Thursday, September 26, 2019

Review - The Little Fir Tree

The Little Fir Tree
by Christopher Corr & Hans Christian Andersen
illustrated by Christopher Corr
Date: 2019
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Deep in the forest, there lived a beautiful little fir tree who longed to see the world. When the tree is taken to town at Christmas, it feels like all his dreams have come true. But what will happen the day after? Find out in this beautifully illustrated modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s festive tale.

When he was surrounded by the splendor of nature, the little fir tree could only think about what he wasn’t and what he didn’t have and couldn’t see. After the initial excitement of venturing out, though, he finds that the world isn’t quite what he expected.

As the story of the little fir tree unfolds—brought to enchanting life with the colorful, folk art–inspired artwork of acclaimed author/illustrator Christopher Corr—so does a touching lesson on appreciating what we already have and a hopeful message of rebirth.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Hans Christian Anderson was a bit sadistic. Just look at what he did to some of his characters! The Little Fir Tree is a retelling of one of his lesser-known stories about a small tree who longs for what he doesn't have until he realizes he should've been grateful all along. Well... that's the original story. What we get in Christopher Corr's retelling is a bit confusing, since he obviously decided to try to brighten things up a bit. (At the end of the original tale, the spent Christmas tree is chopped up into firewood and burned. In this version, he simply goes brown--as old Christmas trees tend to do--and a new fir tree suddenly starts growing in the middle of the forest.)

The writing is pretty good here, even though it's a bit weird to try to wrap your brain around an anthropomorphized tree. (Why is it male, for one thing? If there were ever a time to use "they/them" pronouns, this is it.) As I was reading about the stupid tree wishing it could get chopped down so it could see the world (seriously, what?!), I had a feeling that things weren't going to end well. And they didn't. They also didn't make a lot of sense. After Christmas (for which the fir tree is chopped down and decorated... which somehow doesn't kill him), he's tossed into a shed for months, after which the children find him and pull him back out into the sunshine. (Would he even be recognizable as a tree at that point?) Instead of getting chopped up into firewood, however, he's decorated with flowers by the children and he gets one last chance to enjoy the sunshine. The tree's demise isn't spelled out in the text, which might be a bit confusing for some readers. The tree is shown yellow and dead, lying on the ground. Then a new fir tree grows, and the way the text is worded, one could be forgiven for thinking that the book is implying that the little dead tree has come back to life.

The illustrations here are very bright and colourful, with sort of a folksy aesthetic. It's not my favourite style, but it works here.

Overall, this was just okay for me. If you're looking for a kinder, gentler retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's story, you might like this. But if, like me, you're bothered by stories that complicate things when they try to "fix" narrative problems or potentially traumatic imagery, your reaction to The Little Fir Tree might be lukewarm as well.

Thank you to NetGalley and Frances Lincoln Children's Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

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