Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas books

One of our family traditions is to bring out the many Christmas books we have collected over the years for the month of December. Every year we add a new one. The new book is waiting, along with new Christmas pajamas, for the children when we all arrive home from the Christmas Pageant service. Among this huge collection, I have my favorites and not so favorites. In case you are looking for a new Christmas book to share with your children, here are some of my favorites.

Wombat Divine by Mem Fox. A group of Australian animals gets together to put on a Christmas pageant. Wombat desperately wants to have a part, but is not right for any of them, until the animals realize that they still need someone to play the baby Jesus. It is a sweet and charming book.

A Small Miracle by Peter Collington. This is a completely wordless book done in frames like a comic book, but don't let that put you off. It is beautiful. An old woman in dire circumstances saves money that was being stolen from a church. She is eventually rescued by the church's nativity figures. I know, it sounds a little odd, but it is so well done that it works. If I had to purge our Christmas books down to just a few, this one would make the cut.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. A young boy decides that he is going to give his father a Christmas gift by getting up and doing all the farm chores himself so that his father can enjoy watching his children on Christmas morning for the first time. Beautiful.

The Last Straw by Fredrick H. Thury and Vlasta van Kampen. An old camel is chosen to be the one to carry the wise men's gifts to the new king. He is a complaining, crotchety old camel who is never the less, filled with pride. His pride nearly does him in until he meet the baby king himself. My only complaint about this one is that it is a fairly long read for a picture book. It usually counts as two if the children have been given a book limit.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and P. J. Lynch. I'm not sure I should put this on the list or not. I really do love the story. A widow and her son ask a curmudgeonly old woodcarver to make them a new nativity scene. The boy asks to watch, and as he does slowly develops a bond with the woodcarver. I find the final scenes beautiful yet heart wrenching to the point that I become physically incapable of reading it. The last time J. and I tried to read it out loud to the children we had to tag team it, with the more collected of us taking over when the other couldn't go on. (To the great amusement of our children, I might add.) So, while it is a beautiful story, I'm not sure I should recommend a book that is physically impossible to read aloud. If you are made of sterner stuff, you should share it with your children.

The Light at Tern Rock by Julia L. Sauer. We discovered this book when we were doing our unit on lighthouses. It is a very short chapter book. A lighthouse keeper tricks an older woman and her nephew into caring for lighthouse assuring them he will be back in time for them to go home for Christmas. When he doesn't arrive, the boy learns what really makes Christmas special.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. If you have never read this book, please do yourself (and your children) a favor and go get it right now. I will admit I have a soft spot for Christmas pageants and the adults who direct them. (It's a family thing... I'll probably write a post about it later.) And while I love this book, I am also heartily relieved that the Herdmans (the ne'er do well children who take over the pageant in the book) have never been in a pageant I've been involved with. The book is funny and it makes me cry at the end. The ending with the ham is probably one of the most brilliant examples of someone really 'getting' Christmas that there is. It's a chapter book, but a quick read.

This is my extremely short list. I'm sure I'll come across others as we pick up the house and I'll wonder why I didn't think of them. All add them as I have time if I find any more.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This made me think of your tamale post. http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/12/19/christmas_eve_tamales_the_best_craft_slash_recipe_for_the_holidays.html

Kelly said...

When my first two were little, we started the tradition of giving a new Christmas book to each on St. Nicholas' Day (Dec 6). Now that I have five, I wished I'd made it a family book!

I know what you mean about Jonathan Toomey. An Orange For Frankie is another tear jerker. We also read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever every year.

Have you read The Miracle of St. Nicholas about a special Christmas in communist Russia? That is one of my favorites. I also like any story that tells about Christmas in a simpler time like Christmas In Noisy Village.

Erika said...

We had a very similar tradition when I was growing up. One that I love (and you may already know about) is Star Mother's Youngest Child by Louise Moeri. We were even given an ornament for our tree that represents the star child. It has pictures, but the words in the story paint a picture well enough that you wouldn't need illustrations at all!

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