My Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Cover of Arthur's Christmas CookiesArthur’s Christmas Cookies by Lillian Hoban. Harper Trophy, paper. Part of the I Can Read Book Series. Level 2, for grades 1-3.  Arthur is feeling pretty frustrated that he doesn’t have any presents yet to give his parents for Christmas. He had tried making a lamp for his father, but it wouldn’t stand up properly. He can’t buy presents because he has spent all the money he had saved on sweets for himself. He finally decides he will make special Christmas cookies for his parents, but he manages to ruin them. They are so hard that they don’t even   break   when dropped on the floor. See how he turns them into a great Christmas present after all. Click title link to purchase at Amazon.

Cover of The Bells of ChristmasThe Bells of Christmas by Virginia Hamilton. Illustrated by Lambert Davis. Softcover, 59 pages. Appropriate for all ages. This is the story of a twelve-year-old African American boy waiting impatiently for Christmas in 1890 in Ohio. The story moves at a pace just right for giving readers the opportunity to savor all the preparations along with Jason Bell. Lots of color illustrations help readers visualize a middle-class black family’s celebration over a century ago.

 

Cover of The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. Candlewick Press, 2002. Hardcover with dust jacket and read-along CD. Illustrated by P.J. Lynch. This touching Christmas story shows the transformation contact with a widow and her son have on the grumpy woodcarver who has agreed to carve a replacement nativity set for one which had been lost. The woodcarver, Jonathan Toomey, had a reason to look gloomy, for both his wife and baby had died within three days of each other and his lonely heart had been broken. He did not believe in miracles or joy or Christmas anymore. But through a caring woman and a child who knew Jesus, he came to life again, showing that God can use the least of his children to transform the saddest and loneliest of his children and bring them near to Jesus again.  The CD features a Grammy-nominated reading by James Earl Jones. Several new and used editions of this book are available on Amazon in a range of prices. Click title link to see them. Covers may be different than pictured here.

 

Cover Scan of December December, by Eve Bunting. Illustrated by David Diaz. Simon lives with his mother in a house they made themselves (probably out of old boxes.) It is Christmas Eve, and they have tried to make their small home festive. But they don’t light their candle, for fear they might start a fire. Simon tells how they sleep: “I lie beside Mom under the heavy coat she says once belonged to my dad. The streetlight shimmers on our Christmas angel. She is a page torn from a calendar that we’ve pinned to the wall. Her name is December.”

Just as they are settled for the night, there is a thumping at the door. An old woman is there and wants to come in from the cold and sleep under their roof. They offer her the coat to wrap up in. And though it is very hard for him to sacrifice the cookie he has collected soda cans to buy, he offers it to the hungry woman, who gratefully eats it. “It’s warm in here, ” the old woman says. She smiles. “It’s warm with love.”

Simon falls asleep. In the morning, the woman has disappeared. But when he goes to close the still-open door, he sees the angel, December, who “takes a step backward, folding her wings like a great shining moth…. It’s foggy outside. I look up and there is our angel, her wings fanned to cover our cardboard house, and she’s singing, so softly I can hardly hear her.”

Simon is not sure what is really happening, or if he’s been dreaming. But everything in their lives seemed to change after that. And Simon tells of a later Christmas Eve, when his mother has had a job since summer and they have moved into a real apartment in the projects. They have a small Christmas tree, but on its branches still hang what they had hung on that other Christmas Eve — a toy soldier, a silvery spoon, the beads Simon once found on the sidewalk, and the crumpled rose the old woman had removed from her hat and hung on a branch herself on that past Christmas Eve. December still hangs on their wall, and Simon says “if you look real closely you can see she has a faded rose in her hair. ” BTH-2199.


Cover Good King WenceslasGood King Wenceslas, by John Mason Neale, with hand-painted woodcut illustrations and ornaments by Christopher Mason. Contains complete text of this famous Christmas carol and historical notes at the back. Hardcover from North/South Books. BTH-2197.


 

Scan of Fir Tree CoverThe Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen, adapted and illustrated by Bernadette Watts, paper, North/South books. The little fir tree growing in the forest was never happy. It felt small and insignificant. it wanted to be great. When it heard the tall trees had become masts, it wanted to sale the seas. When it heard how glorious the decorated Christmas trees were, it longed to be one of them. But it was still too small. It was not happy when the children played around it in the spring or when the rabbit was able to jump over it in the winter snow. It’s one wish was to be tall. It did not rejoice in the sunshine and fresh breeze in spring nor in the lightly falling snow in winter. It was never happy with the present and dreamed of a glorious future. Finally it grew tall enough to be cut as a Christmas tree, and thought that now it would finally be significant and glorious. BTH-2195.

 

Cover can of The Littlest AngelLittlest Angel, by Charles Tazewell, illustrated by Sergio Leone, published by Ideals. Hardcover. The classic Christmas story of the little boy who enters Heaven at the age of 4 1/2 years old and doesn’t quite fit in. When the announcement is made that Jesus is soon to be born, the littlest angel begins to prepare his gift for the Son of God. The theology is bad, but the story is heart-warming, and the spirit of it is right. You can explain that it is fiction and which parts aren’t true. BTH-2193.

Cover Scan of My Son My SaviorMy Son, My Savior: The Awesome Wonder of Jesus’ Birth by Calvin Miller.  In this book, Calvin Miller displays the same poetic insight that he did in his Singer Trilogy, an allegorical version of the New Testament story in blank verse. In My Son, My Savior, Miller tells the Christmas story  as Mary might have told it. Although it is a picture book, it will probably be too deep for most children to grasp. It will probably be more appreciated by adults. Here are some samples: “Who could ever fathom this wonder — why God, the Almighty One, would reduce Himself to utter helplessness. I thrill to think that He who is the very image of God Himself cannot even move unless I carry Him.” And this: “God made of me a door and made His entrance into time through my poor body.”  BT-2821.

 

Cover Scan of Night TreeNight Tree by Eve Bunting. Harcourt Brace & Company, 1991. It’s Christmas Eve, and we watch as a family bundles up and makes a short trip to a nearby forest laden with all sorts of homemade edible decorations for “their” tree in the forest. They decorate it by stringing popcorn and attaching apples, oranges, and balls of sunflower seeds, honey and pressed millet they have made. Then they scatter shelled nuts, breadcrumbs, and apple pieces under the tree for the forest creatures that don’t climb very well and can’t reach very high. When the tree is decorated, the family sits around it with admiration while they sing carols together in the moonlight. Then they return home, glad that they have prepared a Christmas feast for their little friends the forest creatures. Illustrated by Ted Rand. Large format. BTH-2200

 

Cover Scan of Other Wise ManHenry Van Dyke’s The Other Wise Man retold by Pamela Kennedy, illustrated by Robert Barrett. Ideals, paper. This story has appealed to its readers since it was first written in 1896. It is the story of Artaban, one of the Magi, who sells all he owns and buys three jewels to give to the Christ Child. When he sees the star in the sky, he starts out to meet the other Magi, but before he gets to the meeting place, he finds an injured man. If he stops to help him, he’ll miss his meeting with the other Magi, but he simply cannot just pass by and leave the man there. His decision to stop and help the stranger begins a thirty-three year journey to find his king. Pamela Kennedy has shortened and edited Van Dyke’s story so it can be understood more clearly and enjoyed by young readers in the 21st Century. Cat. # BTH-2192. Now out of print. I may have some  left at this price if you want to contact me.

Cover Scan of This is the Star
This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar, illustrations by Gary Blythe. This Christmas picture book for all ages presents the events of the first Christmas, one element at a time, beginning with the star, in a repetitive fashion, in the tradition of “The House that Jack Built.” As each element of the story is introduced with words, a lovely illustration is graces the facing page. It begins, simply, “This is the star in the sky.” And the last page begins: “This is the Christ child born to be king, While hosts of heavenly angels sing….” And it ends with that same star in the sky. This is one of my favorite books on Christ’s birth for children, who will love chanting along with the repeated phrases as they receive a visual feast from the pages. BTH-2194. Copies online may have different covers.

 

A World of Reading Choices