Prather’s Pick: ‘Henry Bear’s Christmas’ takes fun look at holiday
Henry Bear loves Christmas. He looks forward to the jelly cakes that Momma Bear bakes, to ice skating, and to Christmas carols. But best of all is the Christmas tree — not just any Christmas tree, mind you, but a big tree full of branches and fully decorated. So, when the first day of December rolls around, Henry is ready to pick out a tree.
“Henry Bear’s Christmas” was written and illustrated by David McPhail, and the coloring was done by John O’Connor. The book is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2003).
The illustrations, rendered in crow-quill pen, ink and watercolor, are detailed and give the illustrations an old-fashioned look. They’re beautiful.
On the first day of December, Henry Bear and his roommate, Stanley Raccoon, put on their winter clothes and climb down the ladder from their house that’s high in a big tree. Stanley doesn’t quite understand what the rush is all about, but he put on his imitation raccoon coat and followed along anyway.
Sure enough, by the time they reach town, people are pulling or hauling Christmas trees home. Henry and Stanley walk over a bridge (some ducks are swimming among the ice chunks in the stream) to a tree farm. Three very realistically drawn farm animals are watching the people shop for trees. (A cow has her chin on the top rail of the fence; a pig’s foot is on the bottom rail.)
The trees all appear to be quite beautiful, but none of them suit Henry. So next, they go to the school yard, where students are selling trees for a scholarship fund. Again Henry can’t find the right tree.
However, Stanley finds a half-buried tree in one corner of the yard. Henry thinks it is the most pathetic, scrawniest tree he has ever seen. Some of the branches are even missing. Stanley, however, doesn’t think the tree is pathetic at all. He likes it. But he follows Henry to the next stop, a church.
There is only one tree at the church, but it is a beauty. Even Stanley thinks so. The only way to get this tree is to win a raffle. So Henry spends all of his Christmas tree money for 12 tickets. He is certain he will win the tree, even though hundreds of tickets have been sold.
The next day, Henry’s raffle ticket is drawn, but he foolishly loses the tree. It turns out that Stanley spent the grocery money on raffle tickets, too, without telling Henry. All seems lost … but is it?
This is an endearing story with a message.
“Henry Bear’s Christmas” costs $16.95 in hardcover, but it is also available in softcover. You can also find the book in the children’s room at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Library.