Today I am sharing 6 favorite Christmas children’s books for those of you looking for a last minute gift. Teaming up with my friend Jamie at No Delusions of Grandeur so invite you to stop by to check out her list of books, too. I am heading over there as soon as I get my post published. We can go together, if you like. But first, please give my list a look.
6 Favorite Christmas Children’s Books
To begin, I want to remind you of a book I have shared before. It isn’t on this year’s list for that reason but it is my second favorite Christmas story of all. My first being the obvious choice. The Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco is based on a true story. It is probably best suited for older children but even adults will appreciate it’s heartwarming magical theme. Please take just a second to read my review on an earlier post here. I read this book aloud to the teachers at my school one year and there was hardly a dry eye in the library.
A Dozen Silk Diapers
Last year I was touched to have been asked by a pre-k teacher at the school where I retired (hi, Lily!), to suggest an unusual Christmas book for her babies (students) to share for the annual holiday program. I suggested A Dozen Silk Diapers by Melissa Kajpust, illustrated by Veselina Tomova. It is the story of a spider family who live in the manger where the Christ child is born. From their web in the rafters, they see firsthand the child below receiving gifts from far and wide. Wanting to be a part of the celebration, the spiders come up with a most useful gift to give the baby Jesus. Can you guess what it is? This sweet, sweet story is perfect for little ones who want to participate in the gift-giving but don’t know how. I would always remind my daughters and my students that sometimes the best gifts of all aren’t things we buy at Walmart.
While we are talking about spiders and cobwebs let me segue into our second book. Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel by Shriely Climo, illustrated by Jane Manning is a beautiful version of an Old World German Christmas legend. Reading this story with your babes can set the stage for sharing family traditions and cultural celebrations around the world. It begins with “Once upon a (Christmas)time (music to my ears) which is usually a pretty good indication that a story is a folktale.
Tante has decorated a lovely tree with something among its branches for all the creatures of her forest home. Catnip, apples, a basket of oats for the animals and gingerbread for the village children. She has something for everyone except for the spiders whom she has swept out of her house in her holiday housekeeping. When Kris Kringle passes by on Christmas Eve, the spiders outside Tante’s door beg him to let them in. They enthusiastically climb from branch to branch to inspect the old woman’s tree leaving behind a silken trail of threads everywhere they scuttle. When Kris Kringle returns to Tante’s cottage to leave a gift in each child’s shoes, he also admires the tree. With a touch of his fingertips on the cobwebs, they begin to glisten. And in the morning, Tante has a whole new respect for the spiders she has been sweeping away.
The Legend of the Poinsettia
While we are talking legends, here is a beautiful one, The Legend of the Poinsettia retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. A popular and prolific children’s author, dePaola has retold a number of legends. One of my favorites is The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. My Cady dressed up for Halloween like the main character in that folk story. I like to point out to my children that legends and folktales are often ‘retold’ because they originated years and years ago and were first shared orally, before most people had the means to write or the ability to read. Each time a legend is repeated it is told in a little different way.
Mexico is the setting of this story and the main character is a little girl Lucida (could be my grandbaby Lucia with the same dark eyes and hair). Everyone in the child’s mountain village helps prepare for their Navidad procession. This year, Lucida and her mother have been asked to replace the tattered manger blanket with one they weave themselves. When mamá is taken ill, Lucida must find a way to finish the weaving or come up with an alternative blanket for the baby Jesús. When the weaving becomes tangled and impossible for the child to finish, she is too embarrassed to attend the procession. The whole village was counting on her and she has disappointed them. But an old woman appears to Lucida explaining that “any gift is beautiful because it is given”. She encourages Lucida to pick an armful of lush green weeds to cover the baby. And when the little girl places the weeds on the manger and bows her head in prayer, a miracle happens. Order the book to read the ending.
Angela and the Baby Jesus
Moving from Lucida’s miracle to the similarly sweet tale of Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt, illustrated by Raúl Colón. You may recognize author McCourt’s name from his Pulitzer prize-winning memoir of his mother’s childhood in Ireland Angela’s Ashes. This children’s book is another page from his mother’s life. Six-year-old Angela worries that the naked baby Jesus in St. Joseph’s creche is frozen but too sweet to ever complain to his mother, the Virgin Mary. She has often felt cold and hungry, too, but tried never to complain for being accused of whining by her siblings and own mother. One day, hidden in a confession booth, Angela devises a plan to take the baby (doll) home with her where she can take proper care of Him. Even though she knows that stealing is a punishable offense. When her mother discovers the baby in Angela’s bed, the little girl is escorted back to the church where she can return the baby to His mother. They reach the church and are met by the priest who convinces Angela how even on the coldest evenings the Christ child is always warm.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings
For those of you who have been hanging out with me for some time, you probably remember that I have a strong connection to World War II, the Holocaust and Anne Frank. I have a menorah my daughter Lauren bought for me, and a dreidel game that a school counselor left to me when she retired. Hanukkah is a holiday most of my childhood friends celebrated and so I wanted to include a story from it as well. Oskar and the Eight Blessings is by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel. This book, beautifully illustrated in sepia tones, reads more like a graphic novel. And the characters’ features have similar qualities to those in Japanese anime.
As the story opens, it is Christmas eve, 1938, and Oskar has just arrived in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah. He must walk a hundred city blocks to the home of his Aunt Esther where she is preparing to light the menorah for the evening. Oskar is tired and hungry and cold. Much like Angela. And much like Angela fears baby Jesus might be. On his journey, Oskar crosses paths with people who bless him with food, warmth and encouragement. He is reminded of his father’s sentiment that ‘people can be good’. And then he hears a woman on the sidewalk call his father’s name, then his own.
The True Gift
Oh, girls, this story is so good. The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Brian Floca has stayed tucked in my heart since the first time I read it 8 years or so ago. And this year, I was reminded of it when my friend and fellow blogger Dani at Family.Love.Inspiration sent me photos and then a video of the cows on her parents’ frosty Saskatchewan farm. Thank you, Dani, for prompting me to remember this beautiful book. The True Gift is a beginning chapter book written on an early third grade reading level. I read it to Paul on our recent road trip to from Kentucky to Ohio. He liked it, too.
Lily and Liam spend every Christmas on their grandparents’ farm. This year they are excited because the children have worked hard to earn money to buy gifts for their parents, grandparents and each other. But their plans change when the predicament of a neighbor’s lonely cow tugs at their heart strings. Without giving this beautiful story away (Dani, your copy is in the mail), just know that renowned children’s author Patricia MacLachlan gifts us with a double happy ending.
I hope maybe one of these books will speak to you and become a part of your holidays this year. One last thing. My BFF Sharonia shared this video with me and I chuckled out loud. Hope it will bring you a smile, too. Love you, Sharon!
Do you have a favorite winter holiday story? Did you read it to your children as part of your Christmas traditions? I don’t know that I read one particular book to Brennyn and Lauren but we did plenty of reading, throughout the year. Reading with the children in your life is so important! It is a gift that keeps on giving…making them a better, stronger reader which in turn will trickle down to their children someday.
Can you believe how much I have posted this week? Yeah, crazy! It’s going to snow. Wait, if you look carefully, it already is. Right here on my blog. Won’t you join me now in running by Jamie’s blog to read her list of favorite Christmas children’s books? Let’s go!
Hugs and Eskimo kisses,