Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Books

One of my very most favorite parts of the Christmas season is reading out loud to my kids from our (ever growing) stash of Christmas stories.  We try to read by the light of the Christmas tree, as if the words and messages of the stories weren’t magical enough. 

My kids love this tradition too.  It makes mom stop all the craziness and sit down and connect – and cry.  They love to see me cry.  Not sure why, but I’ve noticed this season that Hazel and Charlie watch my face more than they look at the pictures.  I’ve read the same books to them year after year, and they know exactly when it’s coming….my voice chokes up and wavers on the exact same passages every time. (I inherited this trait from my dad).   I kind of love it that they know I’m tender, that they remember there’s another side to their crazy, nagging, haggard mom.

My cousin (who has the greatest blog here all about children’s literature) told me she thinks a good children’s book is one that compels the reader to feel empathy.  I agree.  I think the parts of these books that make me choke up are the ones that tug at my empathy strings.  That help me remember and feel connected with something real amidst all this crazy Christmas frenzy.

Here is a list of our very favorites.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause by Amelia C. Houghton

My mom sent this to me years ago, it is a fantastic read aloud chapter book that talks about how Santa became Santa.  You won’t want to put it down.  It’s full of old school charm.  The writing is simple enough for Peter to enjoy it, but deep enough for Hazel and Charlie to feel something deeper than what's going on around them.  The ending is just as real and magical as Santa (it doesn’t give anything away). 

Christmas Day in the Morning – by Pearl Buck

Pearl Buck is one of my very favorite authors.  I try to read this one early in the season to get the kids thinking of the real true gifts of Christmas. 

A Small Miracle

If you haven’t discovered this beauty you’re missing out.  There are no words, just a simple easy to follow story about real sorrow and real giving.  It wasn’t my favorite the first time I ‘read’ through it, but every time I tell my kids the story I see more detail, feel more depth. 

This is the Stable

My mother in law sent me this one a few years ago.  It’s simple and short and has such lovely pictures coupled with such a pleasant rhythmic telling of the greatest story ever. 

The Last Straw

Ok, this one is a little hokey, but still it makes me cry.  Probably because it reminds me that Christ can lift my heavy burden (and because lots of times I feel like that camel as I stumble through the Christmas season)

First 2 Chapters of Little Women

I LOVE the first two chapters of this book (Hazel is loving the rest of it right now).  I kind of skip some of the play acting part since my little ones find it a little tedious, but their Christmas morning is full of the magic of giving and thinking of others.  And I love those little women. Every one of them. 

Take Joy – Tasha Tudor

This is a compilation of stories and poems and carols and recipes that we had growing up in our Christmas book basket.  I found it at a library sale last year and snatched it up for a buck.  I’m just reading through it this year and it’s full of beautiful Tudor illustrations and some magical, old school stuff.  My favorite story so far is this one (you can read it online by clicking this link).  It’s called The Holy Night by Selma Lagerlof

Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect

This is Hazel’s favorite.  Gives us a good reason to buy the scraggliest  Christmas tree (and cheapest:))

The Polar Express

No explanation here.  Just a good classic.  And, oh, how I love those illustrations.

A Christmas Story by Jay Frankston

This one is a great read for an older child who understands the deeper magic of Santa and Christmas.  (not for little believers).

And, one for me:

Nedra just sent this in the mail.  It’s filled with great 1-3 page essays that are totally helping me navigate Christmas this season.  A compilation of writings from some of my very favorite writers (and friends).

I’m realizing this year that I have a lot of picture books, but would love suggestions anyone has for chapter books, books for my older kids that have great writing, and good, empathy drawing, tear jerking stories.  

Happy reading.




  1. An Orange for Frankie, by Patricia Polacco. And The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey, illustrated by PJ Lynch. Both picture books, but both amazing. We also like A Kidnapped Santa Claus, by L Frank Baum. A short story.

    So glad to hear that we aren't the only ones with an ever-growing collection of Christmas stories.

  2. Thanks for sharing! Off to the bookstore…!

  3. Oooh - so many that are new to me! THANK YOU. xo

  4. The book December by Eve Bunting is my favorite Christmas book. A mom and son who are homeless share their cardboard home and food with a stranger- a homeless woman. They share shelter, food and warmth with this woman. The next morning she is gone. When the boy looks for her, he sees someone looking like the woman who resembles an angel. I cry every time I read it.

  5. Thank you so much for the recommendations! I think I`m going to buy some of these books...

  6. Saydi, So happy to see this list today! One year I ended up with The Little Match Girl completely unaware of what the book was about. It was terribly upsetting to me and definitely got my kids' attention. Not specifically Christmas themed, but definitely a book to foster empathy. We either read the one illustrated by Rachel Isadora or the one by Jerry Pinkney (or maybe both). Also, Great Joy and The Angel of Mill Street are two other great picture books that we like to read every year. Hallmark also has a recordable storybook of the nativity that my grandma read and sent to my kids a few years ago. I know those might look cheesy, but it is SO great to pull out each year and I love that my kids get to hear their Great Granmother's voice.

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is our favorite Christmas chapter book. I also saw recommendations this year for a collection of all the Little House Christmases, but haven't checked it out, yet. Your big kids might also enjoy Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkein. Happy reading (and Merry Christmas)!

  7. Awesome Saydi!
    And yes, I do cry!

  8. Saydi, thank you for these recommendations! Our favorite this year was The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott. Out of print but you can get it on Amazon (new/used). Three stories in one. The second story, Tilly's Christmas, had us all in tears. Beautiful lesson on true charity. Also, we loved Apple Tree Christmas, Star Mother's Youngest Child, and Holly & Ivy. xoxo



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