Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

How happy is your Christmas tree?

Posted on | December 12, 2012 | 5 Comments

Do you put up a Christmas tree each year? Real or synthetic? For weeks or just a few days? Have you ever thought about the journey your tree (whatever sort) has made to be in your home?

If you’re looking for a Christmas tale with more substance than just sparkly stars and gaudy baubles, The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Sanna Annukka might be the perfect stocking filler for you. This edition, newly illustrated by Finnish designer Sanna Annukka (the text previously appeared in a Penguin Classics’ Fairy Tale anthology) is a thought-provoking, slightly melancholy fairy tale with truths to be told about the joy that comes from living in the moment, about appreciating what you have right here, right now and not wishing time to hurry up and pass by.

The little fir tree is never happy with his lot. He wants to be bigger. He wants to be somewhere else. He believes that better things are just over the future’s horizon. He never takes the time to appreciate the beauty around him, whether that is in the forest with the snow and animals, or in the home where he becomes a Christmas tree decked out in candles and glory. All too late he realises his folly, but maybe his salutary tale comes in time to help us slow down and enjoy the here and now in the mad rush that can easily take over December.

Although I enjoyed reading The Fir Tree with my 7 and 4 year olds, this somewhat bleak tale made them feel a little uncomfortable; I’d recommend giving this to teenagers and adults, and not just because they are likely to appreciate more the message of the story.

Sanna Annukka takes the simplest shape which could represent a fir tree, a triangle, and uses it repeatedly to create her mosaic-like illustrations. Bound in cloth, with bold, clean, geometric images created by a Marimekko designer, this “grown up” edition offers you a chance to share a meaningful story with an audience who may think they are too old for fairy tales.

Taking the triangles as our inspiration, just like Annukka, we painted lots of cardboard packaging various shades of green, mixing glue and glitter in with some of our paint.

I cut out triangles of card, and then slots alternately in the tops and bottoms of the triangles, so that the kids could push two triangles together to create their own fir trees.

Soon we had a forest, which we populated with woodland animals and showered in paper snowflakes.

It makes a really gorgeous Christmassy display in our kitchen – a “natural” alternative to putting a Christmas village up on the mantle shelf.

Our Christmas forest was super easy for the kids to construct once I had cut the slots (it’s important that the slots are not just scissor cuts, but actually a few mm wide). Here are some other ideas for ways to make trees you could use for a Christmassy forest:

  • Keeping the triangular theme, willowday has created a super tutorial for making pyramidal shaped trees and using them as an advent calendar.
  • Bookhou Crafts uses matchboxes to help the trees stand up. The match boxes double up as secret storage spaces, and who doesn’t love a secret place to store goodies?
  • KV barn uses felt and cocktail sticks to create simple but effective fir trees, great for mini landscapes. This idea could be adapted for other sorts of trees too.
  • An alternative way to create trees from felt comes from The Long Thread – stack circles of felt on top of each other to create a fir tree.
  • Ikat Bag comes up trumps again with these wooden stacked Christmas trees – I love the look of these!


  • Whilst making our Christmas forest of fir trees we listened to:

  • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee – completely at odds with the atmosphere of the book, but great for creating a cosy kitchen atmosphere!
  • The Little Christmas Tree by Nat King Cole
  • First Tree in the Greenwood by Kate Rusby

  • Finally, a post on Christmas trees and books wouldn’t be complete without pointing you to some lovely examples of book-ish Christmas tree. Do take a look at this round up from The Mary Sue.

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    Comments

    5 Responses to “How happy is your Christmas tree?”

    1. Tasha Goddard
      December 12th, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

      Oh, my. I love those illustrations. I think I need to get this book. And your trees are fabulous, too.
      Tasha Goddard recently posted..Tasha’s Thinking Week: 26 November-2 December 2012

    2. Shar
      December 13th, 2012 @ 2:31 am

      I love your cardboard tree forest! And the book sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing.
      Shar recently posted..Something Special for Picture Book Lovers

    3. choxbox
      December 13th, 2012 @ 2:37 am

      Lovely illustrations and lovely idea!

    4. Zoe
      December 13th, 2012 @ 7:02 am

      Thanks Choxbox
      Zoe recently posted..How happy is your Christmas tree?

    5. Zoe
      December 13th, 2012 @ 7:04 am

      Thanks Shar – the forest has worked out so well, we’re really pleased

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