Review by Ute Limacher-Riebold
The festive tale of the Little Fir Tree from Hans Christian Andersen has been retold many times across cultures and languages. Evi Gitsa’s version in the picture book “The Dream of the Little Fir-Tree” adds a whole new perspective to the classic tale! Although it also focuses on the little fir-tree’s dream of becoming a Christmas tree, and standing, beautifully decorated, in a family’s living room surrounded by family, this version of the story emphasizes on the support the little fir-tree receives from the animals of the forest. When his fellow fir-trees get cut down to become beautiful Christmas trees, the little fir-tree shares his sadness of being left behind with the animals of the forest. Under the direction of the wise owl they decide to help the tree by decorating it on Christmas Eve with all the beautiful things they can gather.
The author adds an additional personal element to the classic story by including fireflies, butterflies and bees, her thee son’s favourite insects that usually would not be seen in the cold season. The fireflies illuminate the tree, the bees treat “everybody to the little Christmas honey cakes they had made” and the butterflies “dressed it with colorful garlands they had made themselves with the colors of their wings”, each animal contributing in their own unique way to the Christmas magic. To add a final touch, the owl brings a special star to complete the picture.
If in the original festive tale the fir-tree ends up being burnt in spring, Evi Gitsa “saves” the tree and allows it to shine in all its glory in its natural habitat. I particularly like this turn of the story as it conveys the message to respect and cherish nature, and to not use the evergreens to decorate our homes for a short time of the year. We can use this story to start a conversation with our children about alternative ways to celebrate this time of the year in a more environmentally friendly and preserving way. This story also emphasizes the power of friends who support each other when they are sad for being left behind or left out, who yearn to leave and see the world. If in the original story by Hans Christian Andersen, the focus was on teaching patience to children, as well as the challenges that come with change, this festive tale celebrates friendship and the love for nature and being appreciative for what we have and be more conscious of what we do, what our friends and dear ones need. To continue this thought, the author invites children to fill a bubble with their own drawing on the last page: a lovely way to finish this reading experience.
The Dream of the Little Fir-Tree is beautifully illustrated by Katerina Katsoura, and translated from Greek by Nancy Basdeki. This book is suited for children between 4 and 7 years, and emergent readers.
As the story by Hans Christian Andersen is known in many languages, and this version of the festive tale is currently available in Greek and English. I suggest further translations to spread its message widely!
If you don't remember the original festive tale by Hans Christian Andersen, here is a short video about it.
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