Each year we drive north a few miles to our friends' tree farm. Walking amongst the varieties of trees, I always seek a balsam, the perfect tree. So do Ruthie and her father in Gloria Houston's book The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. The two ride up to the high cliffs and rocky Craig's where they find that tree, all alone atop Grandfather Mountain. Ruthie's father takes a red ribbon from her hair and lifts her to tie that ribbon as a marker on the tree. The seasons pass, and he is called away to the Great War. The tree stands tall and grows even more perfectly, ready to be the tree in Pine Grove Church.
I adore this story. A girl's hope for her father's return and belief that St. Nicholas will bring her "a doll with a beautiful dress, the color or cream, all trimmed with ribbons and lace" resonates with her parents' love for her. Barbara Cooney's illustrations make it an even more beautiful book.