Long before I had children, I loved children’s books. Maybe it was a holdover from my own childhood. My mom read them to me with such expression and love. I hope my children remember the same.
There is something about lighting candles, staring at the Christmas tree, and reading kids books that makes me really happy. My girls are 15 and 17 and we still love it.
So, here is a list of our personal favorites. Some tell the Nativity story or are spiritual in nature; some express special feelings about the “wintering” season; and one is a favorite Santa story. I will start with it.
This book was first published in 1966 and was republished by Barnes and Noble in 1996, the year my second child was born. I remember trying to find it because it had somehow captured my imagination as a child and I wanted my own to experience it.
It is a sweet book about a mouse who lives in a “great big house, this mouse, the only mouse in the whole wide house.” One year he remembers Santa with a special piece of cheese, “the kind that makes the angels want to sing.” It’s easy to predict the story’s unfolding, but the piece that caught my attention was the illustrations. The mouse sleeps inside a rolled up sardine can, all made up with blankets and a pillow. He brushes his teeth and washes his paws before he goes to bed. I loved it. So will your kids. Definitely a classic Santa book.
The Mitten, story and illustrations by Jan Brett
This book was published in 1989 and was given to us around the year 2000 by the girls’ grandparents. It is one of those books that blends folk traditions with a clever story line and wintery, intricate illustrations.
After a boy loses one of the hand knitted white mittens his grandmother made for him, a series of increasingly larger animals find it. Each crawls into it, stretching it bigger and bigger, until finally a bear climbs in to join the myriad of other critters. It explodes and sends the animals and mitten flying. That is when the boy finds his mitten, in tact, but a bit stretched out of shape. It makes you want to rush out in a snow-filled wonderland.
Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck, illustratioins by Felicia Bond
This book is perfect for a 3-5 year-old. It is simply illustrated and tells the Christ story through the helpful animals’ eyes. Best of all, it has a furry donkey, a curly sheep, and even a wise men’s star to touch and see. It’s a bit of a spin off of an old carol, but we love it still.
Bright Christmas by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Kate Kiesler
I found this book at a local bookstore a number of years ago and felt compelled to purchase it primarily because it is the Jesus story told from an angel’s perspective. I had recently been made aware of the plight of Bedouins in Israel and Palestine and somehow it captured in illustrations what I might have imagined the nomadic life may have been in those days.
It also expresses a beautiful sentiment when it says, “Once I sing a song, the song never stops. It’s like a star that burns forever.” As a songwriter, this really touched me; the idea that everything that has been written and sung and every star that has shined is still, in a sense, here with us. It is a lovely book.
The Snow Tree written by Caroline Repchuk, illustrated by Josephine Martin
One of our favorite holiday books. My 15-year-old asked to read it the first day we got out our myriad of holiday books. It is a gorgeous book in every way, each page is “lavishly embossed” – inviting you to touch it.
Every year since a good friend gave this book to us, I have fantasized about creating my own Snow Tree. It really is a beautiful, natural book that captures what many of us long for in the frenzy of the holidays: peace, light & color, community.
There are so many others I love: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey, The Grinch (of course), The Friendly Beasts by Tomie de Paola, and any number of others. But, I will close with one of the best.
Joy to the World; Stories from around the Globe
I could do an entire post on this book. Maybe I will, but for now, suffice it to say that this beautifully illustrated book is an imaginative collection of mythical stories about the birth of Jesus. There are 5 stories, all set in a different country. They are miracle stories, and rooted in the values and longings of each culture.
The stories are: The Brave Little Camel from Syria, Baby in the Bread from Malta, Flowers for Jesus from Mexico, The Gourd of Plenty, from Ghana, and Babushka, from Russia. Each stand alone. Some day I’d like to create a curriculum that explores each story from a cultural and religious perspective. Again, illustrations are top notch!
I’d be happy to get you more info on these books or any of the rest of our Christmas Library. If you have a favorite one or two, I’d really love to hear about it.