The author of picture book Bruce the Spruce talks about the importance of the setting of the story in the making of a modern Christmas fairytale
Two New Yorks: Bringing the Christmas Fairytale of “Bruce the Spruce” to Real-Life
By: A.A. Cristi
For most people, the idea of New York City at Christmas conjures up some of the most wonderful and timeless images imaginable. Twinkling 5th Avenue storefronts, 36 flawless Rockettes in a kickline, Santaland at Macy’s on 34th Street, a snow-blanketed Central Park, and of course, the globally recognized beacon of the most magical season of all, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. You feel all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it, don’t you? Me too.
For most residential New Yorkers, however, the idea of New York City in December brings to mind some very different images. Frigid gusts of wind whipping down subway steps, the aroma of slightly burnt soft pretzels wafting off a vendor’s cart, tourists packed shoulder to shoulder, and muck-caked heaps of snow melting into filthy gutter puddles of indeterminable depth. Though this version of the season is the less idealized of the two, for a lifelong New Yorker like myself, both scenarios contribute to the wonder of the experience, and it was both of these worlds that I hoped to bring to life when building the New York City fairytale of “Bruce the Spruce.”
…it isn’t until he [Bruce] has weathered those highs and lows that he learns what he is truly made of.
The beauty of New York City has always existed in the extremes; uptown and downtown, east and west, high-fashion and street style, Broadway shows and subway performers, high-rises and bodegas. All of these elements seemingly live worlds apart but each are equally invaluable to the city’s glorious dichotomy. This balance is no more evident than at Christmastime, when our gray and gritty surroundings are juxtaposed with the heart and hope of the holiday season.
Bruce’s story, much like the city itself, is a series of highs and lows. Suddenly ejected from the comfort and safety of his home, he lands on a cold and lonely sidewalk. After being taken up and decorated for a raucous party, afterward he finds himself back on a trash heap. Yet in the blink of an eye, he goes from riding on the back of a garbage truck to finding himself in the glorious glow of Rockefeller Center. Bruce’s setting, as well as its spirit, is informed by the inherent push and pull of the greatest city in the world, and it isn’t until he has weathered those highs and lows that he learns what he is truly made of.
And that is the true magic of New York, at Christmas or any other time of year. Just when the cold and the crowds start to seem overwhelming, you can stumble upon astounding beauty and good cheer. Just when you think you’ve been the hustle and bustle has you beat, the city finds a way to pick you back up again. Just when you’re convinced all hope is lost, you can find salvation in the most unlikely of places. This is true of New York, but it is also true of life, for Bruce and everyone else. In all of its grit and grandeur, the city serves as a constant reminder of our individual triumphs and hardships, and how they shape our journey. And much like life, you never know what you’ll find just around the corner.
For more information about the author, A. A. Cristi and a chance to WIN her new book Bruce the Spruce, visit Book Review + Giveaway: Bruce the Spruce.