This morning Ira took his favorite winter book to school. His teacher is encouraging kids to bring something to school this month to show how their families mark the various holidays this time of year. This book was given to him by dear friends and it’s a pop-up of the most extraordinary kind. We pull it out of storage in time for Advent each year.
Every night, starting December 1st, Ira unwraps a book as we count down/anticipate together the coming of Christmas. We do all sorts of books, including Santa, winter, Jesus, and more general Christmas themes. It’s been a fun tradition and we have our favorites (though every year I end up getting way more books from the library than there are days as I’m always trying to beef up our collection of go-to storybooks). We own some of the books, but most come from the library. Each year, on the 25th Ira unwraps a book that becomes ours, a new book for our personal collection. (We weren’t going to buy a book this year, but Ira remembers everything and I’ve heard him telling people about this tradition and how on Christmas day he gets a book to keep so…).
Here are some of our favorites so far (please leave a comment if you have other favorites to add!):
This is a wonderful book–the one we bought the first year we started this tradition. The pictures are fabulous and the story is told using the KJV, a version I never really read but is so familiar to me for this text.
This is the pop-up I mentioned above. A story told from the perspective of a snowman who notices the beauty of winter life all around him.
This is a sweet story of two mice who offer compassion and give what they have to a goose in need only to find that they have been gifted beyond their imagining. Ira unwrapped this book last night and joyfully said, “I remember this one! It was my favorite last year!”
I really like the Otis series. Simple stories filled with love and a bit of adventure.
A sweet story of a shy donkey trying to find its way of welcoming the baby Jesus.
This tells of the traditional Mexican legend of the first poinsettia plant when a young girl wishes she had a gift to present to the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. Her desire to offer something faithful and true leads her straight into a miracle.
Ira really liked this book last year. It has fun pictures and little gentle holiday “lessons”.
A sweet story about Kwanzaa as a community comes together in joyful generosity.
A young boy in the Caribbean wishes for a traditional (North American) Christmas tree, but when that doesn’t work out, he finds himself surrounded by Christmas in forms he hadn’t seen before.
Creation whispers the secret, “It’s time! It’s time!” and the animals, birds, oceans, trees bring us to a stable with a newborn baby.
This story is ridiculous.
The story of a young girl wanting to keep the baby Jesus from her church’s nativity warm in the cold. I see on Netflix there is now a short film based on this book. Haven’t watched it yet, but will do so this season.
A Texas must-read (or anywhere really). Fun story about a boy and his uncle spreading Christmas love (& presents) along the US/Mexico border.
I’ve always loved this carol and we sing it (with the book) many times throughout Advent.
A touching story about a boy wanting to gift his brother with something very special.
This is probably my all-time favorite Christmas storybook. A boy and his mother show compassion and curiosity to the local woodcarver who is known for never smiling and grief opens to generosity and beauty.
This story is set in Appalachia, a story of a family’s love in the midst of difficult times.
A Chicano family in New Mexico awaits the return of their husband/father who has been wounded in war. With her grandfather ill, the making of the farolitos (little lanterns) is left up to Luz as they watch for the shepherds who will stop at their home only if there are lights to guide the way.
The Night Before Christmas is one of those poems that a lot of us grew up with. This is a bit of a different take, Texas-style.
A young girl sneaks her mother’s wedding ring and puts it on her finger only to realize later that it has disappeared–quite likely into the big batch of tamales that were made earlier that day.
A young boy named Tyler wonders why there are no angels for the top of his Christmas tree that look like him or his family – all the angels are white – until an artist friend creates one just for Tyler.
An elderly man opens his magnificent home to the children of his town each year who help to decorate his Christmas tree. The year after the man has moved away ends up having its own kind of wonder.
Wilma and her five-year-old neighbor Parker work together to grow a Christmas tree farm. It takes years of work (and do-nuts), but they all grow together in the shared endeavor.
A cute story about a tree that’s just too big. It gets trimmed again and again as its pieces adorn the homes of many creatures.
Who doesn’t love a Henry and Mudge book?
A must-read in our household this time of year.
Teeka is in charge of prepping the reindeer for Santa’s sleigh this year and she has to learn that gentle kindness is the language of these creatures.
Another favorite in our household (though it’s led also to some conversations about never leaving the front yard with strangers!). It’s a great combination of magic/wonder and kindness with fantastic illustrations.
Adding a few titles that we’ve come across this Christmas and want to return to:
This was the book that we added to our collection this year. I love Barbara Brown Taylor and this book did not disappoint. It’s the story of the wisemen, told with fresh creativity and amazing illustrations. Check it out!
An old owl tells the story of Jesus’ birth and gathers all the birds to share the message. But the people don’t listen. “Tell it to the children” the owl says. And so the birds go around chirping the story to every child they see and the children begin to join hands, all around the world, to share what started as a whisper, “Let there be peace on earth.”
A mouse is born on a wintry night and the mama tries to find a warm place to keep her shivering baby. Ultimately, she ends up in the manger where Mary makes her feel at home, “What a wonderful night to be born.”
The tallest, oldest tree on the tree farm wishes to be a Christmas tree and it takes a forest full of friends to show him what a gift he is to all who have found shelter in/under his branches.
This is a delightful story that is told solely through illustration of an old woman who has very little and even that is stolen away, but the nativity comes to life to show love and care to her in this Christmas miracle.
A beautifully illustrated introduction for kids to the story of the Nutcracker.
A lighthouse family on a remote island finds its way to celebrate Christmas and receives a big surprise from the Flying Santa Service.
A true story of a migrant farm worker family struggling to make ends meet and the power of family bonds.