The Christmas Tugboat

Written by George Matterson and Adele Ursone
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

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When George Matteson got the job of towing the barge that carried the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, he saw it as the perfect time to take his wife and daughter to work with him. It was his wife’s suggestion that the story of this trip would be perfect for a children’s book. So, they wrote the story from their daughter’s point of view.

It takes almost a whole day to get from New York to where the barge with the Christmas tree is waiting for them. After making sure the barge and the tree are secure, they start back downriver toward New York. Before they get to the old dock where they will spend the night, Dad explains that the lights in the pilothouse are kept off at night to preserve the tugboat captain’s night sight.
The next morning the sunlight hits the frost on the tree and makes it look like it has already been decorated with hundreds of tiny diamonds. As they get closer to New York City they are greeted by news helicopters, police boats, and tour boat full of school kids. Dad lets his daughter steer the barge for a short time before they reach their destination. Just before the big tree is taken away one of the workers finds a pinecone for the daughter. She decides to plant the seeds so that she can have her own New York City Christmas tree.

This book would be a great addition to any third grade social studies shelf. It could be used with a lesson about holiday traditions. It could also be used in a study about transportation. It would make a great text to text connection for a study about how products get to the store shelves. This would also be a great book for a parent to read with a child who needs help improving reading skills.
As a text to text connection, this book has infinite uses. A science unit on eyes could be connected to the pages about night vision. A geography lesson about New York, a science lesson about big trees growing from little seeds, you would not have to look hard to find many other possibilities.

Mr. Matteson’s wife, Adele Ursone, is an artist who finds inspiration for new art while on the tugboat with her husband. Information about her can be found at http://adeleursone.com/pgs/statement.php.

James Ransome has illustrated many books including this one. For this book he based his illustrations on pictures the Matteson family took while on their trip. More information about him and other books he has illustrated can be found at http://jamesransome.com/about.html.

More information about Rockefeller Center can be found at http://www.rockefellercenter.com/plan-a-trip/.

  • Christmas TugboatTitle: The Christmas Tugboat
  • Author: George Matterson and Adele Ursone
  • Illustrator: James E. Ransome
  • Publisher: Clarion Books
  • Reviewer: Sandi Waymire
  • hardback: 39 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-618-99215-7
  • Genre: realistic fiction

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