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The Big Black Book--What the Christmas Tree Saw Review by Melissa Theberge

Rev. Warren C. Biebel, Jr.
Healthy Life Press
P.O. Box 642
Roseland, FL 32957-0642

At just 25 pages long, this little paperback book is a quaint addition to the Christmas stories we have on our shelves already. It takes an unusual approach to sharing the meaning of Christmas by telling the story from the point of view of an evergreen tree, but it still manages to convey the true meaning of this important Christian celebration.

We join the tree on a snowy night in late fall as he stands tall and strong in the forest and observes the animal life around him. One day, there are unfamiliar sounds approaching as two boys and their father appear with an axe. The tree knows this is the day he has been waiting for, and all the trees whisper about who might be chosen! Our storyteller is quickly selected as a family Christmas tree and is soon decorated and enjoying Christmas Eve festivities in the home. The tree observes that humans have a lot with which to make their lives comfortable and happy. During the quiet of the late night, he notices the prominently placed large black book near him and wonders what it is, recognizing that its placement indicates its importance in the home. On Christmas morning, however, the book goes untouched, and when the children ask to read the Christmas story, the parents tell them that there is no time. As the days go on, the tree receives less attention, turns brown, and even witnesses family quarrels about trivial things. He observes that all their material comforts don't actually bring them happiness. He is glad when he is removed from the home, but he continues to wonder what special story is contained in that large black book. He'll never know.

The remaining pages of the book include the text of Luke 2:1-10 for the curious reader who does want to know what story the large black book holds. I confess that I was surprised at first to see the primary portion of the story end sadly for the tree. However, the author achieved something quite powerful by shocking me with this unexpected ending. I had anticipated a picture-book happy ending for the family and for the tree, but the reality of life is that so many around us miss out on learning about Jesus, even when the "big black book" is readily accessible. I was struck by the significance of this ending, and I believe the lessons of this book are useful for Christian parents who can easily feel "too busy" like the family in the story.

The illustrations are also worth noting. They are obviously done by hand, with an oil pastel look that is charming and colorful. The detail and style of the illustrations contribute to the warmth of the book. Other appealing features include the large, readable, italic calligraphy font, which includes spacing between paragraphs and very few sentences per page.

This book is well-suited for children of all ages, but I would suggest that there is no age limit on this one, and that parents would benefit from the simple but poignant lessons as well. This book is truly a big gift in a tiny package.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2010