Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares
A cardinal pair live happily in the evergreen tree of a family’s yard. They especially love winter, when the family decorates the tree with lights and people gather round to sing the carol, “Oh Christmas Tree.” But one day, while the male cardinal, Red, is out looking for food, the tree, with Lulu still in its branches, is cut down and loaded onto a truck. Red, flying home and seeing their tree being driven away with Lulu calling from its branches, flies frantically after the truck, but loses it. He keeps flying, though, trying to find it. He finds himself in a strange place, a big city, far different from the suburban area he is used to. Red spends days searching for Lulu, then the familiar singing of Christmas carols brings him to a square, where his tree is lit up and surrounded by a large crowd of people singing. Red flies to the tree and he and Lulu are joyfully reunited! It turns out the tree was cut down to be displayed in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. After the holidays, the tree is once again taken down. This time, Red and Lulu remain together and make a new home in a nearby park. Each year, they visit the big tree in Rockefeller Center and listen to the carols. The end of the book includes information on the history of the trees used in the Rockefeller Center display.
The illustrations, in watercolor and gouache, are gorgeous and really make the book stand out. With panels, full-page spreads, and double-page spreads, first we see the cardinals’ tree in different seasons of the year, then an aerial view of Red’s flight from suburb to the big city, finding the tree and Lulu, and ending with the cardinals’ new home in the park in different seasons of the year, back to the brightly lit tree in Rockefeller Center the following year. The book is also a lovely story of dedication and devotion, as Red refuses to lose Lulu and his determination leads to their tender reunion.
One thing I don’t like about the book is that I don’t like to see healthy trees cut down, especially trees growing wild or in people’s yards, rather than a tree farm, but the book does address this by showing a sapling growing in the family’s yard on the final page of the book.