The Christmas Tree Ship

  • Type: Books
  • By: Carol Crane
  • Age Category: Children
  • Genre: Non-Fiction
  • Recommended by: Tom S.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9781585362851
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Based on a true story from Michigan’s maritime history

In November of 1912, Captain Herman Schuenemann and his crew left Thompson Harbor, near Manistique, aboard the schooner Rouse Simmons. Soon after departing the Upper Peninsula, the Simmons – upbound for Chicago with a load of some 5,000 Christmas trees – encountered a fierce gale and was lost with all hands off Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

It’s this event that author Carol Crane uses as the framework for her picture book story, told from the perspective of a young boy living with his grandparents, who keep a lighthouse on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. In the story, the grandfather tells what happened to the Simmons and recalls finding Christmas trees washed ashore after the sinking. Illustrator Chris Ellison ably recaptures both the unrelenting ferocity of the 1912 storm tearing across the open lake, as well as the domestic warmth when the lighthouse family gathers around the fireside to hear Grandfather tell the story.

Readers may also be interested in Jeanette Winter’s 1994 book on the same subject, also called The Christmas Tree Ship. Though simpler in plot, this title likewise portrays the heartbreaking drama of the Simmons’ loss and the sturdy resolution of Captain Schuenemann’s widow and daughters as they decide to carry on with the Christmas tree business after the Captain is gone.