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My Favorite Christmas Books

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Jamie Swenson
December 6, 2011

The other day I saw a great idea - a book a day Advent Calendar. Basically, wrap up twenty-five of your favorite Christmas stories, unwrap one each night and read it together as you prepare for the Big Event. Of course, this would have been a great idea to have seen at some point in November … but hey … there’s still time. Maybe a ten day book countdown? You could use books you already own, or go out and pick a few new titles - you could even use library books - if your child would be okay with returning them after unwrapping them! (Heck, lots of people are used to returning stuff after unwrapping … so maybe that wouldn’t be too traumatic).

So here’s my list of books I would wrap up to share with my kids - if I were the prepared type:

1)SANTA’S FAVORITE STORY by Hisako Aoki

I love this one because it combines the whole Santa thing with the Nativity story. Basically, Santa gathers all the creatures together to share his favorite story - the birth of Christ. I read this one to my kids many, many times.

2)GREAT JOY by Kate DiCamillo

This is one of those tender stories that has the potential to stick with a child for a long time. It’s about a little girl who sees a man in need and wants to do something to help - but what? Image

3)THE CHRISTMAS EVE GHOST by Shirley Hughes

This story takes place in Liverpool, England in the 1930s. Probably better for slightly older children (say 5 & up). This story looks at how some prejudices can be overcome by getting to know each other. A nice sentiment for Christmas.

4)MY FIRST CHRISTMAS by Tomi DePaola

Share this with the tiny-tots who are just learning about what Christmas is all about.

5)THE HOUSE WITHOUT A CHRISTMAS TREE by Gail Rock

An oldie but a goodie. Addie’s widower father never allows the family to have Christmas tree because it reminds him too much of her mother, but Addie is determined to have one. This is a story about love, family ties, and healing painful memories while creating new ones. (ages 8 & up)

6)A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens illustrated by Brett Helquist

You probably know Helquist’s other work (Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Events illustrator) - but unless you’ve seen this version of Dickens’ CHRISTMAS CAROL you might not realize how insanely talented the man is -honestly. The text, while abridged, does justice to Dickens original story and the illustrations give it just the right Victorian flavor.

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7)COBWEB CHRISTMAS: THE TRADITION OF TINSEL by Shirley Climo

Ever get into that hyper-cleaning rut right before the holidays? This one might help put it all into perspective (with a bit of help from some spiders and Kriss Kringle).

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8)THE NUTCRACKER illustrated by Susan Jeffers

Every year someone (or two, or three) ask me for a beautiful version of The Nutcracker to share with a child who is about to attend the ballet. This one is just lovely - any child interested in the beauty of the ballet will just poor over this edition. Also, Mary Engelbreit has a version out now too - for you Engelbreit fans.

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9)CHRISTMAS CAROLS TO PLAY AND SING published by DK

No Christmas book collection could be complete without a book of carols. This one contains thirteen simple arrangements of popular carols with “festive” illustrations. Enjoyable.

10)THE NATIVITY by Julie Vivas

This is such a beautiful retelling of the New Testament story of the birth of Christ; however, the book received some criticism when it was first published. Vivas’ characteristically irreverent style is showcased here - as she shows Mary talking to a work boot-clad Gabrielle (over coffee mugs on the kitchen table) - and then later as a very, very expectant mother. I find the art charming - but some found it a bit too contemporary and “real.”

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11)THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Tasha Tudor

Tudor is a favorite of mine – her art is all at once friendly, humorous, and warm. Her people look like people - and her jolly old elves look like jolly old elves! I love her take on this classic because her illustrations add another layer to the poem. Kids will love the rich details (and as always - Tudor’s affinity for Welsh corgis shines through, too!)

Do you have any favorite Christmas books? Please share!

Happy Reading.



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