Thursday, December 23, 2010
Hidden Classic #4: The House Without a Christmas Tree
In honor of the holiday season, I went back and looked at my list of favorite children's holiday books, and this was right at the top: The House Without a Christmas Tree by Gail Rock, one in a short series of novels about the incomparable 10-year-old Addie Mills. Unfortunately, the series is out of print, but several libraries in the system still have copies, and this particular title was filmed as a must-see made-for-TV movie in the 1970s that is still available on DVD.
I was curious as to what other people thought about the book, which is truly a hidden classic that not many have read. I found this delightful review on Goodreads from a friend of a friend named Tatiana, and it says it all:
"I was looking for a Christmas novel that 1) had heart, 2) wasn't sappy, and 3) didn't make me cry. I found it in The House Without a Christmas Tree: sweet, concise (I read it today), and old-fashioned in the best way. It's the story of Addie Mills, a fiesty 10-year-old in 1946, who can't understand why her father won't allow them to have a Christmas tree. Father and daughter both have trouble communicating with those they care about, and so it's good they have Grandma to bridge the gap. Grandma tries to make Addie see the situation from her father's point of view, that of a man who's still grieving the loss of his wife, while simultaneously explaining to her son the importance of loving the ones still with us. But it takes a series of miscues, including Addie dragging a tree through town (twice!) before all can be resolved. A lovely story that leaves you hoping there really are girls like Addie Mills in the world and wishing you could know one."
The only thing I'd change about this review is that it does, in fact, make me cry. But not because it's deliberately "tear-jerking" or emotionally manipulative in any way. Rather, because it's a lovely story told simply and honestly, and out of that simplicity and honesty comes the true emotion of the piece. Not to be missed.
There is also a very nice, but brief, fan site for Addie. Check it out!
Praise for the Addie Mills series:
As befits a true "Hidden Classic," there aren't many professional reviews still around for this series, or for this book in particular. But everywhere you go on the web, all of the reader-based reviews (via sites like Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, ALibris, etc.) consistently give Addie at least 4 out of 5 stars.
Screenwriter Eleanor Perry won a prime time Emmy for "Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama - Adaptation," and director Paul Bogart was nominated for a Director's Guild Award, both for the made-for-TV movie of The House Without a Christmas Tree.
And there is a lovely Time article praising the adaptation: "The Little Christmas Classic That Could."