On the Shelf: The Night Tree

carrot feeder 4

Around the world, many families will be celebrating the holidays of the season this week and next. In light of all the festivities, we thought that we would bring you a post about a favorite book of ours, one that is perfect for encouraging everyone to get into the spirit of giving and sharing during this special time of year.  Read on to find a short review of The Night Tree by Eve Bunting. And, since the review originally appeared in an issue of Alphabet Glue, it is (of course!) also accompanied by a fun project to take the story off the page and bring it to life in your backyard or local woods.



I am not always the most vocal enthusiast when it comes to holiday-themed literature. Indeed, although we have a few holiday specific titles occupying space on our shelves, it doesn’t tend to be a genre that our family seeks out. It is hard to say exactly why this is, but I suspect that it has something to do with the desire to read and enjoy a book on a year-round basis, something that feels a little bit odd when a book fits too neatly into a holiday package. That being said, The Night Tree by author Eve Bunting, with illustrations by Ted Rand, is one of my favorite books for children. Although the argument for it being a holiday specific book is strong, I think that it is equally well-enjoyed as a more general purpose winter book and quite a good one at that. The Night Tree is the story of a family making their annual trip into the woods, and from the beginning of the book the natural assumption of the reader is that the family is going to choose a Christmas tree there. But there is more to the story than that, and the reader is soon privy to the fact that the family hasn’t gone into the woods to cut a tree down: they’ve gone into the woods to decorate a tree with food as a gift for the forest animals in winter.

Although The Night Tree is about the celebration of Christmas for the family in the book, I think that even families who do not celebrate Christmas will appreciate the fact that at the heart of this narrative is a story about building traditions around generosity, thoughtfulness and the care of others. It is a story about creating unique family traditions that become a part of who you are together. Our own family background includes a remarkable mish-mash of cultural and religious traditions and as a result, The Night Trees emphasis on the joy and feeling of togetherness that comes from the creation of family traditions that are all your own truly speaks to my heart.

This simple project was inspired by our reading of The Night Tree, as well as by another winter favorite, The Stranger in the Woods. In both books, people leave surprises for their forest friends to discover and enjoy. And although it is true that the events in The Night Tree take place during December, I don’t think that any backyard bird would object to being offered one of these tasty treats just because the calendar page has been turned to January or beyond.

The project:


– medium to large carrot

– peanut butter

– birdseed

– needle and string

– tool for making a hole in the carrot

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Begin by making a hole all the way through the carrot about a half inch from the top.


carrot feeder 2

Using a strong, large needle (like an embroidery or darning needle), pull a piece of string through the carrot and tie a knot with the two ends of the string, making a large loop for hanging.


carrot feeder 3

Roll the carrot in peanut butter (or smear it on using a spoon) and once it is well coated, roll the carrot in birdseed until the entire surface is completely covered with seed.

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Now the feeder is ready to hang. You can either hike out into the woods and find a tree there to decorated with your surprise for the animals, or you can find a spot to hang it in your own yard where you can watch it get eaten up through your very own windows.  Make a whole batch and hang them in different locations for the birds to find.

Our backyard birds made their discovery of the surprise treat we made them within about five minutes of us hanging it up!

3 comments… add one

  • Linda December 19, 2014, 6:15 pm

    We just made our first bird feeders a few weeks ago and it was so much fun! I’ve never done one with a carrot before but we’ll have to try that. Pinning this!

  • Jessica December 19, 2014, 11:42 pm

    Ha! We just did the pine cones this week. I’ve never heard of using a carrot either — interesting!

  • Tamara December 21, 2014, 8:03 am

    We have made pinecone feeders for the birdies but how fun to use carrots!

    Thanks for the book ideas, will check the library. We are reading The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice. :)

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