“Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” Move aside, electronics – this Christmas, we’d much prefer gathering by the fireplace with the kids while revisiting these holiday classics with a tall mug of hot chocolate and twinkling lights all around…
The Night Before Christmas
By Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Mary Engelbreit
The Night Before Christmas is a classic story that must be told annually — however, it is best told when accompanied by amazing illustrations! For this reason, it’s important to tell the story with Mary Englebreit’s edition, which includes cute and clever depictions of little elves and colourful trees, perfectly wrapped presents and a beautiful Santa Claus. There’s even a little game to play with the kids: see how many times the little mouse can be found. This book is such a sensation in our household that I usually stock up on this title and bring it to holiday parties as a host gift. Trust me, this is the BEST edition of Moore’s classic story.
The Gift of the Magi
By O’ Henry, illustrated by Shelley Freshman
The Gift of the Magi is another classic tale that should be told during the Christmas season. Of course, the story is old enough that a simple Google search will provide plenty of PDF versions since it’s in the public domain. What’s best is if you can find a beautifully illustrated edition, and if you ever happen upon Shelley Freshman’s copy, grab it fast! (I found some copies here on Alibris or here on Amazon!) While the story is so simple and special on its own, the black pen drawings of Freshman’s version make the tale come alive! Now for the story… The Gift of the Magi is the ironic story about the act of giving. Giving takes sacrifice, but this sacrifice is easy to commit for those we love. Della and Jim, a young married couple hopelessly in love, sacrifice their treasures in order to enhance what the other loves, yet in doing so the irony lies in each of their losses of their individual treasured items. Yes, it’s a tricky plot, but oh, it’s such a special story to tell each Christmas season. Because really, it’s all about giving isn’t it?
The Polar Express
By Chris Van Allsburg
This Christmas classic, which was adapted into a film in 2004 starring Tom Hanks, tells the story of a little boy’s magical Christmas Eve journey to the North Pole aboard The Polar Express. There he meets Christmas elves and Santa himself, who allows him to receive the first Christmas gift of the year. Gorgeously illustrated, this heart-warming story is a reminder to all of us, young and old, of the importance of the Christmas spirit and the magic of believing.
From the Bear Wants More series comes the Christmas version of the Bear Stays Up. Toddlers and early readers love the repetition of Wilson’s bear stories. The singsong that accompanies reading these tales helps for sleeping at bedtime or learning to read. Bear has a problem: it’s wintertime, and he’s ready to sleep. It’s his good animal friends though who are determined to keep him up this Christmas. In this Christmas story, friends are most important and the Christmas story is all about bringing the community together. Everyone adds his or her own part in contributing to the ultimate event, Christmas day. Of course, Santa Claus makes a guest appearance too, so look out for him!
By Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Sheffler
“I’m Stick Man, I’m Stick Man, I’M STICK MAN, that’s me!” Julia Donaldson has made the perfect travel story with Stick Man and Axel Scheffler has illustrated each and every scene perfectly. Poor Stick Man! He’s on an unexpected journey, yet he just wants to get home, home to the family tree. But as a stick, he’s bound to wander. He’s thrown for a dog, he lands in a river, he floats to the banks—on it goes, but meanwhile this determined stick just wants to get home to his family in time for a special day. Just when he’s about to burn up in flames as kindling for a fire, Stick Man is saved by the very best – Santa Claus himself!
Be prepared for a few tears with this very special Christmas (or should I say love) story. Jonathan Toomey is known in his village as Mr. Gloomy: he’s a depressed, old (but actually quite young) man who wears gloom on his face. Granted, he lost both his wife and young baby to illness, so there is an explanation to his grief. Enter a new young boy with his widowed mother to the village who strikes up an unexpected relationship with this village’s woodcarver as they visit him for a replacement to their lost nativity scene. By giving and finally receiving, all characters receive happiness in the end. This story is truly magical and will leave its readers with a warm and fuzzy feeling.
As parents we are always dispelling the notion at Christmas that “it is better to give than to receive.” For children however, understanding this concept isn’t always the easiest. In Auntie Claus, kids will be able to relate and ultimately see the value in giving. On a very wild adventure, niece Sophie follows her eccentric aunt to the North Pole. By working hard as an elf, she comes to realise the joy of giving when her brother makes the naughty list. The very thought of him not receiving any gifts instigates the biggest sacrifice of all — replacing her name with his. Now that’s giving!
In The Christmas Wish, the main character Anya sets out on a magical journey to become one of Santa’s elves. Her adventure to the North Pole is quite special with all sorts of animals leading her there, including a bright cardinal, a beautiful horse and a powerful polar bear. Once the reindeer shows up, you know you are close; turn the page, and there he is, Santa Claus! Anya, who’s kind and helpful to everyone all year long, makes a natural elf — as anyone could be if they set their mind to it.
Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama charmingly depicts the festivities that occur in a multi-religious family. There are menorahs and tree ornaments, cranberry kugel and fruitcake, dreidles and stockings all intermixed respectfully. The illustrations are bright and cheery in this picture book and both Christianity and Judaism are presented with utmost care. If anything, this book serves as a super education on the two religious holidays that occur in December while marrying Hanukkah and Christmas together in one family.
And let’s not forget the older kids! Here are our best chapter reads for Christmas…
If your child has read The Giggler Treatment, they were probably beside themselves with laughter. Now the fun continues in Rover Saves Christmas. Rudolph, Santa’s best reindeer, quits. He’s done. He’s not helping out for Christmas anymore. That definitely leaves Santa in a bind. In steps the dog Rover to save the day—in more ways than one. This book is hilarious. Readers will be laughing out loud — adults too with some over-their-head humor just for the older folk. And who doesn’t love it when a dog saves the day?
What would happen if Santa fell to Earth?! In this charming little story, many answers to some of Christmas’ puzzles are answered. Like, how do all the presents fit in one bag? Or why don’t we ever see the reindeer? And how could it be possible to deliver all those gifts in one night? Meanwhile Santa, because of a weak reindeer, does indeed fall to Earth, and it’s because of the help of children that he’s able to withstand the evil of the village where he landed. Leave it to the kids to battle the adults! Cornelia Funke is known for spinning fantastical tales, and in this book she has created a new magical Christmas story.
If you celebrate Christmas because you are a Christian and need a reminder about the reason for the season, then this hilarious and moving story is the book for you and your family. Basically, the worst bunch of kids in the entire world take over the Christmas pageant that takes place in the church year after year. With the Herdmans running the show, trouble is bound to ensue — or will the real meaning for celebrating Christmas come about? Kids who smoke cigars and curse their teachers could never teach the community a lesson, or could they? Be prepared to laugh through this one-hour read, and then in the end prepare for a couple of tears perhaps.
I hope these books are able to keep your family phone-free for at least a few hours on Christmas Day… happy reading!
Ann Krembs “Gets the Best Out of Life ” as detailed on her blog Kremb de la Kremb. Ann and her husband with their two kids (ages 10 and 12) have lived in Hong Kong for two and a half years now. The Kremb de la Kremb have been overseas for 18 years living in six different countries. While Ann isn’t writing on her blog, she’s an international educator working in libraries as the school’s librarian. As a working mom of two young adults, she’s privy to the juggling act of making sure everyone is happy–one way she does this is by embracing the city she lives in with her family.