Today’ gorgeous post is from Karen at Earthly Joyride, reading it started to make me feel super Christmassy in all the right ways. Karen is passionate about reading to children. Her blog offers lots of inspiration for selecting picture books and she shares ideas for creating art with children.
Christmas books are no different from the other books we read all year round. They should delight, inspire and amuse us. The language should be lyrical, evocative or make us laugh. The illustrations should be beautiful or funny and tell another layer of the story. The best stories become part of our family life and become entwined in our own stories. Nativity stories, Santa stories, traditional stories, Australian stories. Stories about food, family, giving, kindness and sharing. Stories to inspire us and remind us why we celebrate Christmas.
Sometimes, these picture books of finding more time, more room, more love to share are just as much for me as for my kids. In the coming ‘silly season’ of rushing and consuming, these stories give me a chance to sit still, close to my kids and read to them, creating our own Christmas peace and joy. Here are our ten favourite Christmas books:
1. The night before Christmas
Performed by Peter, Paul and Mary, written by Clement C. Moore, paintings by Eric Puybaret
The accompanying CD has a spoken and sung version of this traditional poem, written nearly 200 years ago. Every child should have these words read to them at Christmas –
“Twas the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse”.
2. Wenceslas, the eternal Christmas story
Written by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Christian Birmingham
This is based on the traditional carol, Good King Wenceslas. It tells the story of a page and his king, who go out into the snow to bring food and comfort to a struggling family. The king tells his page, “You can do it, Peter,” he said, and smiled. “Do you see my footprints? Step where I stepped. You will be warmer that way. The cold won’t bite so deep.” Beautiful, dreamy illustrations.
3. Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas
Written by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
We love Fancy Nancy books, and it’s wonderful, splendiferous even, to have a Christmas book of the same calibre. Nancy thinks “it is important to find a tree with a wonderful aroma. (That’s fancy for smell.)” In this story she learns to “improvise – that’s a fancy word for using whatever’s around to make something.” Fancy Nancy will certainly extend your children’s vocabulary! For more of this gorgeous series of books you can see my post on Being Fancy.
4. The ABC book of Christmas
Retold by Mark Macleod, featuring Australia’s most-loved illustrators
Every page of this nativity story is illustrated by a different artist – Stephen Michael King, Anna Walker, Sally Rippin, Gregory Rogers and many others. Stephen Michael King created his “illustration with the attention drawn to the earth. The big angels are all high up but there is a little angel who’s too young and undisciplined to be admitted into the choir so he’s flown down for a look. He likes what he sees and is thinking, “I’d like to be a shepherd when I grow up”… This is a wonderful way to show children that there are many different ways of drawing the same story.
5. On angel wings
Written by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Quentin Blake
For older kids, this nativity story is told by a young shepherd who now recounts his adventures to his grandchildren. The young shepherd could be any ten-year-old boy – “But why me?” I cried. “It’s just because I’m the youngest. It’s not fair.” Lucky the angel Gabriel – a very down-to-earth, practical sort of angel – is around to help out. Gorgeous watercolour illustrations.
6. Wombat divine
Written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Kerry Argent
One of my favourites, this is the story of Wombat, who “with his heart full of hope and his head full of dreams” wants to be in the nativity play. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a part for Wombat – what’s a poor Wombat to do? We have made many Mem Fox inspired creations, like our Mem Fox Book, which you could also do with Wombat Divine.
7. Once there was a Christmas tree
Written and illustrated by Jerry Smath
When you gently shake this book, the ‘snow globe’ front cover rains snow over the picture of the Christmas tree. While the cover is a novelty, the story itself is a lovely message about sharing – “We took our tree and made it two, one half for us, one half for you!”
8. The Christmas angels
Written and illustrated by Else Wenz-Viëtor
Originally written in German in 1933, this is a sweet story about “Christmas Eve, the moon is bright. Ten little angels fly through the night.” Lovely cut-out illustrations of angels.
9. The Christmas book
Written and illustrated by Dick Bruna
This is a perfect introduction to the nativity story for little ones. Dick Bruna (he wrote the Miffy books) uses his classic illustration style and tells, very simply, “the story of the bright star which guided the shepherds and the three kings to the stable where Jesus was born. And that is the story of Christmas.”
10. Room for a little one
Written by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
The nativity story is told from the perspective of the animals who make room for each other, and for Mary and Joseph. Martin Waddell’s books are always beautifully written – “that cold winter’s night, beneath the star’s light … a Little One came for the world.”
Do you have a favourite Christmas Book to share?