About the Holiday
Nothing says “I love you” quite like a homemade gift. But what if you’re not crafty and baking’s not really your thing either? A gift doesn’t have to be something you unwrap. There are plenty of ways to share your talents with those you love to show them they’re important to you. Are you handy around the house? Find a project that needs doing and go to work! Are you a dancer? Why not teach a young family member some steps or a short routine? If you sing or play and instrument, invite friends and family to your holiday concert or perform for them during a holiday get together. Whatever your talent is, others will be excited and happy to receive your “homemade” gift!
A Tuba Christmas
Written by Helen L. Wilbur | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles
Ava came from a musical family, and the time had come for her to choose an instrument to learn. If she started practicing now, she’d be ready for the family’s holiday concert. Her father suggested the piano like her mother played. Her mom suggested the flute or maybe the violin like her dad played. But Ava wasn’t interested in these—or in following in her bothers’ steps with the cello or clarinet.
Ava knew what instrument she wanted to play and proudly announced, “‘I want to play the tuba.’” Her family was surprised but signed her up for lessons. Her teacher, Rodney, played the tuba in the high school marching band. Since a full-sized tuba was much too big for Ava, “Rodney found a tuba that fit nicely in her lap and made her only a little lopsided when she carried it.” Ava loved everything about her tuba, but there was one problem. While Ava could make noise on her tuba, she couldn’t make music.
Ava practiced every day. At dinner, her parents always asked how her tuba playing was going while her brothers laughed and told her she would ruin their concert. Even the kids at school made fun of her choice of instruments, but Rodney told her, “‘Forget about them. The tuba is a noble instrument.’” But when she tripped over her tuba and fell in the cafeteria in front of all the laughing kids, she told Rodney she was quitting.
Rodney told her that was too bad because she’d miss being in the holiday concert—a first of its kind in the area. Ava perked up on hearing about the concert and vowed to keep practicing. As the days went on, “The notes came a little easier and sounded just a bit better every night.” Her tuba even seemed lighter to carry. When the posters went up announcing a surprise concert, everyone wanted to know what it was about, but Ava just told them they’d have to wait and see.
Ava’s brothers couldn’t believe she could be in a concert. They told her she’d “hit the wrong notes.” Rodney reassured her though that playing in an ensemble was a “great chance to learn.” He told her “if someone misses a note, other players will hit the right one and no one will know.” Ava felt better and on the day of the concert she ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she joined all of the other tuba players in decorating her tuba and donning an elf hat.
When the audience saw that the orchestra consisted only of tubas, they looked around skeptically. Rodney explained that the tubas would play each song twice: once alone and then for everyone to join in singing. Everyone smiled when they recognized the first song, Jingle Bells. On the second go-round, the whole audience was soon singing. The tubas played lots of familiar songs. “the concert was loud and it was fun. At the end everyone cheered and cheered.” Even Ava’s brothers were proud to point her out and claim her as their sister. And just as her parents had promised, her father presented Ava with her very own tuba and a welcome to “the new musician in our family.”
An Author’s Note following the story reveals the origins of Tuba Christmas concerts, which take place all around the world. A description of the tuba, how it works, and other instruments in the tuba family is also included.
Helen L. Weber’s original holiday story will delight any child who sees life a little differently from their friends and family. Ava’s perseverance in playing the tuba despite the teasing and from her brothers and friends and a bit of skepticism on the part of her parents, will embolden readers who are met with similar reactions to their desired pursuits. Ava’s teacher, Rodney, gives sage and reassuring advice that provides positive perspective and will encourage kids to continue working on their skills despite setbacks or nervousness. Through her characters’ honest, realistic dialogue and emotions, Wilbur reveals the ups and downs of beginning any new activity, hobby, or vocation and offers children support and inspiration on their journey.
Mary Reaves Uhles captures all of the heart of this one-of-a-kind story in her vivid and action-filled illustrations that reveal Ava’s enthusiasm for her shiny, coiled instrument. Images of Ava practicing while the cat covers its ears and the neighbor’s dog howls as the notes go awry add humor, but also reinforce Ava’s determination to learn the tuba. Ava’s interactions with Rodney are uplifting and will boost young readers’ confidence in their own abilities. The cheerful double-page spread of the tuba orchestra decked out for the holiday concert will have kids wanting to attend a Tuba Christmas concert—or take up the tuba themselves!
A heartening story for any child who marches to a different…tuba, A Tuba Christmas is a book that cheer and reassure kids at any time of the year.
Ages 5 – 7
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363841
Discover more about Helen L. Wilbur and her books on her website.
To learn more about Mary Reaves Uhles, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Make a Gift Day Activity
Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar
There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!
- Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
- Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
- Bag of mini marshmallows
- Bag of chocolate chips
- Measuring cup
- Piece of cloth
- Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
- Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
- Hole punch
Directions for Filling the Jar
- Wash and completely dry the jar
- Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
- Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
- If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
- Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
- At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
- Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.
Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag
- Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
- Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
- Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
- If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
- Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
- Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.
Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate
- With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
- Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
You can find A Tuba Christmas at these booksellers
Picture Book Review