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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great Children's Books for Christmas

First I just need to say that y'all? Are AMAZING! Thank you so much for the many ideas you shared yesterday. I will be sitting quietly with your my list, narrowing it down this afternoon. I think. I hope. Anyways, once I do sit down with it, I'll fill y'all in on the drama that is Tonggu Momma's Christmas Wish List.

But today - to return the favor - I thought I'd share with y'all something I DO know a bit about: children's picture books. Here are my favorite Christmas (and one Hanukkah!) picture books for this holiday season. And I'll be sure to let y'all know whether they contain religious themes or not (most of them do because... well, because I'm a Christian).

Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck. For those of you with little, little ones, check out this board book about the very first Christmas. The simple, poetic text and vibrant artwork allows even the youngest child to share in the wonder of the nativity story. And for those who are musicians, you may draw some parallels between this book's text and the old Christmas carol The Friendly Beasts.

The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats. To really read this book properly, you actually have to sing it (even if your voice Completely Sucks, as mine does). And you also have to teach your little ones to drum tapping sticks on the floor whenever you sing "pa-rum-pum-pum-pum." Keat's book is - by far - the Tongginator's all time favorite Christmas book. Who would have guessed that our resident Miss Priss would adore playing the drums so much? But even if you don't have a Future Rock Star in your house, this book will surely delight all, especially since little ones will begin to understand the words of a popular Christmas carol.

The Christmas Play by Clare Bevan. Finally! A multicultural children's Christmas book! I seriously feared it might NEVER happen. I love, love, love the Christmas pageant described in this picture book, undoubtedly inspired by the ever-famous, written for slightly older children, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. In the sweetly rhyming text of The Christmas Play, the angel wears bed sheets, Joseph stammers, baby Jesus is plastic, the dove has stage fright and one of the Wise Men carries a gift of bath salts. And the ending? "Here is our final production, And though it's still held up with pins, The parents will love every minute - For this is where Christmas begins."

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Not many holiday stories can claim The Caldecott Medal, but this one does. And not many children's books can claim Tom Hanks as a leading man, but The Polar Express can. Don't simply plop your children down in front of the movie, make sure to ALSO read the book that inspired it all. And make sure you have a tiny silver bell on hand to ring for the children, after you finish reading the story, so that you can ask them, "do you hear it ring?" (NO RELIGIOUS THEMES)

The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie DEPaola. Describing the Hispanic custom of Las Posadas, this book's simple, yet unpredictable for children, text and gorgeous illustrations make it a must-have for any Christmas library. For those who don't know, Las Posadas - Spanish for "the inns" - is a nine-day celebration that reenacts Mary and Joseph's search for shelter in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. DEPaola's story tells the tale of Sister Angie and the celebration she organizes year after year.

Hanukkah: A Counting Book by Emily Sper. We own quite a few Hanukkah books, mostly dating back to my teaching days, but I'm really glad I can read them with the Tongginator, even though our family isn't Jewish. It is SO important to expose your children to diversity... I can't state that enough. Although there are several Hanukkah books that do a better job sharing the true meaning of the holiday, I included this one because it is, first and foremost, a counting book, numbering the eight candles on the holiday menorah (it does not count the shamash). The text uses simple phrases relevant to Hanukkah and written in English, Hebrew and Yiddish. You will find more detailed explanations of the religious and cultural significance of each phrase in the book's last pages.

The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora. A new twist on the old classic! The text is the same as Clement C. Moore's immortal poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas, but Caldecott Honor-winning artist Rachel Isadora sets this beloved story in an African village. Her illustrations? Clearly explain the story even when the vocabulary sails over the heads of little ones. There are a plethora of books based on Moore's poem, but this one is - BY FAR - my favorite. If you add a Night Before Christmas to your collection, make it this one. (NO RELIGIOUS THEMES)

This Is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten. This rhyming tale builds the details of the Nativity story into a "House That Jack Built" style of text. I personally feel that this is - by far - the most Biblically accurate story I've seen that is easily understood by the preschool set. And the gorgeous illustrations by Delana Bettoli remind me of the folksy designs of Jim Shore (I own this piece of his, as well as a few more). Bettoli also hid angel wings in almost every illustration, which makes me smile, especially since Tonggu Grammy collects angels.

My Birthday, Jesus' Birthday by Holly Davis. While this book truly does NOT work for adoptive families, it IS a great book for families with biological children. Alternating pages between birthday celebrations and the Christmas holiday help children to better understand Jesus' birth by detailing how it compares with their own birthdays, both the similarities and the differences. This book's profoundly spiritual message is easy enough for even a preschooler to understand.

Feel free to make fun of any of my choices. Or applaud them. Or whatever. But - most importantly - please share YOUR favorite holiday books.

(And CC? I'd recommend The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora, Christmas Cookies: Bite-Sized Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett and Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O'Connor for your lessons.)


bbmomof2boys said...

Great book ideas. I read on one blog(here..there..who knows where!) where they open a book present each night of December and read it leading up to Christmas eve. The books are old and new ones. What a great idea! And now...I have more books to choose from.


happygeek said...

Books rock.
Can't wait to find these.
I LOVE Isadora.
Sarah at This Heavenly Life is doing a book carnival with emphasis on kids books today. YOu might want to play along.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I want to add Who Is Coming to Our House?, which was one of the first books my children loved. It is a conversation between the animals in the stable, preparing the place for the holy family.

Aus said...

Great list - and I'm pleased to report that we have a couple of those! And yeah - books - how could I have forgotten them yesterday (maybe I was geeking at the time?) - a great gift for folks like you if we know your genre!

hugs - aus and co.

Kristy said...

Great post !! I wrote down all of the titles!! Thank you so much.

Love and blessings, Kristy

Sarah said...

You should get the Gingerbread Girl. It's the best book, I even ordered it for myself one year. Isn't that sick?

Kristi said...

I love several of your choices, especially Christmas in the Manger.

My current favorite to read to my little ones is Who is Coming to our House by Joseph Slate. Each animal in the stable has a line to help get ready for Mary and Joseph to arrive. The rhymes make it a fun book for little ones to "read along" with you!

And today I was in the book store looking for their books from Santa and found a great one called Humphrey's First Christmas by Carol Heyer. Humphrey is a camel that belongs to one of the wise men and it is his narration of the story. It also re-enforces the message of giving instead of getting. I think it is going to be a hit!

Mamatini said...

I'll have to check out the ones you listed that I'm not familiar with. I love a good, new story.

Our favorite is "The Littlest Angel." It never fails, I get choked up every.single.time I read it to the girls. I even catch them stealing furtive looks at me to see if I'm crying yet.

I'm such a sap.

This Heavenly Life said...

What a wonderful list! I'm so glad you linked up today :)

We have Christmas in the Manger, and read it all year through - you're so right about it's vibrant simplicity. The Little Drummer Boy and This Is the Stable are especially piqueing my interest right now...

We love Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson. (I *told* you we like that chick :)) Bear tries his hardest to stay awake instead of hibernating through Christmas, and his woodsy friends find endless holiday activities to keep him busy. It's so sweet. (No religious themes.)

adoptionroad said...

These are great recommendations! I especially love the bookstore story. ;-)

Here are some of our favorites:
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
-I bought this last year for LeighAnna after she watched the ballet and wanted to understand the story. Beautiful illustrations!

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (yes that is really a last name!) The movie wasn't as good. Books are always better!

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton -I have my copy from childhood. Living in CO, my girls are really learning to understand the concept of snowplows.

Saint Nicholas, The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer
-A good way to explain the real Santa in a historical context

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren -OUR FAVORITE! And everything else she's written.

Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade
A longer allegorical story for read aloud with the family that teaches about the Incarnation. For elementary age and older children. We are working through it at dinner this month.

Jean said...

I love to see the books you recommend!! The Thanksgiving books were great and helped our girls prepare for the Holiday! Now we are on to Christmas!!

I have to recommend a book to you- A Tale of Three Trees- It is my favorite book ever!! It is a folktale retold by Angela Hunt

I love The Polar Express too!

adoptionroad said...

The Little Drummer Boy is included in this month's Scholastic book order for only $2

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

it has been a while since i have stopped to visit you... things have been crazy of late.. and with the last batch of referrals I was beside myself as to when the cut off date is... that means I am next... finally...
I do love that 'Polar Express' book... cause I love the movie too... and I do hear the bell ring... take care

Sharie said...

I haven't even gotten our books out yet...perhaps it's time.
I'll have to do a follow-up post.

I started to comment yesterday, but got interrupted. I have skin allergies, so I can relate to the no lotions, bath gels, etc. Migraines are triggered by many perfumes or room scents, so I don't want those either. I have no time to watch movies, so that isn't an option...However if you do, a subscription to Netflix might be nice.

I LOVE bags, so my family can usually get by giving me a bag, hand bag, tote bag, reusable grocery bag. There are some charities that now sell the reusable grocery bags and the funds go to the charity. Gift certificates to the hair salon are also good...I hate paying for hair cuts and if I want to do something special I can get a manicure or pedicure instead:) Just no treating myself to waxing;)

The Gang's Momma said...

Love this list. I'm going to have to jot them down and look for them. And I have to laugh at the bookstore story. You are so cute ;)

thegypsymama said...

This is SO helpful. I was just thinking today - if only I knew where to even BEGIN when it comes to books about Christmas for my kids. And then, TA DA, TM delivers!


CC said...

Darn you TM for not PERSONALLY emailing me these book suggestions a few days ago. You know, when I put 12 Christmas books on hold?
Bwahahahaha! Okay, gonna go do that right now. After cursing you again. And congratulating you about your anniversary.

Myrnie said...

Second or third time I've seen someone mention Christmas In the Stable. Definitely have to check these out!