I have a large collection of children’s Christmas books. Back in the 1970’s when I first started looking for Christmas stories for kids not many were being published, now there are hundreds of Christmas titles for children.
When my boys were little I kept a big basket of Christmas books under the diningroom table and each night during advent before they went to bed they could pick a book from the Christmas collection for me to read as their bedtime story. We would light the advent candles in the table centerpiece and read our story by candle light. It was a special time.
Later after my sons were too old for my Christmas picture books I took the entire collection to my elementary classrooms to read aloud. When I moved to Asia I gave the collection to another teacher to use with her own students. She has returned them now and I’ve enjoyed going through the collection and looking at all my old favorites.
In The Christmas Whale by Roger Duvoisin, Santa’s reindeer get sick and a kind grey whale helps him deliver presents to ports of call around the world. My favorite page in the book is when the whale is almost loaded with presents and there is one more gift left. She worries it will make her sink below her water line. Santa has a solution.
The Christmas Tree that Grew by Phyllis Krasilovsky was a hit every time I read it to children. A family living on the main floor of an apartment building have a magic Christmas tree that grows and grows. They need to cut holes in the apartment floors of the tenants who live above them, in order to make room for the tree’s additional height. In the process they make friends with those families. The rising tree brings them together for Christmas and enriches all their lives.
Tomie de Paola is a prolific artist whose distinctive work graces hundreds of children’s books, including many Christmas stories. My top pick is The Friendly Beasts because it is one of my husband Dave’s favorite Christmas carols.
This is a real classic! Paddy’s Christmas by Helen Monsell was first published in 1887. Paddy is a little bear who wants to find the true meaning of Christmas. Because they love him, his hibernating family who would rather be asleep, wake up one by one, to help him in his quest to discover what Christmas is really all about.
Although technically Imogene’s Antlers by David Small is not a Christmas book, its connection to reindeer was enough for me to include it in my Christmas collection. Imogene wakes up one morning with antlers and discovers both the pros and cons of having them.
Margaret Wise Brown of Good Night Moon fame wrote a charming version of the nativity story in 1952 called Christmas in the Barn. The illustrations by Barbara Cooney set the story in the 1950’s on a North American farm. “And there they were all safe and warm , all together in that ancient barn.”
Grandma is the heroine in this exciting book by Maryann Kovalski about a runaway carriage on a snowy afternoon. Although the traditional song Jingle Bells is included, the story is really about how Grandma saves the day and takes her grandchildren on the ride of their life.
Well known Canadian author Margaret Laurence wrote The Christmas Birthday Story for her own children. The illustrations by Helen Lucas are unique and engaging. Mary asks the three kings. “Tell me what you think my baby will be when he grows up to be a man.” The kings give wise and meaningful answers.
The Steamroller by Margaret Wise Brown is so bizarre that kids absolutely love it. A little girl named Daisy takes over the controls of a steamroller and flattens everything in sight. Can she undo the damage before Christmas?
The students in one of my classes were so taken with this book they turned it into a play they acted out. In The Very Best Christmas Present by Jim Razzi a stray cat lands in Mr. Floogle’s mailbox and he tries multiple methods for getting rid of it. Like the pesky feline in the song The Cat Came Back Mr. Floogle’s cat keeps turning up. Santa resolves things in a happy way.
A Dozen Silk Diapers by Melissa Kajpust is a retelling of a German legend about a mother spider who wishes to make a gift for the Christ Child because Mary has treated one of her baby spiders with kindness. What can she give? The illustrations by Veselina Tomova are little masterpieces of color and detail.
I have many of my favorite Christmas books out in a basket again ready to share with the next generation of our family.
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