Mr. Willowby, the unwitting hero of this Christmas classic, looks quite a bit like the little mustachioed mascot from Monopoly. But as befits a Yuletide tale, this diminutive millionaire turns out to be a good bit more generous.
The Christmas tree in question shows up at Mr. Willowby's home by special order, aboard a big pink truck: "Full and fresh and glistening green--The biggest tree he had ever seen." But it's just a little too big, so he asks his butler, Baxter, to trim off the top few feet that brush up against the parlor ceiling. Baxter realizes that this snipped-off top would make a perfect little tree for "Miss Adelaide, Mr. Willowby's upstairs maid." But she, too, must clip off the top of her tree... which then ends up with Timm, the gardener. Timm's trimming goes on to Barnaby Bear, the tippy-top of Barnaby's tree ends up with Frisky Fox and family, and then Benjamin Rabbit finds the top few inches that Mrs. Fox snipped off. And so it goes, until soon the whole countryside learns that it's simply "grand to have a tree--Exactly like Mr. Willowby."
There's many a lesson to be taken from this tale, about recycling and supply-side economics just for starters. But the cheerful illustrations of Robert Barry ensure that you'll have fun just watching as the ever-tinier tree gets passed on to ever-tinier families. (Ages 5 to 8) --Paul Hughes
Ages 3-7. First published in 1963 with ink drawings and green washes, Mr. Willowby's
Christmas Tree now reappears in a slightly larger format with full-color washes. The ink drawings are as jaunty as ever, and even more cheerful with their brilliant tints glowing against the white pages. The unchanged, rhyming text tells the tale of a Christmas tree too tall for Mr. Willowby's parlor. The butler whomps off the top and gives it to the maid, who finds even the treetop too tall for her table. So she chops off the top of her little tree, which is retrieved by the gardener--and so on. In the end, the one tall tree has provided smaller Christmas trees for seven homes, from Mr. Willowby's mansion, where Mr. Willowby dozes contentedly in his parlor, to the cozy mouse hole behind Mr. Willowby's chair, where three little mice dance around their tiny tree. Simple, satisfying, and memorable, this old favorite's colorful reappearance gives readers yet another reason to celebrate the season. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved