Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Advent Traditions: Favorite Christmas Books for Children.

Since my oldest was a baby, we've read a Christmas book for each week day during the Advent Season. Some years, I've wrapped them, others I haven't had the time and they were still cherished.

Over the years, we've received many beautiful books and I hide them away until Advent. I also go now to my public library and church library before all the good books are gone; don't wait until after Thanksgiving! It doesn't matter to the children that we don't own the book, it is theirs for the day!!

So what am I seeking in our Christmas Books for Advent?

  • Beautiful and Truthful Illustrations. 

Pictures that evoke a sense of the beauty of God and His Creation. Since we want this past event to be believable for them, it is rare for cartoonish illustrations to convey the reality of this miracle. Now that we have more to choose from, I've also passed over books that don't stay true to Mary and Joseph's ethnicity.

  • Biblical Accuracy
Obviously, a key element but sadly, it's not always the case for books under the children's heading or the focus is not on Christ but ourselves. I want the story time to be fun and captivating but don't want to sacrifice the Truth of the Gospel Story even in small ways.

For my young ones, I also try to stay away from more imaginative tales which may confuse their understanding of the Truth of the Christmas story vs. legend/myth. This is obviously a gray area and as the children grow older it won't be as complex. They will hopefully love, as we do, how cultures make Christ's story their own and will read the stories as artifacts of culture which also contain truth or point to the Truth. (The Legend of the Poinsettia by dePaola, for example). But for now, there are so many good books to choose from, I'd rather skip a book about the legend of the candy cane or how the manger was built or what the mouse in the stable was thinking, as sweet and sentimental as they may be, if it might confuse them as to which stories we believe and which are make-believe.

  • Books which build the themes of Advent: Preparation, Welcome, Giving, Sacrifice, Anticipation, Salvation, the many!

  • Books which focus on the events leading up to the birth of Christ. 
I try to save books about the 12 days of Christmas and the Wise Men for the Christmas Season and Epiphany. I will also often stop a story at the birth of Christ and save the rest for after Christmas!

  • Books which set this season apart as a special time of year. 
I'm willing to throw in a completely Holiday/Winter Season book for a fun crafting/baking days. Jan Brett's Stories, the Nutcracker, Classic Christmas Stories, the Snowy Day.

Here are some of our favorite Christmas Book for Children for this year:

Product DetailsThe Story of Christmas by Jane Ray
This is a wonderful folk artist's rendition with words taken directly from Scripture. The reds, greens, and golds make it magnificent.

  • Unwrapping the Christmas Creche by Lisa Flinn and Barbara Younge. This story is from our church's library, while I wouldn't purchase this one, it is especially nice for those families who make a ritual of  seting out their creche each year. It walks you through the unpacking of each figure in the nativity scene. The tone conveys a sense of the anticipation of Advent. It ends, "I'm at the creche, too, because I believe. Here I am, ready and waiting!"
  •  The Story of Christmas by Felix Hoffmann. This is from our library and is only available on Amazon used. It is by a Swiss artist. The illustrations are thought-provoking: Mary's face at the Annunciation, the crowds in Bethlehem emphasized through the pencil sketches, Mary's tiredness and body after the birth, the look on the shepherd's faces. The illustrations convey dignity, tenderness, beauty, simplicity--a treasure.

Product DetailsTHE CHRIST CHILD AS TOLD BY MATTHEW AND LUKE by Maud and Mishka Petersham, written in 1931,is based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the KJV. The authors traveled to the Holy Land to create the pictures of the book. The illustrations are reverent and luminous. Quite a classic.

Product Details

What Can I Give Him? by Debi Gliori and Christina Georgina Rossettiis a book based on the Poem by Christina Rossetti.  "In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan..."

Product DetailsThe Beasts of Bethlehem by X. J. Kennedy and Michael McCurdy
Another book of poetry which breaks my rule of books which take on an animal character in the story! The basis for the poems is the Folk Legend that on Christmas Eve all of the beasts were blessed with the power of speach. But poetry allows for this type of imagination and these poems are beautiful and powerful. Each animal speaks according to his nature:

He came to conquer death
And yet his hands are small.

To warm Him in his stall,
I breathe my clover breath.

On Christmas Eve, the night unique,
They say we beasts find tongues to speak,

Yet at this crib I am so stirred
That, starring, I can say no word.

Lines from the Camel's verse after saying his rider's throat is parched after journeying through the desert,
"Who'd dream a Child could bring
End to long thirst?"

I am a beast of beard and twisted horn
That some think wicked. Now that Christ is born...

Come, let us kneel beside the barley cart
That He may choose which are pure in heart.

Here are books still on our Amazon wish-list:
Product Image Mouse Tales-Things Hoped For: Advent, Christmas, And Epiphany by Ruth L. Boling

Product Image Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider (Author), et al.

Product Image Jacob's Gift (Max Lucado's Christmas Collections) by Max Lucado (Author)

Product Image One Wintry Night by Ruth Graham

and if i can ever find it used since it is so expensive:

The Advent Book by Jack Stockman and Kathy Stockman

Other Fun Holiday Books:
Jan Brett's book set during the winter: The Hat, The Mitten, Twas the Night before Christmas
Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingills Wilder
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats for your first real snowy day with themed "Snow" activities and food

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and watch the film!

For more ideas, visit Elizabeth Foss's Advent Selections here and here.
I'd love to hear of your families treasured reads. Leave a comment or link below!


Barbara said...

What a great list, Amy! The only one I recognize is Jotham's Journey which we have. I'll have to look for the others. Our collection is scattered right now. Usually I keep it in a box with the Christmas CD's, but last year the kids asked to see the books after Christmas. I need to hunt the books down to see what we have. We do have about 4 or 5 copies of the St. Nick poem, all because I received a copy illustrated by Grandma Moses as a girl.

Amy said...

Thanks Barbara! The children have been so sad each year when the books are finally packed away at Epiphany, but it does make the books feel new again. Well, hopefully, like getting to great a good friend.
I also have a few good St. Nick books for his feast day but thought I'd keep him separated. The Grandma Moses edition looks lovely, I'll have to keep my eyes out. I noticed the Pennywise Thriftstore has their Christmas display up, have you been yet?

Barb said...

Unfortunately I haven't been able to venture that far on a Saturday. We have another busy Saturday this weekend with basketball, soccer, and football.

The kids and I had fun looking for our Advent and Christmas books. I forgot that I had several books of carols; time to learn songs! I put all the books on the bench in the living room and minutes later the baby had them on the floor.

I'll post my list this week.


Related Posts with Thumbnails