Name of Book: Christmas Farm
Author: Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrator: Barry Root
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Audience: Ages 4-8.
Summary: Wilma grows flowers, but one day, she decides to try something new. With her young neighbor, Parker, she orders and plants 62 dozen Christmas trees. Year after year the trees grow. Parker grows, too. Finally, after several years of hard work, and after losing many of the trees to ice, deer, mice, and more, Wilma and Parker sell the trees to the people of their town.
Literary elements at work in the story: The plot and illustrations of Christmas Farm work together well to develop themes of growth, change and partnership. Set in the country, this picture book moves the reader across several years as the trees – and young Parker – grow. The watercolor illustrations provide gentle interpretations of the country setting (and the interplay of light and color) as the seasons and years progress. As the plot develops, this passing of time gives weight to the partnership between Wilma and Parker and their common goal of sharing Christmas with others.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability: The most significant aspect of this story centers on ability. As Wilma and Parker’s story unfolds, there is a quiet insistence that two people, in partnership with each other, can achieve a large goal. Alone, neither Wilma nor Parker could have grown five hundred and sixty-six trees. Because the main characters are a young boy and an older woman, we see some nice generational diversity. However, the story lacks both economic and ethnic diversity in both its story and its illustrations.
Theological Conversation Partners: Christmas Farm would make an excellent introduction to any discussion about partnership. Because it is a Christmas book, natural topics of discussion might include God’s partnership with humanity through the birth of a fully human and fully divine savior (Luke 1-2), or our partnership with one another to receive and share the Good News (Luke 8), live in community, and follow the Way (Acts). This book would also provide an excellent point of entry for a discussion about patience as we await the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. Parker expected the trees to be ready for Christmas that first year. Instead, he learned that the tree’s journey would be a long one, filled with tender care, seasons of change, and a certain amount of loss. Our journey, as disciples, is much the same.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Wilma and Parker are good partners in this story. What makes a good partner?
- What is Wilma like? What is Parker like? How do their differences make them good partners?
- God sent us a partner when Jesus came to earth. In what ways is Jesus a partner for us?
- In any partnership, both people help. How does Jesus help you? How can you help Jesus?
- Who are some of your other partners in life? How do you help each other?
- What did Parker do while he waited for the trees to grow?
- Parker had to wait many years for the trees to be ready for Christmas. How do you think this made Parker feel? Have you ever had to wait a long time for something? How did it make you feel?
- Long ago, the Hebrew people waited and waited for a messiah – and after many years, God sent Jesus. But, we are still waiting for Jesus to come again to complete the Kingdom of God on earth. While we wait for Jesus, what can we do to be good partners for God?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Catherine Lovejoy.
Christmas Farm by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.