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The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett is a great book to read whether your children are familiar with the song or not. I love that even though I think of it being a song, my son thinks of it as a math book, counting up the gifts on every page. In classic Jan Brett fashion, the illustrations are incredibly detailed. In the side pictures, you can follow a family trimming their tree, I particularly liked the holiday salutations on every page in different languages. Really my only complaint is the copy we got from the library was sticky.
The Night Before Christmas Board Book by Clement C Moore and illustrated by Bruce Whatley. I was so excited to share this poem with my son, but was not as excited to share some of the illustrations with him. Some of them freaked me out. The first picture of Santa coming out of the chimney was creepy! That said my son wasn’t at all afraid and loves this book. The illustrations are mostly done from funky perspectives and are beautiful but not the polished happy mall Santa that you may be expecting. My 3 year old didn’t pick up on Santa’s and the father’s exchange with a cowboy figuring but adults will enjoy the message that we are never too old to believe and to be a part of the Christmas magic.
The Star Treeby Gisela Colle is a fable about the spirit of Christmas and how it gets lost in the hustle and bustle of modern life. An old man decides to make gold stars just like he did as a child to decorate for Christmas, but when he looks out at the city and their gloom he decides he needs open space for his stars to shine. So he walks out to the country and soon he’s not alone, and before he knows it the stars have made their way back to the city and so has the spirit of Christmas. Cute story with darker undertones for parents but my son really enjoyed the surface story about shiny stars and gloomy cities.
The Little Drummer Mouse by Mercer Mayer is a beautiful book. The dedication to his grandchild is perhaps my favorite part even though the book itself is wonderful too! Read it, and you’ll see! The story is a retelling of the little drummer boy, but in this book, he’s a tiny little insignificant mouse. At least, he thinks he’s insignificant until he follows the bright star to the manger on the very first Christmas night! The little acorn drum that this little mouse beat is anything but insignificant. Baby Jesus likes his music best of all, so he is thrust into the spotlight! The illustrations are amazing; they have so much detail I find myself opening this book over and over just to look. Great book, the test is lengthy for toddlers, but preschoolers and older will love it.
Bear Stays Up for Christmasby Karma Wilson is such a heartwarming story about friendship. Bear is hibernating but his friends wake him up to celebrate Christmas. It’s not easy at first , Bear is super sleepy and wants nothing more than to cuddle back up and fall back to sleep. They get a tree, decorate it, hang their stockings and sing carols. When all the other animals snuggle in and go to sleep Bear stays up. He is busily making gifts for all his friends, he is so busy he doesn’t even notice Santa coming and filling the stockings. He delights in the friendship and when his friends present him with a lovely quilt, he snuggles under and goes back to sleep happy and filled with friendship. This is such a wonderful book , I love it’s focus on friendship and the excitement of giving gifts!
Happy Christmas, Gemma by Sarah Hayes is a hidden gem. The book is narrated by a preschooler, the older brother to little baby Gemma. Throughout this family’s preperations for and celebration of Christmas he notes how he does what he is supposed to and his baby sister does not. She makes messes, pulls the ornaments off the tree, has terrible table manners during Christmas dinner and so much more! What makes this a gem in my mind is that no one ever corrects her, these are all age appropriate behaviors and the family is loving and accepting. Perfect for families like mine who are expecting a baby, or those with older siblings who like to boss their younger ones around and may need a reminder that babies are still learning, just like they are!
Babar and Father Christmas by Jean De Brunhoff was one of my very favorite Christmas stories as a child. As an adult, I have had some great belly laughs at some of its writing. Babar books in general beg to be pre-read, just trust me. In this book, Babar goes looking for Father Christmas because he wants to ask him to visit Elephant country. He searches all over Paris and finally ends up in the North Pole and finds after much effort Father Christmas. I love the details in this book, as a child I would lay looking at the pictures of Santa’s workshop and imagine what visiting it would be like. As an adult I appreciate the smallest details like how Father Christmas’s flying machine (not a sled) has P.N #1 on it, meaning of course Pere Noel #1.
It’s Christmas by Tina Burke is simple and brief, but it’s not too simple to share with a wide range of ages. The story reads like a photo album with short descriptions of holiday preparations, traditions, and celebrations. My favorite is the picture with Santa with a screaming baby. The heart of this book though is how it captures the feeling of having to wait forever for Santa to come.
” Not Until Christmas Walter!”by Eileen Christelow is a cute book that captures the relationship between a girl and her four legged best friend! Walter the dog is eager to get at his present before the big day, when he opens it before Christmas he ends up in the doghouse! It takes a few events to earn his position as a best friend back but he finds a way! The book is broken into 3 chapters and would be a great book for children in the gap between picture books and chapter books.
” Merry Christmas Ollie” by Olivier Dunrea captures the feelings of children leading up to the holidays…wait…wait…wait… I remember those feelings well. Patience is a hard thing to learn for big people, but it’s almost impossible to be patient when you are waiting for something as magical as Christmas when you are little. This book is a great vehicle for talking about being patient, and the little geese will enchant you!
The Littlest Elf by Brandi Dougherty is a sweet book about the youngest member of a family of elves at the north pole. He is ready to choose what area of the north pole he will work in and tries out all the jobs his family does from the book shop, to the bakery, and toy shop but nothing is a good fit. Finally he finds his own talent and with the help of the littlest reindeer he catches the eye of Santa too. Both my kids really enjoyed this book as preschoolers. Great message about everyone having their own talents.
Only a Star by Margery Facklam is a calm beautiful book about the first Christmas. A little girl asks her dad about the decorations on that very first Christmas day and readers are reminded that the true origin of the holiday. The illustrations by Nancy Carpenter are stunning, they vary in perspective and unlike so many manger scenes, this one looks like a mom and a baby. They gave me chills coupled with the simple but profound text. A great holiday read .
Oh, What a Christmas!by Micheal Garland is a sweet story about how Santa made do when the unexpected happened. As we all know reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh but when the reins break and Santa comes crashing down they are nowhere to be seen! Luckily a rag tag group of farm animals step in and save the day. The message that it’s not the reindeer but rather the magic that makes the difference is loud and clear . I like how this book can also open a dialog about how even special days can have unexpected bumps and you make do with what you have , just like Santa in this story.
How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky is a fun and surprisingly practical story about Santa and how he developed the skills needed for his one of a kind job. It starts with Santa as a young man and as he keeps bouncing from job to job he acquires skills like going in and out of chimneys as a chimney sweep with ease and without getting dirty, develops a relationship with reindeer as a zoo worker and gets chubby eating all the food at an all-night diner gig! There are more but i don’t want to spoil the story. My son loved it, especially once the elves showed up, which was when the toys did too! I know when i was a kid I wanted to know how Santa got his job, and there are movies dedicated to this so this book jumped on the bandwagon and did a great job , it’s very cute!
Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown will sound very familiar to you if you are a fan of her book The Big Red Barn, which both my son and I am. I like this book but my son kept saying ” That’s not right” thinking that this was the other book. They are that similar. In this book though there is something that the other doesn’t have, most notably Baby Jesus. It’s a calm and gentle book about the birth of Jesus in a way only Margaret Wise Brown could accomplish. I would like to read it next year to my son when he can appreciate that it’s not supposed to be exactly the same as the Big Red Barn. Great book for toddlers and preschoolers alike!
Olive, the Other Reindeer.by Vivian Walsh is probably familiar to you if not because of the book, maybe the TV special starring Drew Barrymore as the voice of Olive. If it’s new to you the story is simple, Olive is a little dog who after hearing a Christmas carol, then believes she is one of Santa’s reindeer . She journey’s to the North Pole and even though she can’t fly and is just a dog, she saves the day . I love the vibrant and busy illustrations by J. Otto Seibold and Olive’s childlike innocence. There is a reason this book has exploded into a character driven product. It’s cute and we can all relate to wanting to get to ride with Santa and his crew on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas ABC (Little Golden Book)by Florence Johnson will transport you back in time. I love this alphabet book because it was a childhood favorite I’d forgotten about until I started reading it and was transported back to the early 80s. The book is much older than that though and takes readers through the classic Christmas symbols like angels, and giving and ornaments with a rhyming blurb for each. Even if you don’t have any childhood memories of this book I think it’s still worth a good look!
Counting Christmas by Karen Katz is what you might expect from this awesome author. It’s sweet, cute and will get your littlest readers excited for Christmas. I like the sentiment that Christmas is a magical day to share with family. My daughter adores the illustrations of all the babies, and the math element is a great bonus too.
My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel is a perfect book for this activity. In this story a little boy writes to Santa and asks for a very specific gift, a real live penguin! It’s not long before he realizes that a real live penguin is not as much fun as he thought it would be. He is very responsible though and sacrifices a lot for Osbert. He is thankful to Santa for getting his gift exactly right but writes a follow up letter explaining how it would be ok if Santa sent a replacement. Very cute story, it’s not short though but my 3 year old listened to it happily for a bedtime story. Laughing at the funny parts and pointing out that he wrote a letter to Santa too, but he didn’t ask for a penguin – thank goodness!
Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones is a peaceful book about how all the animals all over the earth passed along the news that Jesus was coming. Every page depicts a different habitat with different animals all chattering in anticipation. Young children will love the pictures of the animals and the beautiful illustrations of the Holy Family. The details are few but the overall ambiance of the book really helps make the point that this birth was ever changing and brought a peace with it. Lovely book.
Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk is a cute story about an adorable little dog Tucker who is crazy about Christmas. While getting into the holiday spirit he burns his nose on a cookie pan . When Santa sees his bright red nose he asks him to come a long for the fun on Christmas Eve. There is a lot of good natured humor that any young child will giggle at , Tucker peeing on a Christmas tree got some good giggles at our house. I doubt this will be a Christmas classic to read on Christmas Eve but it a cute book your kids will enjoy.
a creature was stirring by Clement C. Moore and Carter Goodrich was a recent find at the library. Around the holidays ( any holiday) my son and I attack the stacks like soldiers on a mission and look for the sticker on the binding indicating it’s a Christmas themed book. This was one of the few we found yesterday , and what a find! The book is an adaptation of the classic “Twas a Night Before Christmas” with a little boy interrupting the poem with his own rhyming story. It’s an adorable story about a little boy who simply can’t sleep , wants to be good but is oh so worried Santa will think he is naughty. I adore this book, it’s simple and fun and a great addition to the classic that so many of us have been read and will read to our kids this Christmas.
If You Take a Mouse to the Moviesby Laura Numeroff is a favorite in our house. I love it because like how your house transforms around the holidays the ever-popular “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” transforms too, every page is “decorated” with something from Christmas trees, red and green popcorn buckets, and snowmen. If you aren’t familiar with this series of books the text is cause and effect with each page taking the mouse and a little boy from different holiday situations like listening to Christmas carols, making ornaments and of course going to the movies on a winter day.
Little Tree by Chris Racshka is another awesome find. I love this book, it’s another visually amazing book and my son was much more into the pictures that are so packed full of fun details that they steal the show. The story inspired by the E.E. Cummings poem by the same name the story follows a little tree who has big dreams of becoming a Christmas tree . I think this book is great especially for children who want to know where the trees in the lots in a city come from. * This seems to be out of print but check your local library for it .
Merry Un-Christmas by Mike Reiss is a fun twist on Christmas Book. In it Noelle is tired of Christmas, because in her town it’s Christmas every day except one. She can’t fake the enthusiasm for another pony or bike but when she figures out that Un-Christmas is coming she is elated. It’s the only day she goes to school, it’s the only day the mail comes and it’s filled with tradition and special meaning. I love how this book turns everything topsy-turvy and makes kids think what really makes Christmas special. My little guy is too young at just 3 to get that but he sure thought it was funny ! Very cute book!
Who Is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate is a sweet look at the animals in the manger preparing for Baby Jesus’ arrival. The animals aren’t sure who is coming, but at the insistence of the mouse, they clean and prepare the manger until finally a very pregnant Mary on a donkey with Joseph by her side. The next page is probably my favorite image of the Baby Jesus image in any children’s book. Mary’s hair is down, feet bare and Joseph is protective by, the animals are watching and alert. Illustrator Ashley Wolff does a perfect job with this simple but fantastic book!
Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans was published after the author passed away, it had been published as a book insert in McCall’s magazine in 1956 and as a book in 1985. The story itself is a curious Christmas tale about a rug seller who brings a little magic to Madeline and her friends. My toddler sat for the whole thing and laughed at many of the rhymes, which if you have read others in the Madeline series you will know are awesome. If you are working on rhyming words, check this and the rest of the series out!
Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem by Ashley Bryan is a beautifully illustrated poem all about who it was that built the stable where Jesus was born. The bright, colorful illustrations will wow you as will the heart of this book. The vibrant colors are in contrast with the simplistic poem that tells the familiar nativity story from a fresh perspective. What wowed me was the way that Joseph and Mary were depicted as a loving and vulnerable couple waiting for their first child in less than perfect conditions.The book depicts all the people with dark skin which for me is a great opportunity to talk about this with my children since so much of their experience is with the blonde blue-eyed Baby Jesus.
Peter Claus and the Naughty List by Lawrence David. Peter Claus hopes to follow in his dad’s footsteps someday. But then he ended up on the naughty list. Peter doesn’t think the naughty list is fair. He takes his dad’s sleigh and gathers all the kids on the list and bring them to the North Pole to explain to Santa why they did some of the not so nice things. One-by-one Santa takes the kids home while listening to their tales. He agrees if the kids do one nice thing to make up for a naughty thing they still might find a gift under the Christmas tree. This is a great story that realizes it’s hard to be good all the time, but that doesn’t make them bad. “All people do naughty things once in a while. It can’t be helped,” Santa explained. “Saying you’re sorry is what matters most.” (review by Carrie Anne )
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo made me cry. It’s a simple story about children’s innocence and giving hearts. A little girl sees a homeless man, and that’s what she sees, a man in need, instead of the stranger her mother sees. When she leaves to go to her Christmas pageant she calls out to him to come, when he does the true meaning of her line in the pageant comes to life. Which is when I choked up. Beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline accompany this simple tale.
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