Children's Books for the Christmas Season

December 12, 2017

Last year we joined the beautiful tradition of a Christmas book advent (inspired by my friend, Veronika, whose pictures I used above) - a countdown to Christmas Day in December with a "new" holiday-related book each day. The books don't have to be new - they can be the same books from last year, but since they were hidden away for almost a year, there's an excitement to unwrapping them and enjoying them all over again in anticipation of Christmas. It's a beautiful way to prepare for the season and talk about holiday traditions with your family.

We personally don't have 24-25 Christmas-related books yet to countdown from the 1st of December to December 25th, so we start ours on the 12th with The Twelve Days of Christmas and present a new book on Christmas Day. I thought I would share some of our favourites that we either own or have borrowed from the library over the years.

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett is an adaptation of the classic song, very slightly changed (I think the order of a few verses are changed), and illustrated beautifully by the talented Jan Brett. This was an instant favourite of Ramona's last year because it involved singing! We must have read/sang it at least 6 times a day into mid-January when I discreetly retired it until this time of year came around again.

Christmas in the Stable by Astrid Lindgren is a beautiful retelling of the nativity. The story is told by a child's mother, and the child imagines that story taking place in the barns and fields that she knows so well on her farm - in fact, the whole story is told almost with the simple understanding of a child. It's such a touching adaptation, filled with such tenderness and warmth towards the little child with humble beginnings, the mother watched over by the animals within the barn. The illustrations by Harold Wiberg are so classic and moving. I'm quite excited to share this title with Ramona this year, as she is so moved by depictions of mothers and babies. This is a rarer book to find - and we also have a copy of a similar adaptation called Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown which we found in a secondhand shop.

Twas the Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett is an adaptation of the classic story of a home being visited by Santa on Christmas Eve. There are so many versions of this story that I love, but this is the version that we own - and of course, Jan Brett's illustrative style is so perfectly matched for Christmas and wintry scenes. This classic poem takes me right back to my childhood, reading this with my own parents, and the excitement and anticipation of all the magic surrounding Christmas Day.

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers is one of many adaptations of the classic fairy tale that takes place on Christmas Eve. This version is shortened to still be true to the original story, but to not be too lengthy for younger audiences. The illustrations are beautiful - and there is dancing and movement on each page, paying tribute to the Nutcracker ballet. A beautiful addition to any holiday collection.

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht is a story, told in rhyme, of a family taking part in the tradition of picking out a pine tree for Christmas. While we don't cut down a tree for Christmas, personally (we buy a small live tree intended to be planted in spring), I still thought this book was a sweet depiction of a common tradition that many have grown up enjoying, and the excitement of bringing the tree home to decorate it with ornaments and lights. The sweet, lyrical story is accompanied by charming illustrations by Jarvis.

The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen is an adorable story of a little girl who discovers a lost reindeer on Christmas Eve, after following the sounds of jingling bells - as it turns out the little girl is quite reindeer-obsessed as it is already, and so I imagine it's a dream come true when the reindeer takes her on a magical ride that she'll never forget. When she wakes back at home the next day, she has been given a gift to remind her of her special adventure. The story is sweet, illustrated in monochromatic blacks, greys and white with pops of warm red.

When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey is an adorable story speculating the origins of the classic depiction of Santa we've all grown to know in North America. I love Christmas books that are a little unusual, and add some humour to traditions - this one does just that, revealing that instead of a sweet babble, Santa had a deep, booming voice as an infant. He had a strange fascination with chimneys, giving away his own birthday presents, wishing for a pet reindeer, loving the cold. A really sweet message in the book comes from Santa's parents - while they were a little concerned for their sightly quirky son, they supported and loved him for all his differences, which turned out to be the many strange and remarkable traits that he is so loved for today!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess will always be a favourite of mine. A lyrical, entertaining story of a Grinch who dislikes all things Christmas - though we aren't quite sure why - perhaps he doesn't quite understand it? Perhaps because he's never had anyone to share it with? His hatred festers for years and years until finally, he decides to steal Christmas - however during the process he meets a small child who helps him have a true change of heart. This story is so entertaining to read to children - and despite its length, I find that most children are absolutely fascinated and glued to every page.

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus is another humorous title, turning the tables on children who have stopped believing in Santa - to Santa not believing in one of them! Specifically, a child named Harold, who Santa suspects may not actually exist - but instead that the cookies and milk and letters he receives each year are actually just left out by parents. And besides, the Harold that sat on his knee this year looked awfully different from the Harold he met the year before. The whole story is filled with humour and warmth and is enjoyable for both children and parents to read.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is a beautiful, heartwarming story of a lonely woodcarver mourning the loss of his wife and child, who is visited by a widow and her son during the Christmas season. It's a touching story of a man's grief being lifted through the kindness and friendship of others who have experienced loss. It's a truly moving story that will likely bring any parents to tears as they read it.

The Christmas Eve Tree by Delia Huddy is another truly touching book - the story of a tree that didn't grow as expected on a Christmas tree farm and is about to be discarded when a young homeless boy asks if he can have it. The boy brings the tree into his homeless community and decorates it with what little he has, bringing joy to those around him during Christmas. And in the end, the tree is planted in a park where it continues to grow on.

Mr Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry is a charming classic, loved by many for generations. It begins when a wealthy man, Mr. Willowby purchases a Christmas tree that ends up being too big for his parlour! So he cuts off the top - which finds a new home first in other people's homes, then to the dens and burrows of various animals - each time a little too tall, so a little bit of the top is cut off and used by another wild creature to decorate their home. A funny little story that also shares a message of sharing joy with others.

The Great Spruce by John Duvall is a wonderful story of a boy, Alec, and his love for a great spruce that his grandpa planted years ago, and that they decorate each Christmas season. When the spruce is selected by the city to be cut down to act as their city Christmas tree - Alec has a plan to save it! In the end, the tree is carefully removed, roots intact, and transplanted to where the whole city can enjoy it all year round. As someone who doesn't purchase cut trees for decoration during the holidays, I loved the message of this book - it even addresses the fact that live Christmas trees can be used as decoration and then replanted into the earth after use.

Peter and Lotta's Christmas by Elsa Beskow is a story of two children who experience their first Christmas after coming to live with their aunts. It's a sweet little story sharing how we experience other's traditions and the excitement and joy that follows. The traditions shared in the book reflect Victorian Swedish traditions, such as the presents being delivered by the Christmas goat. As always, Elsa Beskow's illustrations are beautiful - a wonderful addition to a Christmas collection.

This post is in partnership with the Amazon Associates Program and contains affiliate links. As part of this program, I receive compensation. However, as always, all thoughts, opinions and run-on sentences expressed here are my own.

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