Picture Book Month Day 3:
Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September, 2017. 9780763677336. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)
I have a personal collection of holiday books within my home library. Since our family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, we have collected stories about both holidays over the years. The collection is fairly large and quite varied but there were favorites that were requested each year. Were my sons still small, Red & Lulu would become a fast favorite and one of those requested frequently. It's totally lovely.
Red & Lulu are a cardinal couple who make their home in the branches of a huge Norway spruce conveniently located in the backyard of a family with a bird feeder in the yard. It's an ideal home for the devoted couple being close to a reliable food source and densely branched so that they are protected. Their favorite season is winter because of the Christmas caroling and lights that are strung. O Christmas Tree is their favorite carol. They sometimes even sing along.
On one chilly morning, Red sets out to find some food. A spot illustration reveals that the feeder appears to be empty and a squirrel is perched on it scavenging for seed. A glance at the full-page recto illustration shows a top-down, bird's eye view of the yard, the tree, and Red flying off. But the family is gathered in the yard and one of the children appears to be flagging something down. Two trucks are trundling down the street.
The family's tree is being cut down and for some reason, Lulu doesn't fly away but hunkers down in a cavity. When Red returns, he finds his home strapped to the flatbed of one of the trucks and Lulu singing. He follows the truck to the George Washington Bridge but soon can't keep up.The city is a strange place to this suburban bird and a series of luscious illustrations depict a variety of New York City locations, including one of the lions in front of the New York City Library as well as Times Square. Soon he hears the sound of O Christmas Tree being sung and Red finds his way to Rockefeller Center where his tree is being lit with thousands of colored lights. The double-page spread depicting Red & Lulu's reunion is one to be lingered over. But what happens when their tree is taken away on the day after New Year? Read this instant Christmas classic and find out.
A page at the end of the story provides information about how the tradition of a decorated tree at Rockefeller Center began. Don't forget to turn the page though. A final illustration provides the perfect environmentally friendly wordless ending as the copyright/ dedication page. It is hard to rush past the watercolor illustrations. They come in a variety of sizes and feature nifty little details and perspectives. Eagle-eyed readers have much to spot, including the family taking a selfie at Rockefeller Center in front of their tree.
Red & Lulu is a first-purchase and a much needed addition to any library collection. I wish I had a little one to curl up with to share this heartwarming story.