Wednesday, December 18, 2013

favorite Christmas books

Last week I shared several of our favorite Nativity books, and this week, I thought I'd share several of our favorite more general Christmas books. Most of these have felt the love in our house for many years and still stand the test of time (and older children).

Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury is Finn's very favorite book from our Christmas book basket. He loves several of these stories and we read them over and over every year. This book also include a few of her more general winter stories, so we leave this book out through the whole winter. Of the Christmas stories, Christmas Trolls and The Wild Christmas Reindeer are his favorites. I did an entire post on this book a few years ago, if you'd like to read more about it.

Of course, what Christmas book basket would be complete without dear old Charlie Brown. We acquired this version of the Charlie Brown Christmas story at Kohl's several years ago, although a quick search on Amazon shows there are many to choose from.

One Snowy Night is one of the few remaining board books in our house. I asked Finn this year if he was ready to part with it. NO! With a hedgehog, which we love, and cold winter's days, a snuggly warm hat, and very sweet gift-giving among friends, this remains a well-loved Christmas book.

Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo, one of my favorite authors, is a tender-hearted tale of a girl discovering the true meaning of Christmas. It does have Nativity references, but the story is one of love, peace, and goodwill toward men, which is why I included it here. Bagram Ibatoulline, who also illustrated DiCamillo's Edward Tulane, does a fantastic job with the illustrations here as well.

The Tomtes' Christmas Porridge has only been in our collection for a couple of years. My kids love stories about elves, tomtes, gnomes, and other such creatures. This story, about the traditional Christmas porridge that tomtes are supposed to receive for helping on the farm, doesn't fail to delight. Sven Nordqvist has great attention to detail in his illustration, which my kids love to ponder and search.

Findus at Christmas, from Nordqvist's more popular Findus and Pettson series, is another favorite here. The story flows so smoothly from the mishap at the beginning, to the hijinks that ensue, to the ending full of neighborly love and Christmas spirit. As always, we laugh raucously at the detailed and hilarious illustrations.

And last, but certainly not least, Christmas in Noisy Village. If I had to pick one favorite book of Finn's childhood so far, that all of the kids have enjoyed at some point, it would be Children of Noisy Village. A chapter book of a group of children in Sweden is sweet, but not saccharin, and simple, but not dull. Christmas in Noisy Village is essentially an illustrated book of the Christmas section from Children of Noisy Village. I wrote more about all of the Noisy Village books here.

What are your favorite Christmas books?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

favorite Nativity books

Our Christmas book basket has grown quite full over the years, and I am often asked for recommendations for good Christmas books. I thought I might resurrect this blog starting with a series of Christmas book posts. To begin, I have a list of our favorite Nativity books.

Room for a Little One has been a favorite for several years. I love the soft illustrations and the gentle interaction between the animals; animals that generally do not behave kindly toward one another. The pinnacle in which the animals are able to witness the birth of Christ is quite sweet.

The Christmas Bird is a newer (to us) favorite. Although out of print, you can find plenty of used copies for a reasonable price. Bernadette Watts has been a favorite illustrator of mine for years, and she does not disappoint in this book. The story of Katya taking her favorite toy, a wooden bird whistle, to the baby King, makes it easy for children to identify with Katya and understand her frustration when the predictable mishaps appear along the journey.

Margaret Wise Brown's Christmas In the Barn is more suited to the younger set. My own children have largely outgrown it. I include it here because the story is sweet, the text simple, and the illustrations plenteous, perfect for keeping the attention of toddlers and preschoolers.

The Christmas Star is probably Finn's favorite in the stack. The silver and gold foil pictures appearing on every page definitely captures a child's attention. The watercolor illustrations are quite lovely as well. This book appears to only be available in board book right now, but numerous used copies of the hardback are available.

The next 2 in the stack are favorites purely on their artistic merit. Both use the Scriptures as their text. I can't say that any of my children would choose them if I asked them to pick a Nativity book from the stack. The stained glass illustrations in Bethlehem are exquisite. And the Scripture chosen to accompany each one is perfect.

Juan Wijngaard's The Nativity, also narrated with Scripture, reminds me of the Russian and Greek icons I bought in Rome many years ago. Each illustration a work of art in its own right, I've found it to be the perfect read for Christmas Eve.

Lastly, a favorite of nearly all my children at varying times is Away in a Manger. The all seemed to connect to the illustration of a beloved Christmas carol. I have to sing my way through this book, of course, instead of reading it. In the evening, around the Christmas tree, it creates a lovely end to the day.