It’s the time of the year for wonderful books about the Christmas season. Here are some outstanding picture books, and fiction books, that would be great for all ages. I’ve organized these books into three categories: meaningful, traditional and humorous. I’ll begin with meaningful books.
Gifts of the Heart, by one of my favorite authors / illustrators: Patricia Polacco, truly tells of the greatest gifts we all can give – those which come from our hearts. Two youngsters desire to buy special gifts for their family but they don’t have much money. Their grandpa is sad because he must sell his beloved farm now that his wife has passed on. A sweet and compassionate housekeeper comes into their lives and inspires them to give a meaningful gift to all in the family. The children come up with an idea that might bring a tear to the reader. This beautifully written and illustrated picture book, with markers and pencil, will touch your soul.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas, and illustrated by Chris Raschka’s award-winning style with ink, torn paper and gouache, is a celebration of the days leading up to Christmas as the author relates his life growing up in Wales. He was a renowned Welsh poet and this recollection relates life in the early 20th century. The beautiful imagery and poetic flow of the words evoke memories of childhood long past. This smallish size picture book is a must for reading out loud.
The True Gift, by Patricia MacLachlan, and with wonderfully drawn illustrations with graphite and ebony pencil sprinkled throughout by Brian Floca, was first published in 2009. I reviewed it back then and it continues to be one of my very favorite books to read out loud to my family. Every Christmas time, two siblings, Liam and Lily, visit their grandparents’ farm and help them decorate it and get ready for the holiday. But upon arrival, Liam notices there is only one white cow in the pasture. He’s sure this cow is lonely and sets out to sell his precious books and put up signs asking for help to give this cow a companion. The story is about sacrifice and selfless giving which is what we all need to remember. It’s a smallish size fiction book that is geared for ages 7 and up – but perfect for all family members.
Nickel Bay Nick, by Dean Pitchford, is a mystery and exciting fiction book geared for ages 8 and up. Sam is very upset. His father’s bakery is going bankrupt and his mom is spending time with her new husband’s family over Christmas. He takes out his anger by breaking windows at an abandoned warehouse. But he gets discovered when he falls from a tree and ruins his neighbors’ Christmas decorations. This is when he is about to be caught up in a seven-year-old secret about the town’s Christmas Samaritan, Nickel Bay Nick, who usually would give $100 bills to families around town. But this year he’s suddenly gone missing. Now the fate of the town rests on him. Sam is about to learn some important lessons about what’s really important in life. Better give yourself time to read this book, because once started, you won’t want to stop!
Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish, by Rebecca Harry, is a beautifully painted picture book that has shiny foil imbedded on every picture bringing out the icy coverings of snow. This is a story of selflessness and giving that brings out a great message at Christmas. A small bunny feels lonely and asks Santa for a friend, but misses the “Red Robin” mail pickup. So she decides to deliver it herself. But as she travels to the North Pole she comes across many animals in need and she doesn’t hesitate but helps immediately. The sweet message will prevail with all ages.
The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Emma Thompson, and perfectly painted which matches the original tales by Eleanor Taylor, is a delightful tale that keeps to the tradition of the mischievous behavior of Peter and his cousin Benjamin Bunny. Both bunnies are asked to collect needed items for their mothers for Christmas. But when they bump into William, a great and confident turkey, they see that he is about to be served at the Farmer McGregor’s Christmas meal. How they go about to prevent this is a delight! There’s also a CD included which is read by Ms. Thompson.
The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Susan Jeffers, is a richly illustrated version of this traditional song. The richly painted pictures cover full pages and the watercolor paintings evoke a feeling of an old-fashioned imagery. This picture book would be perfect to have children recite or sing the pages or retell without using the traditional verses.
The Night Before Christmas, beautifully painted with watercolor and ink by Holly Hobbie, and based on the popular poem by Clement C. Moore, is a picture book that embodies this well-known story with full-page spreads of gorgeous settings throughout. The minute detail in each picture will have listeners beg for re-reads again and again.
Tallulah’s Nutcracker, by Marilyn Singer, and painted with a variety of beautiful watercolors by Alexandra Boiger, is a picture book about the excitement when Ballet-crazed Tallulah is chosen to be a mouse in a professional production of The Nutcracker. She has a mishap on stage but all turns out well when others gather around her in support and friendship. Be sure to check out the end-pages, front and back, along with ballet terms sprinkled throughout.
Zoomer’s Out-of-This-World Christmas, by Ned Young, is a silly tale about Zoomer, the pup, and his brothers but there is some goodwill included. While they are outside anxiously waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus, a spaceship crashes into their yard. Unique-looking aliens come out and all begin to have a good time when the alien father discovers that his spaceship was damaged during landing. Zoomer gives up a treasured tricycle to help them return to their planet. The illustrations are bright and showcase the importance of sharing and selflessness.
Santa Claus and the Three Bears, by Maria Modugno, and painted with gouache and watercolors by Jane and Brooke Dyer, has a different twist to the traditional folktale. Once the three bears leave their house for a walk, Santa Claus comes in to deliver presents, but the house is so inviting he begins to taste the Christmas pudding, sit in the chairs and eventually take a nap. This fun picture book will be received with giggles.