4 out of 4 stars
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M.J. Albert is one of many authors who has been inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's works. Although it's never explicitly stated by Albert, his children's book Little Tree's Big Dream draws heavily from Andersen's fairy tale "The Spruce Tree." As with most modern retellings of fairy tales found in children's books and movies, the grim ending of the original story has been replaced with a more positive one. Rather than leaving the reader filled with despair, like Andersen's tale does, Albert wishes to leave his readers hoping that their dreams will come true.
A winsome bird named Finch visits Little Tree, a Douglas fir, and warns him that soon the humans will come to cut down trees. Bewildered that anyone would want to cut down trees and take them from their home, Little Tree presses Finch for more information. He's mystified when Finch tells him that humans turn them into Christmas trees. Little Tree instantly decides that he wants nothing more in the world than to be taken by humans and dressed up in pretty lights and sparkly things. Finch, along with other nearby trees, try to discourage Little Tree's dream, as they know what happens to them after Christmas is over. Regardless, he holds onto his dream, urging himself to grow taller so that the humans will choose him. Several winters pass, and while he's frustrated, he's filled with hope that his day will come. Will Little Tree's dream come true? Will he finally become a Christmas tree? Will it be worth it if he does?
This book is best suited for children between the ages of 5 and 9. Younger readers might not have the focus required to get through the story; the book has 12 pages of text, with several paragraphs on each. However, each page of text is accompanied by a charming full-page illustration, which children of any age ought to enjoy. They're detailed without being overwhelming and are brightly colored. The language is simplistic and written in a similar style as Andersen's tale. The third-person omniscient perspective also gives it a fairy tale vibe.
I would have liked to see some more variation in dialogue; each character spoke in the exact same way. While Little Tree might be the protagonist, the world-wise Finch was the most memorable and dynamic character. I was always glad to have him flit his way back into the story. The thing I liked least was that the author never mentioned anywhere that "The Spruce Tree" was the inspiration for the story. In my opinion, the similarities between the two are far too great for it to be a coincidence.
However, it's clearly not a case of plagiarism since Andersen's works are in the public domain, which is why I'm not letting this stop me from giving Little Tree's Big Dream 4 out of 4 stars. The book is well-edited; I only found one minor error, which was a case of inconsistent capitalization.
Little Tree's Big Dream
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