Thursday, December 1, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Books

Now that we've finally entered my absolute favorite season, I've pulled out all our Christmas books (a collection that's ever expanding). I'm always looking for more titles to add (and I have added a few new ones this year), but I also have several stand-bys that I don't think I could ever not read during the Christmas season. So, below, are our Top Ten Christmas Titles (and please feel free to leave a comment recommending a new one for us to try!):

In no particular order...
1. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, Illustrations by Barbara Cooney
This is one of my all time favorite stories, regardless of the holiday--it never fails to make me ball and then feel all gooey and happy with the world. The story is particularly resonent if you were one of those little girls who had a doll who you truly loved and saw not just as a toy, but a friend. Now, to some who never had that, that might sound a bit creepy, but for those of us who had that sort of attachment, this story will totally touch your heart.

2. The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
This is a true Christmas classic that I have adored since I was a little girl. It's one of those books that is written so well, illustrated so beautifully, that it reaffirms, very easily, your love for illustrated storybooks. This biggest appeal for me in this story is the idea of always believing Santa Claus and never letting your faith in him waiver, even when everyone around you let's go of their own.

3. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney
There is something beautifully simple about Barbara Cooney's illustrations in this book that make the words by Ms. Houston all the more poignant and perfectly sweet. This book never failed to make my mom cry as she read it to me every year, and now, as I read it to my little girl, I shed my own set of tears. While the book is obviously meant for children, there is an undertone in the story about the sacrifices parents make for their children and for each other, and it is those sacrifices that showcase the love and truest meanings behind Christmas.

4. The Wild Christmas Reindeer written and illustrated by Jan Brett
Jan Brett is the queen of Christmas stories and this is my absolute favorite of hers. It's a story about perseverance and friendship, and also tells a good story about how one should approach people (or reindeer) in a cooperative situation. I thought of this story all throughout my student teaching (especially when I was at the high school level) and tried to use it as a metaphor for how I needed to work with my students. On another note, the illustrations are awesome, especially the little side panels that help track the days until Christmas and show off all the hard work Santa's elves are putting in.

5. A Little House Christmas by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Illustrated by Garth Williams
In this little mini-collection you have three stories from three different "Little House" books. It's lovely to capture those sweet moments, when times were simpler, the pleasures somehow smaller but bigger at the same time. These stories bring you to a different place and time, and that is so much fun!

6. Robert Sabuda Pop-Up Books
There is something incredibly whimsical about a pop-up book, and Robert Sabuda's Christmas books are simply amazing. We have three of these and truly enjoy reading them and playing with the very interactive pictures.

7. The Tiny Star, by Arthur Ginolfi, Illustrated by Pat Schories
This is one of the first Christmas books I remember reading as a little girl and my favorite "reason for the season" type books. It's about a tiny star that gets her glow after warming a new born baby in a stable (we can all guess who that baby is, right?). It's so sweet and very subtle in it's message (something I can admire in any form of literature).

8. Santa's Secret Helper, by Andrew Clements, Illustrated by Debrah Santini
I think this book was one of my mom's favorites to read to me (and I enjoyed it, too!). Have you ever wondered how Santa could possibly get to all those houses all over the world in one night? This book has the answer, which it reveals in an ever charming guessing game of who the secret helper could possibly be.

9. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, Illustrated by Judith Gwyn Brown
So, while it's a chapter book (a book I plan reading over time with Lizzie when she gets a bit older), it's one of the best books ever because it combines all of my favorite things about childhood literature: fun characters, an interesting plot, and a good, wholesome message (there is not a ton that is terribly wholesome in the world any more, and kids' books, especially Christmas books, are one of those wholesome things that remain).

10. The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell, Illustrated by Paul Micich
Are you ready to ball your eyes out, but to feel so incredibly uplifted afterward? This book is...amazing, but it can be so hard to read. The idea is that a little angel boy, who just can't seem to get anything right, is trying to decide what to give the Christ child when he is born. The story is short, but so rich with detail in both the writing and the illustrations, and when you read it (something to read only once a year, on a special night for your family, I think), you will be blown away and filled with such love and appreciation for why we are truly celebrating Christmas.

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