Monday, December 12, 2011
Most of you here on the Recipe Shoebox don't know much more about me other than I have five kids and I love to cook. Today you will discover that I also love books. I've been a frustrated bookworm for as long as I can remember, loving to read, but never quite having the time to do as much of it as I'd like. Luckily kids' books are much more bite-size and I find myself satisfying some of my bookish tendencies by searching for, buying, and read great books out-loud to my children.
Usually I let them choose what book we read, often reading the same few books over an over again. At Christmastime, though, I put away their old, favorite picture books and read a different Christmas story to my children each night in December. We don't have quite enough books to fill in every night yet, so we double up and read some of their favorites more than once. Mostly I'm reading to the youngest two, sometimes three kids, but there are a couple of the books I make a point to read to the whole family each Christmas season (Legend of the Candy Cane, I Believe in Santa Claus, Christmas Oranges, Christmas Day in the Morning).
When someone recently asked me about which children's Christmas books were my favorites, I thought that in addition to just spotlighting a few of our favorites, that it would be fun to compile a list and review of all of our books. During the process of compiling it, though, I discovered two things....
#1 that I definitely have a weakness for children's picture books....especially ones with beautiful artwork and/or meaningful messages. I hope my kids will never outgrow me reading to them.
#2 that a couple of my very favorite books are now out-of-print. :(
This collection has been accumulated over a number of years and we almost have enough to get us through each night of December through Christmas (maybe then I'll have to make an advent calendar with books), but for now it's 19 books....
In no meaningful order at all, here is the list of our Christmas books with our favorites starred.
Rocking Horse Christmas--a sweet story, reminiscent of the Velveteen Rabbit about a rocking horse that was loved and forgotten, then one day the original owner's son discovers him and the magic/love is rekindled.
Legend of the Candy Cane*--this one is a favorite of ours (can you tell from the well worn cover?) It goes through the story of a candy store owner introducing a town to candy canes, then teaching them the symbolic meaning in the shape and color and how they are meant to help people remember Christ's atonement. We love to give this book, with some candy canes, as a gift to friends.
The Gift of the Magi--this classic tale of a husband and wife who sell their most beloved possessions for the other's Christmas present is beautifully retold in this picture book version. The language is a little lofty (I had to look up a few words) and it's a little on the long side for reading in one sitting, but still it's one of my kids' favorite Christmas books.
Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect--This story is about Small Pine who, while still a young tree, promised to be one of the most beautiful trees in the forest. Then one cold night, a frightened animal comes to seek shelter in her branches. At first she hesitates, not wanting to mar her perfectly spaced branches and needles, then finally her heart is touched and she lowers her branches and gives shelter to the animal. Time after time, she provides shelter, rest, and food for the winter weary animals. This year when the Queen comes to choose her Christmas tree (the greatest honor for a tree of the forest), she passes by all of the perfect trees who have closed their proud branches to the animals of the forest and she chooses droopy, uneven Small Pine, for the good queen had recognized the love of Christ expressed in her imperfect branches.
Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey--This story is about a grumpy woodcarver who is commissioned by a widow and her young son to carve a nativity set. Through the story, the widow and son learn of the tragedies that have hardened the woodcarver's heart, but through patience, love, and innocent conversations with the child about how the nativity set should be, his heart is finally healed. The story is a little long for one sitting, but it is a sweet love story interwoven with beautiful references to the gentleness and love of Jesus Christ.
Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle--This is a sweet story about a young girl who recognizes the loneliness of an elderly neighbor at Christmas time and finds a way to add some joy and love (and the family's Christmas Jar) into his life.
A Magical Christmas --a cute story about what Christmas means to a mouse family. Ultimately they decide that the magic of Christmas is love.
Legend of the Christmas Stocking--This story is of a young boy who works hard to help earn money for his family while his father is away, but with the small percentage he keeps for himself he saves up for a coveted model ship. Just before Christmas and his father still hasn't returned, he sadly realizes that his family will not have much for Christmas unless he contributes the money he has been saving for the ship. Still he is stubborn about keeping it for himself, until at church he learns of the legend of the Christmas stocking, which touches his heart and he decides to share the money with his family. On Christmas morning his father returns and brings the model ship as a gift.
Polar Express--a cute story about a boy who takes a trip to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus
Silent Night, Holy Night. --a moving story about soldiers in World War 2 who stopped fighting on Christmas night and even enjoyed in some Christmas camaraderie with their enemies, which culminated in them singing, "Silent Night" together in their own languages. Someone read this aloud at our ward Christmas party and had a cellist join in with playing, "Silent Night" during the ending of the book. It was very cool.
Room for a Little One--a very simple, short tale of an assortment of humble animals who are drawn to a stable for warmth, then get to welcome the Savior into the world. Sweet story, lovely artwork.
A Wish to be a Christmas Tree--This is a story of a kind-hearted pine tree who has grown too large to be someone's Christmas tree. The numerous animal friends that have found shelter in his branches try to cheer him up by decorating him with berries and acorns. He is touched by their kindness and knows that the love of friends is more important to him than being someone's Christmas tree.
The Christmas Sweater--A young boy is so excited to receive a bike for Christmas, then his mischievous grandpa scouts out all the presents and informs him that there is no bike, but instead he is receiving a Christmas sweater as his gift. At first his disappointment is great and he's set to be embarrassed when he returns to school, but after his grandpa plants the idea in his mind that the sweater his mother has made is something that will make Christmas magic, he then has a dream that teaches him about the love and warmth that the sweater represents. On Christmas morning he does have a bike waiting for him, but he's so excited for the magic of the Christmas sweater, that
An Angel Came to Nazareth*--this book is a pretty simple recounting of the first Christmas night in rhyming style, but I am in love with the gorgeous artwork in here. Look at that detail. (Just noticed that it's out-of-print as well, but used copies are available at a reasonable price)
I Believe in Santa Claus*--The words are simple, the artwork beautiful, but the way this book ties the secular with the religious is moving and powerful. The first part of the book goes through listing (with beautiful pictures) simple facts about Santa Claus, then later in the book relates the characteristics of Santa Claus with characteristics of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We love this book, but I'm sad to say that it's out of print. I highly recommend searching for a used copy.
Berenstain Bears and The Joy of Giving*--I bought this book to help remind my kids about being unselfish and thinking of others during Christmas, but it caught me off-guard when I discovered a much deeper religious element as well. They use the familiar Berenstain Bear characters, Brother and Sister Bear, who learn through their participation in a Nativity reenactment what Christmas is really all about.
Christmas Oranges*--Little orphan children who have nothing band together to share their beloved Christmas oranges with a fellow orphan who has had theirs taken away as punishment. The artwork is beautiful and the message profound and my kids love it. It's a classic among Christmas stories and we love to give it as a gift at Christmas time, along with some oranges (or chocolate oranges).
A Christmas Dress For Ellen--Written by Thomas S. Monson, this book is about a very poor family who has recently moved to an isolated farm in Canada. Their crops have failed them and they face a destitute Christmas lacking in the very basics in life, yet alone anything exciting for the children. The oldest child, Ellen, is cynical and discouraged. In a moment of desperation, the mother writes a note to her sister telling of their dire circumstances. The sister rallies her community together and they tie quilts, sew clothes, and collect money to send to the family. It arrives to the post office late on Christmas Eve and though the postmaster wants to go home and spend the holiday with his family, he drives the boxes through a raging snowstorm to their isolated home. The joy that it brings to the destitute family, and Ellen in particular is heartwarming and the way the community rallied together to help someone they didn't even know, reminded me of the countless of selfless people who have rushed to the aid of those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The Crippled Lamb--Josh, a little lamb with a bad leg, always feels left out. Abigail is a kind-hearted cow who has befriended Josh and reassures him that God has a special place for those that feel left out. When the shepherds take the rest of the sheep to a faraway meadow and leave Josh behind, he is especially sad. Then later that night he was awakened by the sounds of a tiny baby that was there in the stable with him. It is the baby Jesus and Josh quickly goes to His side to help keep Him warm. Josh is comforted and knows that this opportunity to welcome the Savior of the world was a special gift to him.
The Nativity: Six Glorious Pop-Up Scenes--simple and beautiful, this pop-up book was one of the first Christmas books we ever owned. Although some of the pieces don't work anymore, this is still one of the kids' favorite books.
What are your favorites on this list? Are there any I should add to our collection? Do you still read out-loud to your kids?
Thank you for reading...now it's back to regularly scheduled goodie recipes! :)