No matter who we are, none of us ever wants to feel left out in life. Whether you’re Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer never allowed to “play in any reindeer games”, a “Charlie-in-the-Box” castaway dismissed to the land of the misfit toys, or a Christmas elf wanting to be a dentist, we all have an inherent need to be accepted for who we are and be a part of the world around us.
Additionally inherent in our human destiny is the desire to want to assist others and causes, in any way we can, when a need comes to our attention. And strangely, one never knows where that assistance might come from … and most often it’s from quite unexpected sources.
A Common Theme . . .
Life is filled with common themes and concerns to overcome. Country music is filled with these same common themes. But it’s the choice of lyric, the telling of the tale, that differentiates one song from another, one story from another, to capture the attention of the listening audience.
Some artists write songs. Some artists write books. Both write stories.
Singer-songwriter Deborah Allen has taken her love of storytelling and life experiences and put them together for the first time in a children’s book.
“The Loneliest Christmas Tree”, the story of a lone tree having never been chosen for the family festivities of holiday lights and decorations, is indeed a common theme. But it’s the telling of this frightening adventure of a Christmas tree on the edge of being destroyed by urban development that takes common to a new place, a new audience and a new hero.
Where It All Began . . .
For “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” author, Deborah Allen, it all began in 1986. “The idea for this book first came to me many years ago,” Deborah shares. “I was writing every day, anxious to see what was going to develop next in the story. It was around this same time that I had forged a friendship with a local Nashville woman who happened to be living on the streets. The character in the book, Christmas Carole, is named after that woman, and she turns out to be the hero in the story. Unfortunately, she passed away several years ago.”
For “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” itself, it all began in the forest among other evergreen trees awaiting to be chosen “to take home and dress up in tinsel and twinkling lights with an angel above shining out in the night.” A fate this tree assumed it would see, yet the only thing it saw standing alone in the forest year after year was the threat of city dwellings and its demise getting closer and closer and closer.
Would it survive? Would it be destroyed? Would anybody care?
You’ll have to purchase this delightful children’s Christmas story to find out for yourself. For me to fill you in would be like opening your gifts before Christmas …
A Bit of a Hint . . .
Okay, I’ll give you a bit of a hint. “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” is a heart wrenching tale that will have each child worried for the tree’s fate, cheering when it seems the tree will be okay then concerned once again when its fate is looking dim. It’s a common story-telling strategy of problem, tension, climax and conclusion. But where children are concerned it always becomes a magical adventure expected to be resolved.
Well, this expected-to-be-resolved adventure unexpectedly begins when the tree is left alone in the forest year after year. It progresses with worry and tears as the years go by and the city begins creeping up on it taking over its space and options. Where it once accepted that one day it would meet the fate of an “ax” and be brought home to be adorned and decorated, never did it think it would meet the fate of a chain saw to be turned into …
Oh, I can’t look. It tried so hard to be picked, to be brave, to be useful. But in the end …
In the end, the only one concerned about the fate of “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” was Carole, a homeless woman who lived for years beneath its branches, safe and protected from the elements of seasonal change. Yes, only Carole cared because to Carole “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” was her home.
But no one would listen. Not the city. Not the mayor’s office. No one. So Carole decided to ask for help in prayer. Do prayers really get heard? Do prayers really get answered? From a homeless person? Even Carole knew her chances were slim at saving the only thing she had for a home. And while “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” tried to continue to comfort Carole, even IT began to worry for and accept its fate.
Rhythm, Rhyme and Vocabulary . . .
The tale begins with a traditional “Once upon a time” opening. The tone is set and you’re reading along nicely when suddenly the author switches to rhyme. Now, while rhyme is a very common story-telling pattern in children’s books and an obvious story-telling pattern to a songwriter, it’s the all-of-a-sudden-ness of the voice change that has you backtracking a bit to the beginning to see if you missed the rhyme at the outset in your zealousness to get going on this adventurous tale.
Once you realize that the story went from narration to rhyme, it’s very easy to settle in, dancing along with the rhythm and the rhyme hoping for a happy ending.
There’s no doubt this is a children’s story. It’s a picture book gorgeously illustrated by visual storyteller Molly Brooks, (daughter of Kix Brooks, half of the famous duo Brooks & Dunn). The colors and characters are as vibrant as Molly’s personality, bringing “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” to life through the illustrations as the story unfolds.
Most often in children’s books sentences are quite short and vocabulary is quite simple. “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” challenges the young listener every now and then with sentence structure, length, vocabulary and concepts that I think reach beyond the scope of the age-intended listener.
But if you ask Dr. Seuss, that’s a craft and an art that lends itself to further discovery, adventure and commentary. It allows the young listener to become inquisitive and ask what “that” means. It lends itself to the adult reader reaching into the archives of its own childhood memories and delivering an explanation that will satisfy the young listeners’ learning curve. It’s not a handicap, it’s a way to become more than just the reader of a story to a child. It’s a craft Dr. Seuss had down to a science and Deborah Allen adopted now and again in the unfolding of “The Loneliest Christmas Tree”.
Personal Experiences . . .
Everything we do in life stems from our own personal experiences. The way we approach life, problems, problem-solving and adventure all comes from our voice of experience from within.
I’ve worked quite often in schools and libraries with young children. Children love to be read to. An adult can bring the pages and the words alive in a way that a new young reader may not be equipped to do on their own. When that happens, children tune in. Their faces express their presence in the tale and it’s up to the reader to keep them entertained until the story’s conclusion.
Although “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” is a children’s book, a picture book, it is a read-aloud story. And that type story lends itself very nicely to adult participation, which in this hurried day and age is a nice way to be able to connect with children. Hold the book, the story and the listening child in your heart. Bring Deborah Allen’s message that “anything is possible. We all have the capability to move mountains, even when it seems all hope may be lost” to life for a child in your life !
Bring “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” to life for a Child . . .
In fact, really bring “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” to life for a child. To a child, the person that created a story it’s holding in its hands or had read to them is a magical wizard of words. To be able to see, touch and get close to the author that created the characters and adventures of the story being told is a treat not all children get to experience. It’s an unforgettable moment, I assure you, as I’ve experienced this awe-struck moment several times with children.
And you can experience this same bliss for yourself and a child if you’re anywhere near Nashville, TN. “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” author, Deborah Allen, will be signing copies of her first ever children’s book on December 3, 2011 at 11:30 am at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, TN. Copies of the book must be purchased from the Museum Store. Be sure to check out the booksigning guidelines for all the details of how you can bring “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” to life and to a child.
If you can’t make it to the book signing and meet-and-greet or don’t live in the Nashville area, you can still bring “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” to life by gifting a copy to a child in your life. “The Loneliest Christmas Tree” is now available in stores and online retailers.
(Book Review Originally Published on November 21, 2011 at Christine McDonald, Author Archive – Country Music Pride