This year we’ve had piles and piles of Christmas books out from the library. All year the Christmas books stay hidden in the basement and they’re always the first thing to come out. This list probably reflects more about our favorites in the moment than all time, but that’s okay. In no particular order, a few of our Christmas favorites:
The Twenty Four Days Before Christmas by Madeline L’Engle
I wrote about this book before. In some ways, I think it is the most perfect Advent story for children ever written. Depending on the edition you get, it’s either an extremely long picture book or a very short chapter book.
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillio
Kate DiCamillio is one of the most magical writers to emerge in the last decade. This longish picture book captures something about the spirit of charity at Christmas in such a gentle, touching way. The illustrations are also enchanting. They’re traditional, but manage not to seem old fashioned.
Cranberry Christmas by Wende and Harry Devlin
We somehow weren’t able to get Cranberry Thanksgiving during its rightful season, but I did snag this one from the library and we’ve read it several times over. It’s a completely secular tale, for anyone looking for such a book, but still manages to get the spirit of giving and family. I love how the Cranberryport books have humor and story both captured perfectly.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
This classic hardly needs a description. We’re not a Santa family, which is to say that while we all love to play the game of Santa, the kids know it’s just a fun pretend exercise. Therefore, this book’s message about faith and belief in regards to Santa always makes me a little uncomfortable. However, Van Allsburg’s illustrations and the general beauty and imagination of the story help make up for any misgivings I might have.
Christmas Tree on the Mountain by Carol Fenner
This mostly unknown book from the 1960’s is written in melodic blank verse and was published in a tall, narrow format, which highlights that it’s a poetic little story. Three children climb a mountain by their house to find the perfect Christmas tree and encounter a few adventures along the way. The pen and ink illustrations are nothing special, but the language, with many repeated phrases and beautiful turns of phrase is worth the time. I was glad to discover it.
Morris’s Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells
I love this short picture book that shows the bunny cousins of the more famous Max and Ruby. Morris has a disappointing Christmas until he manages to reimagine his gift. As a side note, Rosemary Wells really gets what it’s like to be the ignored child, doesn’t she? If BalletBoy makes the husband read him this one again I think he’s likely to lose it. I told BalletBoy he could read it himself easily now, but apparently it’s not the same.
When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke
I read this one last year to the kids and I think we did it a little too soon because they didn’t appreciate how awesome it is. It’s a funny little chapter book tale that imagines a world full of Santas as just another piece in the fantasy landscape. Cornelia Funke, as always, uses great imaginative language.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
We read this one to the kids for the first time this year. The Herdmans are such terrible children that I think Mushroom and BalletBoy could hardly conceive of them. However, that final chapter, where the Herdmans bring a sense of realness to the Christmas story is one of the most touching and hilarious things in children’s literature.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Yep. It’s on my list of favorites too.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle
Like many of Carle’s simple stories, my kids sort of outgrew this one this year so I wasn’t terribly upset when I couldn’t find it at the library this year, but I still mark it as one of my favorites, especially for younger kids. The illustrations are Carle’s style at his best.