Every year when we bring out the Christmas book collection it seems like we are greeting old friends. We have hundreds of Christmas books many of which have been passed down over the years. We read the books each evening. We decorate with the books and we keep them out long after Christmas is over. Is it possible to pick a favorite? Not really but there are stories I look forward to reading and sharing with children every year.Here are four I never tire of reading again and again. I also give them as gifts knowing that they will be read and loved for years to come.
Wombat Divine by Mem Fox (author) and Kerry Argent (illustrator) tells the story of Wombat who is excited to finally be old enough to be in the Nativity play. He tries out for each part but just isn’t right – the Archangel Gabriel (too heavy), Mary (too big), one of the three kings (too short) and so on until there are no parts left. Finally, he is chosen to play the perfect part – that of the baby Jesus. “He even fell asleep, just as a real baby would.” I read this to the kindergarten and first grade classes last week as they waited to go in to perform their own Nativity play. They agonized along with Wombat as they understood what it was like not being chosen. They sighed with satisfaction at the end of this divine story.
Claude the Dog by Dick Gackenbach (author and illustrator) is a book with simple text and illustrations which combine to make a powerful story of sharing and love. Claude is fortunate to receive a number of gifts from his boy but then meets Bummer, a stray with no home or toys. Claude willing shares all that he has knowing his best gift is a home and people who love him. This is a lovely springboard to discussing needs and wants.
Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan (author and illustrator) tells the Nativity story from the viewpoint of the innkeeper who is trying to sleep. He is awakened throughout the night by Mary and Joseph seeking shelter, then Joseph needing an extra blanket, followed by shepherds, angels, wise men and very bright star. The text is spare and the illustrations are hilarious. Kids love this one and ask for it over and over.
December by Eve Bunting (author) and David Diaz (illustrator) brings tears to my eyes each time I read it. Simon lives with his mother in a cardboard house. They have decorated for Christmas the best they could with a tree they’d been given and a picture of an angel named December torn from a calendar. Simon has sold cans to earn money to buy two cookies for Christmas. They sleep under the coat which once belonged to his father but are awakened by an old woman seeking shelter. They let her come in and share the little that they have which leads to a Christmas miracle. The illustrations glow on the pages like stained glass windows. There is something very reverent about this book which reminds me of going to church as a child with my family at midnight. This books is best shared with older children when discussing poverty and homelessness. Because we live near areas with many homeless people, my children have come face to face with people in need on a daily basis. This book helps by showing that each person on the streets has a story. We need to listen to them and try to do what we can to make their live a bit better.
Do you have any favorite books that have become a part of your holiday traditions? I hope your holidays are filled with wonderful stories old and new.
December is also a favorite book of mine and was one I always read to my kids when they were little. Now that they are older we share more oral stories than picture books. However my kids forbade me to pack their picture books away when I cleaned our family bookshelves. I found several French picture books about Christmas, books offered by the kids’ grandparents. In every language this is a cherished season.
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