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Favorite Christmas Books

Christmas stories offer many things. They make you smile or laugh or cry. They offer hope to those who need it. They help us to see kindness and love in a world where life is in the fast lane. Curling up with a good book warms your heart as well as your soul. Here are some of my favorites, from board books through middle grade and even a few for adults.

SILENT NIGHT, a board book, comes complete with music and lights, published by Ideals Interactive, 2006. No author/illustrator listed. In this rhyming book for young children each page tells about the different people or animals at the manger and something about them, until on the last page they are gathered together around the Baby Jesus. The book ends with the words to the song, Silent Night. Colorful illustrations show happy faces, and the detail is simple and engaging.

SNOWMEN AT CHRISTMAS, by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner, Dial 2005, board book 2010. From decorating the tree with snowballs, and snowman mothers preparing ice cream and snow cones, to a visit from Kris Kringle and singing songs about snow and the birth of a king, we find snowmen celebrating Christmas when everyone else is asleep, in much the same way as we do. The colorful, ‘warm,’ illustrations add cozy detail and complete the book making it a great read.

DRUMMER BOY, written and illustrated by Loren Long, Philomel Books 2008. When a small wooden drummer boy is left on the doorstep of a young boy, he declares that it is just what he has always wanted. His words warm the drummer boy’s heart, as he plays his drum for the boy. Then one day the drummer boy is accidentally brushed into the trash can, beginning a cold and lonely journey. Along the way he plays his drum for a grumpy rat, three screeching owls, a lonely city, a starry sky, a snowman with charcoal eyes, and a field covered with statues and stones, and his music brings peace to all. When he is finally discovered in the field, he plays for the boy once again, and in the final scene he is placed on the mantel where he plays for the baby in the stable. Rich illustrations are from the viewpoint of the little drummer boy, and put the reader in the middle of each scene.

FIRST DOG’S WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS, by J. Patrick Lewis and Beth Zappitello, illustrated by Tim Bowers, Sleeping Bear Press 2010. Readers get a tour of the White House through the eyes of a dog—not just any dog, but the ‘First Dog,’ who lives there with his family. As he welcomes dogs who have come from other countries with their owners for a Christmas celebration, First Dog invites them to tell about their own Christmas traditions. Facts about Christmas in the white house as well as in other countries are briefly woven into the story. More, including the breeds of the dogs pictured, are incorporated into the inside covers of the book. Illustrations that are warm and whimsical complement the story. A book that is interesting and fun, it’s easy to see that readers will want to re-visit the story over again.

THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE OF JANONTHAN TOOMEY, by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, Candlewick Press 1995. Jonathan Toomey is a sad and lonely woodcarver, the best woodcarver in the whole valley. One day he receives a request for a new carving of a special crèche which has been lost during a move, and the quiet friendship of a small boy and that of his mother help bring about a healing change in the woodcarver’s heart. The reader can almost see the wood carvings through the illustrations, and feel the change of heart in the warm browns and glowing colors.

THE WEE CHRISTMAS CABIN, retold by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root, Holiday House 2009. This Irish folk tale tells the story of a tinker’s child whose life is spent helping others. As she grows old, she is finally rewarded by the fairies with a cabin of her own. And for eternity, if it’s a white Christmas, you will find her waiting in her warm cabin, with the griddle hot, the kettle full, and her arms open wide to children in need. This is a heartwarming story of the kindness of one person, beautifully illustrated with detailed paintings in earth colors.

THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER, by Barbara Robinson, HarpCollins, 1972. This is my all-time favorite Christmas book for middle grade readers. The opening of the story immediately draws the reader in, starting with “The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.” How the Herdmans become part of the Christmas pageant, and their simple interpretation of the meaning of the first Christmas, will give more meaning to the holiday for everyone.

A STRANGER FOR CHRISTMAS, by Carol Lynn Pearson, St. Martin’s Press 1984, is my favorite Christmas book for adults. The story begins with two older ladies who meet in a nursing home. Their conversation about families who take an orphan home for Christmas day leads to the question of whether anyone would take an old lady home for the holiday. A bet leads to a challenge, as one of the two is convinced that at least one of her five grown children would be willing to take an old lady home for Christmas.

Some other favorites from the past:
THE LITTLEST ANGEL, Charles Tazewell, 1946; board book edition 2002 (picture book)
BEST CHRISTMAS BOOK EVER!, Richard Scarry, Random House 1981 (picture book)
SANTA CLAUS DOESN’T MOP FLOORS, Debbie Dadey & Marcia Thornton Jones, Scholastic 1991 (an early chapter book)
WHAT CHILD IS THIS? By Caroline B. cooney, Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers 1997 (young adults)
THE CHRISTMAS WISH, Richard Siddoway, Harmony Books 1998 (adults)
DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW (and any of the Christmas books by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark), Simon & Schuster / Scribner 2008 (adults)

I would love to hear about any of your favorite Christmas books, as well as any favorite books about Hanukah, Kwanza or however you celebrate the holidays.

I wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday reading!
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