Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like snuggling up with my kids and reading Christmas books. I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet but if you are hoping to find these books at your local library you need to get them now! No time to read this week? You aren’t the only one. I collaborated on an article with Stacie Billis at The Family Kitchen all about ways to keep your kids busy while you are preparing for the holidays.
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!
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 preparations 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!
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston made me cry. The story is about the hardships and love of one family torn apart by World War 1 as they prepare for Christmas with no resources. I love how strong the mother in this book is, she does the best he can with what she has, treks through snow to cut that big old Christmas tree down, and the part that made me cry uses her own wedding dress to make her daughter an angel costume for the Christmas pageant. Oh but that is not all she sacrificed, she used the silk stockings her husband sent her from the war to make a doll for Santa to give to her daughter. The father coming home right as they were leaving the church service – once again starting my water works. It’s an awesome story but probably too long for a group of kids or toddlers, but perfect for a bedtime story for preschoolers on up. Also, this book and the one previous were illustrated by Barbara Cooney, who captures such meaningful stories with her amazing work.
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!
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!
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 its focus on friendship and the excitement of giving gifts.