4 out of 4 stars
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I've read plenty of children's books with little kids, train engines and monsters as characters but Rocky by Jennie E Nicassio is the first time I've seen a tree as the main character! Rocky is a little Norway Spruce tree, with bare, bent branches and not-so-green needles (much like Charlie Brown's little dinky Christmas tree). Despite being the smallest and least perfect tree, he still dreams of winning the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Contest and becoming this year's Rockefeller Christmas Tree!
As one may expect, Rocky is mocked for his dream. The animals and even the other trees are quick to point out just how impossible it is for him to win, and just how silly it is to even think it's possible. A wood fairy named Mary Louise interrupts Bruce's bullying, and after introducing herself he asks for her to make him stronger and more handsome so he can win. She tells him that magic doesn't exist, he just has to believe! With her words, his belief is rejuvenated and he begins working to become the tree he's always wanted to be.
This message of working hard to make things happen may be a common one, but it's definitely an important message. The book also has a fair amount of bullying from Bruce Spruce and AJ the squirrel. Rocky handles them in an excellent way, by being confident but kind, standing up for himself and never giving up. Showing children that being a bully is a bad thing is great, as are showing them how to handle a bully and teaching them to work hard and believe in their dreams!
The illustrations in the book are really cute. They look digital, but the artist knows how to play with colors in a way that doesn't feel flat at all. The faces the trees make are awesome, ranging from snarky to sad to cheesy and they're all absolutely perfect for adults and children. Altogether the story itself is 25 pages, each of which has text over an image, and then the book includes an uncolored page of the main characters that could presumably be printed off to be colored. Following that, there are a few pages showing off an actual Rockefeller Tree and even the original tree from many years ago. The story, along with the Rockefeller Tree images, could easily lead to kids being excited about seeing the next tree chosen and all lit up and decorated!
While the author doesn't specify what ages the book is for, it seems like one that can be introduced as soon as a kid will sit and listen to a book being read to them. The writing is smooth and I didn't see a single grammatical error while reading. As such, I'm giving the book 4 out of 4 stars and highly recommend it for kids who can't read as well as those who are learning to read on their own. The book definitely gets bonus points for essentially giving Charlie Brown's dinky little Christmas tree its own story!
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