While the rest of Alabama was watching the Iron Bowl on Saturday, I was busily wrapping Christmas books for our annual Christmas book basket. I didn’t get them all wrapped, but I wrapped enough of the 55+ (!!!) Christmas picture books we own to get us started. (Even after a late-night wrapping session while watching Call the Midwife, I’m still not through! I’m thinking about commissioning Lulu with the task of whipping up some cloth bags to use as wrapping for future Christmases!) All three of my big kids got to open a book on Monday, and I think we’ll continue with that through the season. We don’t usually open books on the weekends, and I’m thinking that this year we’ll miss on Wednesdays, too, since we’re out of our routine with Community Bible Study and piano lessons. That means there will be plenty of books to go around! Although wrapping gifts is not my activity of choice, doing all this wrapping is worth it when I remember again how excited we all are each morning to see what the day’s gifts will be. The warmth and enjoyment we get from piling up on the sofa together to read each child’s chosen book is one of my favorite things, if not my very favorite thing, of all our Christmas traditions. I don’t do Elf on the Shelf; I don’t do an Advent calendar; I don’t even have up a single Christmas tree yet; but books, I can do.
I’ve never actually listed the contents of our book basket here at Hope Is the Word, although I have written a big Christmas books post or two in the past. I’m going to make this post a sticky post and add the titles as we unwrap them. I’ll also try to fill in with some reviews of books yet un-reviewed here, and I’ll link back to the ones I’ve already reviewed.
The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald–A nice Nativity tale with a cat beloved by the Young Child Jesus as the star.
Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown–This rhyming tale by a beloved children’s author is another winner for toddlers and preshcoolers, even if Diane Goode’s illustrations are a bit Americanized for the real Nativity story. 😉
Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck–This very simple board book focuses on one animal or character (or group of characters) from the Nativity story. Felicia Bond’s illustrations (of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. . . fame) definitely add to the appeal.
The Christmas Story, author unknown, published by Igloo Books Ltd.–The only thing remarkable about this book is that every page features at least one pop-up, so it’s loved by the preschool crowd.
The Christmas Story, told by Jane Werner–This Little Golden Book version of the Biblical account picks up the story at the angel’s visit to Mary and ends with Jesus as a child, growing in wisdom. It paraphrases the Bible in places. The most noteworthy thing about it is that it’s illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.
The Christmas Story by Patricia A. Pingry–This board book is probably the most basic, thorough, and faithful to Scripture of all our Nativity books. Pingry has also written the Easter story.
Come and See: A Christmas Story by Monica Mayper–This Nativity story is repeatedly punctuated by the refrain “come and see” and ends with all the Nativity characters–shepherds, townsfolk, etc.–eating and dancing about the newborn King.
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado–This one, a family favorite, is about a crippled lamb named Joshua who learns that “God has a special place for those who feel left out.”♥
The Donkey’s Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri–This one has the loud and raucous donkey as the hero of the stable.
God’s Christmas Gift by Nell Navilllus–This Nativity story has a grandmother telling the story to her grandchildren. The story ends uniquely with a mirror for the reader to peer into with the following sentiment on the facing page: “IN your heart you will find your love for God’s Christmas present. Because what God wants, more than anything, is you.”
Listen to the Silent Night by Dandi Daley Mackall–I like this one because it recreates the night of Jesus’ birth as a not-so-silent night.
Mary’s Baby by Jane Chapman–Very simple retelling of the Nativity with child-like drawings.
Mary’s Happy Christmas Day by Kathleen Long Bostrom–This board book is a simplified rhyme that includes the main Nativity cast. The illustrations are very happy (as in every character is smiling!) and child-friendly.
Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell–This sweet Nativity story of Kind Ox and a host of other barn animals could surely soften the hardest of hearts.♥
Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones–This nativity story by the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible focuses on Jesus as the One whose coming all creation celebrated.
The Story of the Three Wise Kings retold by Tomie DePaola–This is the traditional Christmas story with a few added details (i.e. the names of the “wise kings” and their origins, etc.) What makes this one stand out are DePaola’s trademark illustrations.
This Is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten–This is a “House That Jack Built” sort of story, with the refrain of “the quiet stable, dusty and brown.” The repetition is good for preschoolers; the illustrations by Delana Bettoli are beautiful for all. I’m especially impressed that Mary, Joseph, and the Babe have medium-toned-to-dark skin.
Voices of Christmas by Nikki Grimes–This collection of related poems tells the Nativity story from the viewpoints of all who were there.♥
Who Is Coming To Our House? by Joseph Slate–My favorite board book for the baby/toddler/preschooler crowd.♥
Will You Bless Me? by Neal Lozano–This rather unusual Nativity story takes the approach of a story-in-a-story, with Jesus as a little boy asking Mary to tell him about his birth. It’s not my favorite, but it’s unique.
Traditional Christmas stories based on legends or songs:
O Little Town of Bethlehem published by Ideals Interactive–This book has light-up stars and plays the song. The illustrations are cartoonish.
Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend–This one recounts the Saint Nicholas story with Nicholas as the pastor of his village “by the turquoise sea.” The illustrations in this one are strikingly beautiful.
Small Camel Follows the Star by Rachel W.N. Brown–This story focuses on the Magi and their attendant camels, including one who’s not quite big enough to go on a long journey. However, one of the Magi gives him a special responsibility.♥
Stephen’s Feast b y Jean Richardson–This story, based on the legend which birthed the the carol “Good King Wenceslas” by John Mason Neale, is the story of a page in King Wenceslas’ court who learns the meaning of charity.
The Story of St. Nicholas by Ellen Nibali–This one starts out with Nicholas as a youth, so it probably appeals a little more to children.
The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet by Deborah Hautzig–This is a rather straightforward, though rather lackluster, retelling of the ballet. The DLM was taken with the creepy factor in 2013, so there is that.
The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt–This beautiful story tells the tale of the three trees which become a manger, a fishing boat, and a cross. Not to be missed!♥
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Dan Andreason–This is a comical, child-friendly take on the traditional song. Read Carrie’s review here.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long–A beautiful and lush I-Spy type book. Not to be missed!♥
The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pop-Up Celebration by Robert Sabuda–If you’ve never seen one of Robert Sabuda‘s pop-up books, you’re missing out.
The True Meaning of Christmas
Annika’s Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis–Annika longs to be the one to find the almond in the family’s traditional Swedish rice pudding this year and thus secure her wish for a horse, but she learns some things are more important than having your wishes granted.♥
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck–A teenager learns the meaning of sacrificial love in this very touching tale.♥
Miscellaneous Christmas tales, from silly to serious
Arthur’s Christmas by Marc Brown–Arthur tries to figure out what sort of gift Santa might like. Sister D.W. helps him out, with very funny results.
Bears Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson–This one follows a delightfully predictable pattern for those familiar with the other Bear books. Written in rhyme, this is the story of Bear who uncharacteristically stays awake for Christmas Eve, but he is so busy with his preparations that he misses a very important visitor: Santa! This one is almost guaranteed to be a winner with the preschool set!
Can You See What I See? The Night Before Christmas: Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve by Walter Wick–I’m convinced there is some redeeming educational value to these I-Spy books. This one’s fun.
Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren–We discovered this little gem when we visited Sweden for our Christmas Around the World studies. It’s a delightful little peek into Swedish holiday fun by the author of the Pippi Longstocking books.
Christmas in the Big Woods, adapted from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder–This one is all about the Ingalls’ Christmas fun and traditions in the Big Woods of Wisconsin.
Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon–This one is a fictionalized account of the Christmas Truce of 1914.♥
Froggy’s Best Christmas by Jonathan London–Froggy celebrates his first–and best-Christmas with his friends.♥
Frosty the Snow Man retold by Annie North Bedford–This one really isn’t a Christmas story, but this is the only time of year I even think about Frosty, so here it is. This is a Little Golden Book, and I wouldn’t consider it a must-read in the least.
Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett–Although not necessarily only a Christmas title, this is my favorite Jan Brett book (or at least one of them!), and it always makes me want to fire up the oven. (A bonus is that there’s a recipe included in the sidebars.)♥
I See a Star by Jean Marzollo–This is a Christmas rebus book, which is fun if you like that sort of thing.
Jan Brett’s Christmas Treasury —This lovely book contains seven of Brett’s holiday stories:♥
- The Mitten
- The Wild Christmas Reindeer
- Trouble with Trolls
- The Twelve Days of Christmas
- The Hat
- Christmas Trolls
- The Night Before Christmas
Home for Christmas by Jan Brett–A story about a mischievous troll named Rollo, this story is classic Jan Brett, with amazingly detailed illustrations.
I Can’t Wait Until Christmas by Linda Lee Maifair–This is a Sesame Street Little Golden Book about Big Bird and the eager anticipation of Christmas and sharing a surprise.
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff–One in the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie syndicate, this one is just plain old fun.
The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell–This is actually one book I’ve opted to leave out our basket, but for some reason I still hold on to it. I can’t take the clearly unBiblical view of angels (sort of like It’s a Wonderful Life, which is my favorite Christmas movie, but somehow it’s easier to take once a year as a movie).
Margaret and H.A. Rey’s Merry Christmas, Curious George by Cathy Hapka–This one is classic Curious George (only it was just written and published a few years ago, so there is that), in which the naughty monkey wreaks havoc and then spreads joy at a hospital.
Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi by Bruce Talkington–This is one of the Disney’s Wonderful World of Reading set, and while it does take some liberties with O. Henry’s story, but my children really enjoy these Disney books–they’re fun!
The Peterkins’ Christmas, adapted from the stories by Lucretia P. Hale by Elizabeth Spurr–This is our addition to the Book Basket for 2013, a fun, fun adaption of the seasonal stories from the larger work we enjoyed this year. Just like in The Peterkins’ Thanksgiving, Wendy Anderson Halperin’s illustrations add to the delight.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg–Quiet, mysterious, and poignant, this Caldecott Medalist is a classic.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Barbara Shook Hazen–Another Little Golden Book, this one is a classic.
Santa Mouse by Michael Brown–This sweet and simple tale features a generous mouse who’s more concerned with giving than receiving.
Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve by Jan Brett–This is a typical Scandinavian Jan Brett story, with trolls and an icebear and plenty of suspense. This one’s fun!
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston–This is an Appalachian tale about a poor family slated to donate the community’s Christmas tree, despite the fact that Papa is away fighting in the Great War. Not to be missed!♥
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson–We read this one so long ago that my girls don’t even remember it, but we’ve seen it a few times on stage, too (including in 2013). It’s a good one.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens--I first read this one to my girls when they were seven and eight. It’s not the easiest of reads, but it’s worthwhile.
The Family Under the Bridge by Nancy Savage Carlson–Set during the Christmas season in Paris, is about a homeless man and the children he “adopts.” This is also a Newbery honor book.
The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean–I bought this one several years ago to go along with our Jesse Tree tradition, but I’ve opted to use Ann Voskamp’s devotional instead.
Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide–We’ve had this one for several years and have still yet to read it. (Kendra loves it.)
The Light at Tern Rock by Julia L. Sauer–This Newbery honor book is set at Christmas, but it’s an engaging and exciting story whenever you read it. Highly Recommended.
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham–This picture book is long with short chapters, and it recounts the whole Redemption narrative through the telling of an elderly woman to a young visitor. We still haven’t managed to make it through it. 2014 is our year!
The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton–Delightful British novel about a young lady, her true love, a trio of younger siblings, and a partridge in a pear tree.♥
The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’Engle–This short book focuses on the traditions of the Austin family.
♥ These books are our very most favorites.