The Children’s Book Blog Christmas Countdown: The House Without a Christmas Tree by Gail Rock
For December I’ve decided to turn the children’s book blog into a sort of literary advent calendar. Every day of the month I’ll be posting a short recommendation of a wintry or Christmassy children’s book to warm your cockles or, in some cases, chill the blood. There’ll be something for readers of all ages, from picture books all the way up to YA. My choice for December 11th is Gail Rock’s ‘The House Without a Christmas Tree’.
This story may be more popular in America than it is in the UK, but it covers themes that affect children all over the world: parental indifference, poverty, the approach of puberty, and the agony of feeling different. All this makes it sound like a gloomy read – in fact, it’s a heart-warming tale with a quirky young heroine.
Ten-year-old Addie Mills lives with her father and grandmother in a snowy Nebraskan town where everybody knows everybody else. Her mother died when she was a baby and her father doesn’t seem interested in her at all. Not only that, but he won’t allow them to have a Christmas tree in their home. But Addie is a contrary sort and vows not to give up on her tree – though getting her own way may not have the consequences she expects.
Addie is really interesting for a girl protagonist in the 1940s. Tomboyish and outspoken, she actually reminds me quite a bit of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. The author, Gail Rock, made no secret of the fact that Addie’s experiences were largely based on her own, and her portrayal of the heartbreak and humour that ensue in everyday family life feel all the more honest for it. The book also provides an intriguing little window onto the history of a very specific time and place. For example, there are several references to the Great Depression and how Addie’s smalltown American community is still suffering from it. The Second World War, however, isn’t mentioned once, even though the story is set in 1946.
Check back tomorrow to see which book is lurking behind the ‘calendar door’ for December 12th and catch up on my previous recommendations here
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and children’s author. She is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel set in Hackney. You can follow her on Twitter as @TheStoryMonsterTagged in: children's literature, christmas books, christmas children's books, Gail Rock, The House Without a Christmas Tree
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