Eve Bunting has written over two hundred books for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Smoky Night, illustrated by David Diaz, The Wall, Fly Away Home, and Train to Somewhere. She lives in Southern California. The late TED RAND was the esteemed illustrator of many picture books, including Eve Bunting's Secret Place and The Memory String.
A refreshing alternative to the tinsel and sugarplum commercialism of many Christmas offerings, Bunting's ( In the Haunted House ; The Wednesday Surprise ) arrestingly simple tale resonates with genuine warmth. A boy recounts his family's annual Christmas Eve outing to a nearby wood, where they decorate a special tree (``It has been our tree forever and ever'') with fruit, seeds and strings of popcorn for the animals. Rand's ( Knots on a Counting Rope ) atmospheric watercolors create a mood of hushed excitement as they enhance the festivity of the occasion--apple-cheeked figures exude a homey cheerfulness, their brightly colored caps and blanket sparkling against the deep tones of a nighttime forest. After a mug of cocoa in front of their masterpiece and heartfelt renditions of favorite songs, the family returns home, keenly aware of ``the secrets all around us'' and pleased with the notion that the animals have a place to celebrate Christmas. Parents will take heart at this uplifting book that celebrates the spirit of the season without undue moralizing. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)