Rock, Gail. The House Without A Christmas Tree.
This short little book--88 pages--would make a great holiday read aloud. The book is set in the mid-to-late forties. Our narrator, Adelaide or "Addie," is a young girl--maybe ten--who is being raised by her father and her grandmother. The story opens the week before Christmas. Addie and her best friend, Carla Mae, are chatting away about school, about their classmates, and about Christmas. There are several main keys to the plot--buying "secret santa" gifts for classmates, class parties, etc.--but the heart of this one is the uncomfortable relationship between father and daughter. Here is a girl who loves life living with a man who isolates himself, who has built a wall around his heart since his wife died. This is the story of how a father's heart was melted, and how a relationship was rebuilt. Back to the title, back to the plot, Addie's one desire is to have a Christmas tree. She feels she's the only kid in town without one. And it's not because they're "poor." Although the family isn't rich by any means. No, it is because her father is stubborn, is mean, is closed off to the idea of celebrating really celebrating the holiday again. But don't think that the father is presented as a villain through and through. Without a doubt, he's just a broken-hearted man who doesn't know how to live life without his wife, who doesn't know how to love his daughter, who doesn't know how to move forward.
I hadn't read this one in years--probably since I was in elementary school--but I am so glad I read it this year. Addie, her grandmother, her father, her best friend, and let's not forget that Billy Wild, her secret santa who gives her a heart locket! All the characters are just so memorable. This one just feels right.