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The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story
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The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story

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4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,052 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Acclaimed author Gloria Houston has written a tale that is as joyful and timeless as Christmas itself. Jewel-like paintings by two-time Caldecott Medal winner Barbara Cooney capture all of the season's warmth and mountain flavor. "A heartwarming holiday story, simply told and graced with true sentiment rather than sentimentality".--Kirkus Reviews. Publisher's Weekly Bestse ...more
Paperback, 32 pages
Published October 1st 1996 by Puffin (first published 1988)
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Bobbi Rightmyer
Although this book was published in 1988, I didn't discover it until 1995, when my youngest was 3 years old. We first read it from the Mercer Public Library, but we checked it out so many times, I finally had a local bookstore order it for us. The library was kind enough to laminate the dust jacket for us.

Ruthie has been waiting patiently for her father to return from the war. As Christmas approaches, Ruthie's mother begins to worry about the Christmas tree tradition in their small Appalachian t
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Lynnis Mincey
Ms. Houston, formerly the Author in Residence at University of South Florida, presented me with this book for my daughter Amanda Lee, some years ago, along with a lovely personalized inscription. It is a treasure and a keepsake to be re-read often.
Hannah Sidel
This story is about a little girl named Ruthie, who lives in the Appalachian mountains with her mother and father. One year, Ruthie’s family gets to pick out the Christmas tree for her town! Ruthie and her father explore the mountainside until they find the perfect tree. To remember which tree they like the best, they wrap Ruthie’s red hair bow around the top of the tree and wait to cut it down so it will grow more before the winter season. However, Ruthie’s father is shipped off to war before h ...more
Megan
This was a wonderful read that shows all the joys and warmth behind Christmas as well as giving a look into Appalachian traditions.
Ruthie has been waiting for her father to return from war. With Christmas approaching, her mother begins to worry about the Christmas tree tradition. The Pine Grove Church chooses one family to pick out a tree each year and this year they had picked Ruthie's family.Ruthie is also excited because since they were picked, she gets to be the angel in their Christmas page
...more
Josh Sonii
This is a book about a young girl from the valley of the Pine Grove. It was spring and her father told her that it was time to get a tree for the village church. She thought it was to early but her father explained how they have to pick it now so they can get it during the winter. They decided to get a balsam christmas tree because those where the perfect christmas trees. So Ruthie and her Father got onto the horse and searched up in the mountains. They saw the perfect tree and marked it with a ...more
Cynthia
This is a sweet story with beautiful illustrations. I cried the first time I read it and my boys have begged me not to cry again during subsequent readings. I love the message and the joyful ending. A great Christmas story!
Darlene
Nov 25, 2014 Darlene rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any young children for Christmas
Recommended to Darlene by: Goodreads Christmas list
This book was on my Goodreads Christmas recommendations list and I didn't realize that it was a Children's book but I knew I had seen it often. I went to my Lake County Library website and requested it without looking at any information except that it was An Appalachian Story. It didn't really matter I just felt it was time to start my annual Christmas reading, something to put me in the Christmas mood and having a hard time finding any books to do that. Well imagine my surprise to discover it w ...more
K.
Would buy. Lovely pictures and lovely story.
Jenn
This is the story of a little girl named Ruthie. She lived in a little Appalachian village and every year in the Spring it is custom to mark a special tree to be the Christmas tree for the village. The families took turns giving the tree for the village. Ruthie's father had gone to war and he was to return by Christmas Day. He had not returned and Ruthie was to be the heavenly angel in the church play and from that year on after the angel on the tree had looked exactly like Ruthie, the tree was ...more
Pamela
"The wise folk said the old woman in the sky was picking her geese, for the Appalachian Mountains lay blanketed with snow.

Christmas and Appalachian folktales: two of my favorite things. "The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree" is a charming story set in Avery County, North Carolina (Balsam Christmas Tree Capitol of the World) in the shadow Grandfather Mountain - one of the most beautiful areas in all of WNC - and in the shadow of the Great War. It's also a story of community traditions and famil
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Linda
This was one of those incredibly happy coincidences you could never explain. I was working in Asheville, NC and every year for Christmas I bought a book for the young daughter of a friend of mine. I started with "The Polar Express" and who knew how that would mushroom? This was the year I ordered this one from a catalog because I liked the title. Imagine my surprise and delight when I peeked inside on its arrival to discover it was set in western North Carolina. I had been through many of the pl ...more
Jamie
A charming tale of war-time Christmas in Appalachia when Ruthie's dad is fighting overseas and she and her mom must bring the perfect tree to church by Christmas Day. The snowy nightscapes, vast mountain scenery, and warm glow of candles and fires all transported me to Ruthie's home.
Lluvia
Author: Gloria Houston
Reading Level: K-4th Grade

Ruthie is a little girl who lives with her mother and father. This year is her families turn to give the town a Christmas tree. Ruthie and her father find a tree before he is departed to war. Ruthie is chosen to be the Angel in a school play and she must wear something special. Her mom doesn't have any money and they only have enough to eat. Ruthie's mom decides to go cut the tree in the middle of the night since Ruthie's father has not yet returne
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Dallin
Another great Christmas story that our family loves to read. We've enjoyed finding some of the old Christmas tunes mentioned in the book and learning those songs as well.
Katheryn
One of my very favorite Christmas stories! The story of Ruthie in the Appalachian hills and her humble Christmas is truly heartwarming.
Roberta
The pictures by Barbara Cooney in this book were very nice, soft and cozy-looking.

The story itself was ok, but the writing was a little too Appalachian for me. I didn't like the repetitiveness of some of the phrases: "my pretty young'un", "tip tip top", "the color of cream, all trimmed with ribbons and lace", and "kissed the dimple in each of Ruthie's cheeks". I know that kind of thing is eesential to a children's book, but I just found it annoying. I also didn't like some of the spellings: "aut
...more
Dolly
Dec 23, 2010 Dolly rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a heartwrenching tale of a remote village in the Appalachians, during a particularly tough time. The war was raging, taking the father away, there was no money for presents or costumes for the Christmas play, and then there was the problem of delivering the perfect Christmas tree... It's a somber tale, but one of sacrifice, hope, determination and love. And it made me tear up just a little as I read it. Such a nice story, complete with gorgeous illustrations by Barbara Cooney.
LeeAnn
Could call this the "perfect" Christmas book! Love it!
Kevin Jacobsen
I really did enjoy this book. However, this is a sad book. the main character is a little girl named Ruthie. Ruthie's father is away at war during Christmas. Ruthie and her mother must deliver the Christmas tree to the church without the father this year. Other fathers are with their families on Christmas which makes Ruthie quite sad. The mother is then left with fixing Christmas they way the father promised. This book is great for children ages five to nine and teachers could read the book to t ...more
Rachel
I liked it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Teresa Garrett
Captivating tale of the tradition of a small Appalachian village where it is the custom for one family each year to donate the town Christmas tree. The self same year the child of the family will be the Christmas angel in the Christmas pageant. Ruthie and her father find and tag the tree early in the year before he is recruited and sent off to WWI. The town now doubts Ruthie and her mother's ability to provide the tree. I nearly cry every time I read this the ending is so touching!
Nancy Jo Lambert
Ok, so I took over at a library with an easy fiction collection that has A LOT of classic and older books in it. I am angry about that. However, every once in a while, I do find a gem. This Chrsitmas book is one that I brought home with some others becuase my kids wanted some more Christmas books. While this book was too long for my 2 year old, it was great for me! I loved this story! Not one I would read aloud because I think most kids would get bored, but I really liked it!
Jen
Every year in the small community that Ruthie lives in, one family is responsible for the town's Christmas tree. This year Ruthie's family is to provide it. With her father off fighting in the Great War, will Ruthie and her mother be able to get the tree that Ruthie and her father selected in time for the Christmas service at church?

Beautiful Christmas story with a great message about family. This is going to be one I share with my students for years to come.
Lisa
Such a wonderful story, and yes, it made me cry. In the spring, Ruthie and her father search for the perfect Christmas tree to give the village on Christmas Eve. They find it on the top of the rocky craigs and mark it with a ribbon. But when Ruthie's father has to go off to fight in World War I, there is nobody to get the Christmas tree. But with miracles and sacrifice, the village not only gets the perfect Christmas tree, but Ruthie gets the perfect Christmas.
Trace
Based on the high number of 5 star ratings for this book - I was so surprised when we only found it to be "meh".... I can't put my finger on precisely why we didn't connect with this book. But we didn't connect with it all that much. With so many other wonderful Christmas books - we'll leave this one for others to enjoy.

The artwork of Barbara Cooney was quite charming though!
Sung Baick
This book was a very heart-warming story about a poor family who brought the perfect Christmas tree for Christmas that year. This would be a good read-aloud to the middle and upper grade levels just because it's a bit lengthy. I would include this with my holiday collection. It can definitely be used to talk about Christmas or one of the many December holidays.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
It’s Ruth’s family’s turn to give the perfect Christmas tree for the village and it’s Ruthie’s turn to be the angel in the Christmas play. But how will this happen when Ruthie’s father is away at the war and there is no money for angel clothes? Best part: when Ruthie thought the doll felt just like the silk stockings her father had sent her mother. Ages 5-12.
Megan
Dec 12, 2012 Megan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 2nd-4th grade
Recommended to Megan by: "Christmas Read Alouds" Library Sparks December 2011
3 1/2 stars
Ruthie's family must provide the town's Christmas tree, and Ruthie is to be the angel in the Christmas pageant. But with Ruthie's father fighting in the war, how can they create a happy Christmas?

Sweet and predictable, but that's forgiveable in Christmas stories. The mention of several different Appalachian carols is a nice touch.
Alexandra
A beautiful story about the year Dad went to war and Christmas came. It's full of giving, tradition, family, and community. Beautiful.
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172399
Gloria Houston, like her great-aunt Arizona, is both a teacher and a native of the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Ms. Houston taught students of all ages—from kindergarten through twelfth grade—for over fifteen years. Ms. Houston has written several books for children, including the best-selling My Great-Aunt Arizona, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb; The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tr ...more
More about Gloria Houston...
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