The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 7, 2007


The Concord Museum celebrates children's literature in "Family Trees"

A "TREE" MADE OF CAKE. Carlisle's entry, the Ella Takes the Cake tree, resides cheerfully in the museum's 19th-century parlor/dining room.
Concord has a longstanding and well-deserved reputation as a cradle of letters in this country. Local schools offer courses titled, "The Concord Writers," and people come from all over the world to visit the carefully preserved homes of Concord's literary ghosts: Emerson, Hawthorne, the Alcotts, Thoreau. As we know, however, Concord's bookish reputation does not rest only with its 19th-century authors; writing is alive and well in the town today. The Concord Museum, repository of furniture and writing materials used by Emerson and Thoreau, celebrates its hometown's love of books and authors each year at this time in its own way, with the annual exhibit of "Family Trees: a Celebration of Children's Literature."

"Family Trees" is a veritable forest of Christmas trees, each decorated to represent a children's book. A self-guided tour takes you and your family all over the museum. In each exhibit room and hallway there are trees to admire, accompanied by the books that inspired their decoration, and often child-sized chairs, so that young readers and little ones can stop along the way to read or hear and look at the books that take their fancy. Trees range in size from tiny enough to fit in a window, like the one showing the classic Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, to full-sized trees that look right at home in the larger exhibit rooms. The trees have been decorated by a group of creative volunteers, using a variety of materials, many of which are homemade. The Winter is the Warmest Season tree, representing the book by Lauren Stringer, for example, is swathed in knitted scarves, mittens and toasty one-piece PJs, and crowned by an oversized knitted hat.

Littleton Brownie Troop 6340 submitted a particularly creative effort: the girls wrote to several baking ingredient companies, like King Arthur Flour, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and Hershey's chocolate, to obtain clean copies of their wrappings and boxes. Out of these, a chef's toque, and some kitchen implements, they fashioned a sweet and whimsical tree whose subject is Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Cookies: Bite-Size life Lessons. The girls chose words from the book's life lessons, which compare cookies to manners, and the words "fair," "generous," and others appear spelled out in letters clipped from flour bags, and butter, baking chocolate and baking soda boxes.

A tree from Carlisle
LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN. A monster on the tree celebrating Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are greets exhibit patrons.

Upstairs, appropriately situated in the 19th-century parlor/dining room, is a tree made entirely of a layered cake, with a small elephant sitting on top. The base of the tree is a small wagon. Everything on the tree is handmade, and took about two years to plan and execute. It is a perfect visual description of Carmela D-Amico's Ella Takes the Cake, the story of a little elephant who wants to be helpful. Ella sets out to deliver a cake her mother has baked for a birthday party, and along the way she takes on so many other helpful tasks that she barely arrives with the cake intact. This delightful tree was designed and made by Carlisle's own Mary Beth Stevenson, Peggy Wang, and Judy Blaikie Lane. (See photo, top.)

Trees from all ages and interests

You can view not only classic tales like The Elves and the Shoemaker, delightfully presented with an antique sewing machine as a base, an impressive rendering of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (see photo, bottom), with the tree sitting in Max's boat, and Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, but plenty of wonderful new children's books as well. Do you know Russell the Sheep, by Rob Scotton, or Up, Down and Around, by Katherine Ayres? Three generations, grandmother Margaret Johnson, mother Pam Nelson, and granddaughter Hallie Nelson, decorated Library Lion. The Concord Council on Aging offers Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate. The Garden Club of Concord decorated a tree characterizing the 1998 Caldecott Honor Book, The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart, a wonderful story about a country girl sent to live with an uncle in the city during the hard times of the Great Depression. She turns her new abode into a garden showplace. In all, there are over 30 trees in this literary forest.

Favorite books of local luminaries

In addition, there is a child-sized tree accompanied by Mary Ann Hoberman's 1984 National Book Award winning A House is a House for Me in the upstairs passageway that invites you to decorate it with the ornaments and garlands in baskets at its base. Children are also invited to write in a memory book the titles of their favorite books and draw pictures of their favorite story parts. Also in this area is a small tree made of cards recording the favorite children's books of local "luminaries:" Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, Concord author Gregory Maguire, entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawik, chef Jasper White, Senator Edward Kennedy, historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and more. There you'll find books you might remember from your own childhood, if you are an adult, and some surprises as well.

Museum information

This year's "Family Trees" is not to be missed. Enjoy the creativity of local tree designers and pick up some ideas for holiday shopping for the younger folks on your list. Take your time: there is a lot of wonderful detail in the trees and there are many books to explore. The weather is getting wintry, and this is a great way to spend a cozy afternoon.

For information about the Concord Museum, admission and hours, call 1-978-369-9763 or visit Photos courtesy of Concord Museum

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito