Rock, Gail. 1974. THE HOUSE WITHOUT A CHRISTMAS TREE. Ill by Charles C. Gehm. New York, NY: Dell Publishing. ISBN: 0440433940.
In this short story about the many different kinds of love, Addie, an intelligent fifth-grader, is looking forward to Christmas. She and her classmates buy each other gifts, with a fifty-cent limit on cost, decorate the class tree, and discuss who likes who and who doesn't. While Addie isn't much worried about playing the lead angel in the Church play, she is worried that her father won't let her have a Christmas Tree again this year. Living with her grandmother and her dad, Addie doesn't know much about her mom, who died soon after she was born. It turns out that the love her dad still feels for her mom has a lot to do with the decisions he makes about their daughter, and about the Christmas Tree.
Although somewhat predictable and moralistic, this book does a great job of encouraging children to look at their relationships with others, and about the different ways we do and do not express love in those relationships. It also has a firm setting in the time just after the Depression, 1946, when fifty cents is enough to buy a pair of gloves, and people still saved the tin foil from cigarette boxes. The author, Gail Rock, acknowledges the story as somewhat autobiographical, set in a small farm town in Nebraska, commemorating "that special Christmas in 1946, when I was ten years old."
Originally created as a Holiday Television Special, and available in print outside the US for many years prior to its publication here in the States, reviews of the book are difficult to procure.
- Talk about relationships-- how many different kinds of love are there? (from friendship to parent-child to others)
- A way to ease into discussing the history of the Depression, why people saved things that we'd consider trash today, like the tin foil lining in a cigarette box, or the way grandmother reuses a piece of fabric so many different ways...