In lieu of doing a library book round-up this week, I thought I’d feature some of my all-time favorite Christmas books. (These are in alphabetical order by author, so don’t draw any ranking conclusions from them!)
Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, illustrated by John Thompson
When I was growing up, we had a big box of Christmas books that only came out at Advent/Christmas time with the other Christmas time. My sister and I got as excited about looking through the books we hadn’t seen for a year as about all the other Christmas preparations. This was one of my favorites from the box, and it was a somewhat later addition (I don’t remember when we got it, but I remember getting it). It’s a historical fiction picture book, which portrays Christmas 1860 on a southern American plantation. It shows both the slave and owner life experiences, and while it combines facts and traditions from many different actual plantations, the authors work hard to be historically accurate. I will admit that, at first, my favorite thing was to pour over the pictures of splendor in the “Big House” celebrations. But the story is very well done, and over time it gave me a lot of food for thought.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
This is just fabulous. If you haven’t read it, go out and brave the post-Christmas return crowds (0r go on Amazon) to get a copy. It tells about a town’s Christmas pageant put on with the “worst kids in the entire world” as its stars–kids who’ve never heard the Christmas story before pageant practice begins. As they demand explanations for various parts of the story, they give everyone a new way to think about Jesus’ birth.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Robert Sabuda
I have a love-hate relationship with this book. It’s beautiful, and I even pulled it out on Christmas Eve to read with my kids, who loved it. But, we received it when our oldest was either a baby or about a year old, and much as I’ve tried, I haven’t prevented serious damage to the paper engineering. If you aren’t familiar with Robert Sabuda, he does pop-up books that aren’t just for kids–beautiful, intricate pop-up books that are easily damaged by small children. We still enjoy it, but his books are definitely best shared with somewhat older kids.
The Polar Express, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
Everyone knows about this one, but I’ll add my voice to the clamor. It’s a great book. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m sure the book is way better.
Max’s Christmas by Rosemary Wells
This is an early Max book–I remember it being in our Christmas book box, too, and I don’t remember getting this one. I like it better than many of the later Max books because it’s so short and sweet–perfect for small children, and it also perfectly encapsulates the characters with just a few well-chosen words and well-drawn pictures. A great accompaniment to “The Night Before Christmas” as a Christmas Eve read-aloud.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski, pictures by P.J. Lynch
This is a newer picture book, and it’s a serious one. Like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, it’s best enjoyed by people who see Christmas as a holy day and not just a holiday. It tells the story of a grumpy old woodcarver who is brought back to joy by a Christmas job given him by a widow and her son. There are some pages that make me cry, but most kids won’t be quite so deeply affected.
Hope you are all enjoying the Christmas season! Merry Christmas!