's never-changing love for you!"

The strength of this book lies in the illustrations. The pictures are bright, colorful and cheerful. People of many ethnic backgrounds are represented, and they all appear joyful and happy. We see Christmastime in city apartments and country houses being celebrated by brothers, sisters, parents and pets. The page that says gifts, "remind me of God's love for me" features a brightly drawn creche tucked under the Christmas tree, depicting Mary, Joseph, an angel, the three wise men and a cow and donkey surrounding the baby Jesus. The next page shows a family standing next to their Christmas tree, gazing out the window at a traditional church with a cross on the steeple and stained glass windows.

I also like the craft ideas at the back of the book. I personally am not very crafty and I always dread getting books with suggestions that are over my head. Of course, my children always want to try out the crafts, and we tend to end up with disasters more often than not. These suggestions are cute, well-explained, and simple enough even I would feel comfortable experimenting. The materials would be easy to find and inexpensive as well.

The actions to go with the song are a great idea. Even though I don't sing much, my kids love to "perform" and it's always nice to have a fun song with actions to show relatives and friends.

What I Dislike: Because I can't really carry a tune, I needed to find a recording of the song to properly enjoy the book with my children. The pictures are well-done and held their interest, but if a song is a central part of a book, I generally look for a CD to go with it. Also, there aren't many words per two-page spread, so it is hard to keep up with the song and still give ample time to look at all the great illustrations. It worked best to read through the book and look at the pictures, and then go back and listen to the song and try out the actions. However, this will probably only be an issue for those of you who are musically challenged like I am!

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: Listed as "Children"--I would say 4-10

Publisher Info: Augsburg Fortress, 2003; ISBN: 0-8066-4560-1; Hardcover; $8.99

Buy it at for $8.99.

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Silly Bus said...

Good Interesting Post!!

Decors said...

.: Sometimes the tree shows it's magic~~ Thanks for this post, that one is a pretty DIY Christmas ornaments~~ ^,^ :.