Sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE
Each year I introduce some of the current year’s new Christmas books. This year’s selections include some amazing stories, a few that are just fun, others will strengthen testimonies of Christ, and some are filled with great ideas for family home evenings. One even includes recipes for Christmas treats. All share some aspect of the Christmas miracle. Books make wonderful gifts, they are a welcome respite from shopping, cleaning, and baking before Christmas, they solve the “What should I give my home/visiting teaching families?” question, and many of these books will help form traditions that strengthen families.
THE PERFECT GIFT by various authors
A fun way to count down the twelve days to Christmas is to read a story a day from The Perfect Gift. Twelve well-known LDS authors have compiled a collection of true Christmas stories drawn from their own lives. Each shares an experience that brought them closer to understanding the message and mission of the Savior. The collection begins with a story by A.L. Sowards that includes a mix-up in airline plans for a young woman traveling alone with a newborn and a toddler and concludes with another disastrous airline trip involving a flight from Salt Lake to Wales by Sian Ann Bessey who was traveling with her baby to visit her parents and have some needed surgery for a paralyzed vocal chord that left her unable to speak above a hoarse whisper.
In between are delightful stories of Christmas in July, The Christmas Calf, and many more including a lesson on the importance of receiving instead of giving.
THE PERFECT GIFT by A.L. Sowards, Anita Stansfield, Breanna Olaveson, Ellen Fay Belnap, Ganel-lyn Condie, Jennifer Moore, Krista Lynne Jensen, Meg Johnson, Melanie Jacobson, Pamela Carrington Reid, Sandra Grey and Sian Ann Bessey. Published by Covenant Communications, 121 pages, soft cover $6.99.
CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM THE PRESIDENTS
Each year since 1923 the President of the United States has addressed the people with a Christmas message and the lighting of a national Christmas tree. Some of the messages were extremely short and some were much more extensive, but each touched on the major issues of the time. In this short book those messages are a reminder of our nation’s history and the men chosen by the people to lead it. The book is also a treasure trove of photos of the various presidents and their families.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, President during World War II, included in his remarks: “Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies . . .”
In 1945 Truman added, “Let us not forget that the coming of the Saviour brought a time of long peace to the Roman World. It is, therefore, fitting for us to remember that the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of peace, of love, of charity to all men. From the manger of Bethlehem came a new appeal to the minds and hearts of men: ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower reminded the people “More precisely than in any other way, prayer places freedom and communism in opposition, one to the other.”
John F. Kennedy in 1962 remarked in his address that “We mark the festival of Christmas which is the most sacred and hopeful day in our civilization.”
Following on the heels of the assassination of President Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Our need for such faith was never greater, for we are the heirs of a great trust. In these last two hundred years we have guided the building of our Nation and our society by those principles and precepts brought to earth nearly 2000 years ago on that first Christmas.”
And so on down through the years, each President spoke of the hope for peace, the brotherhood of men, and referenced in some way the birth of the Christ Child.
CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM THE PRESIDENTS, Book design by Shadow Mountain, published by Shadow Mountain an imprint of Deseret Book, 88 pages, hardcover $14.99. Also available for eReaders.
THE GIFTS OF CHRISTMAS Written by Kathryn Jenkins Gordon
The gifts of Christmas is a small book that may not catch the eye at first glance with its simple white cover, but it carries twenty-five thought provoking messages that will stay with the heart. It suggests Christmas can become a more spiritual holiday through preparing a gift for the Savior and presents inspiring ideas for that gift such as keeping the Sabbath holy, serving others, being kind, attending the temple, and others. Readers are encouraged to write down the gift they will give throughout the coming year. This is also the kind of book that could be used to prepare for Christmas by reading one double page each day as a family or an individual. Each double page contains a scriptural reference and an inspirational message for a specific gift. It is beautifully written and generously includes the words of prophets both old and from our own time. It is a great way to thank the Savior for his many gifts to each of us.
Kathryn Jenkins Gordon is the managing editor of Covenant Communications. She is also a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother.
THE GIFTS OF CHRISTMAS, WHAT WILL YOU GIVE TO THE SAVIOR? Written by Kathryn Jenkins Gordon, Designed by Michelle Fryer, Published by Covenant Communications. 56 pages, hardcover $14.99.
12 DAYS OF CATMAS by Jeff Collyer & Steve Acheson (Illustrator)
Children’s book? Perhaps! But anyone who has ever lived with a cat at Christmas time will appreciate Percy the cat. This story with delightful illustrations counts down the twelve days to Christmas with the mischief and havoc a kitty can bring to decorations (those shiny balls are begging for a cat to roll them about), packages under the tree have those bows that need untied, trees are made for climbing, aren’t they? and candy canes for licking. In a busy household preparing for Christmas, no one can watch the cat every minute, and Percy is talented at finding those unguarded moments to celebrate Christmas his own way.
Jeff Collyer was born in Australia and after short stints in Chile and the USA, he settled in Northern England. He is married and has four children.
12 DAYS OF CATMAS by Jeff Collyer & Steve Acheson (Illustrator), published by Aelurus Publishing.
REMEMBRANCE by Carolyn Frank
Remembrance is the third book in the Quantum Faith Effect trilogy by Carolyn Twede Frank, but it stands alone well and has a strong Christmas message. Written for young adults, it combines a teenage romance with a stronger theme of standing up for religious and traditional values. Josh has enough on his mind with his lack of funds, his mother’s recent bout with cancer, his domineering father, a new school, and a new girlfriend. Christmas is coming, but everywhere he looks he sees little concerning Christ. Even his school has received orders to drop singing The Hallelujah Chorus as part of the Christmas program. Instead they’re going to sing Grandma got run over by a Reindeer. He’s supposed to write a report about Handel, who happens to be the composer of The Hallelujah Chorus. Instead of reading the biography of Handel’s life he pays a visit to his girlfriend’s uncle, an eccentric scientist, who has invented a machine he calls a literary loom. In the machine, Josh becomes a character in the book and passes quickly through the pages of the book getting a firsthand look at the story and events. Following this experience Josh gets involved in bringing back the school’s traditional program finale. In the process he befriends a strange, homeless classmate, organizes a covert rebellion, grows closer to his girlfriend, and travels through two other books on the loom. In the process he learns valuable lessons concerning maintaining cultural and religious traditions for all people.
Carolyn Frank developed a successful international company designing puppets and educational curriculums which she sold in 2009. She now devotes her time to her five children and writing. She, her husband, and children make their home in Utah.
REMEMBRANCE by Carolyn Twede Frank, Published by Trifecta Books, eReader 868 KB, $.99 during new release promotion.
A LETTER TO MARY by Jason F. Wright with photography by Kodie E. Wright
Jason Wright is well known for his previous Christmas book, Christmas Jars, and a dozen other books. This small book is an imaginary letter from Jesus to his mother, Mary, expressing His love and gratitude for her role in His life and mission. The message is sweet, but the use of different fonts , colors, and sizes of lettering gives a messy, cluttered look to the pages. The photos are strong, vibrant and are reason alone to buy and share this book as a gentle reminder of the reason behind this Christmas season.
Jason Wright is well known as a speaker, columnist, and best-selling author. He is probably best known as the author of Christmas Jars. Kodi E. Wright, his wife is an award-winning professional photographer. they with their children live in Virginia.
Published by CFI an imprint of Cedar Fort Publishing, 64 pages, hard cover $14.99. Also available for eReaders.
SHEPPARD’S LAST LAMB by Annalisa Hall with illustrations by Alex Worthen
Sheppard is a small boy who is assigned to play the part of a shepherd in his ward’s Primary Christmas pageant. The problem is he’s supposed to provide his own sheep and he doesn’t know where to get them. The story is a take-off on seeking the lost lamb. As he rounds up a dozen lambs he learns what it means to be a good shepherd. This cute, but simple, story is written for very young children and is primarily told with charming, fun pictures. It’s a gentle reminder of the need to be helpful, kind, and the worth of the individual.
Annalisa Hall is a graduate of Brigham Young University. She, with her husband and three children, lives in California. Alex Worthen resides in Idaho and is a recognized wildlife artist.
Published by Bonneville Books an imprint of Cedar Fort Publishing, 32 pages, hard cover $14.99. Also available for eReaders.
CAITLYN’S CHRISTMAS WISH by Laura L. Walker
Caitlyn’s Christmas Wish is a short, contemporary romance Romance readers will love. Reel and her son, Brodie, have been invited to spend Christmas with her former in-laws. She always had a good relationship with her ex-husband’s family and accepts so they can get to know their grandson better. It doesn’t take long for her to see she picked the right family, but the wrong son. Her former brother-in-law is kind and welcoming and quickly establishes a trusting relationship with her small son. All appears to be going well until her ex, Grant, shows up. He soon makes it clear he wants Caitlyn back and is willing to give fatherhood a try. Caitlyn suspects Grant is motivated by something other than tender feelings for her, but what can she do? She can’t deny him a relationship with his son.
Ridge doesn’t trust his brother and knowing Caitlyn, a former model from a well-to-do family, is wealthy in her own right and her son inherited a large trust fund, arouses his suspicions.
Laura L. Walker has a degree in elementary education. She with her husband and children make their home in Arizona.
Caitlyn’s Christmas Wish is self published and distributed by Amazon Digital Services, 123 pages. Available for eReaders $.99.
AWAY IN A MANGER music and art by various authors and artists
Away in a Manger is a book to treasure for many Christmases to come. Each page is a phrase from the all time favorite Christmas carol attributed to Martin Luther. The facing pages contain art work of the nativity by some of the best artists of the Christian world such as Simon Dewey, Mark Missman, Joseph F. Brickey, Liz Lemon Swindle, Roger Loveless, Jay Bryant Ward, David Lindsley, and Dan Freed. In addition to the amazing art work, the sheet music for both versions of the song is included along with a CD containing five beloved Christmas carols. This is a book to be enjoyed by all ages in the days leading up to Christmas as well as throughout the year.
AWAY IN A MANGER, work by various artists and musicians, 35 pages, soft cover $10.99, Includes CD.
EXPRESSIONS OF JOY, Art by Madelynne Brown Broyles and LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE, Art by Jamie Ray Adams
Two very different style books have been introduced for Christmas this year. Both are coloring books for adults/teens. Expressions of Joy is a collection of detailed drawings and scriptures focusing on The Book of Mormon. Live, Laugh, Love is inspirational pictures with scriptures to color from the King James version of the Bible. Both are stress releasers for the pre-Christmas season and provide a fun and relaxing way to focus on a single brief scripture. They also will be great gifts for those who like to multi-task while watching TV or who miss the simple pleasure of turning a sketch into a colorful picture.
EXPRESSIONS OF JOY, Art by Madelynne Brown Broyles and LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE, Art by Jamie Ray Adams, published by Walnut Springs Press, 64 pages each, soft cover $12.99.
THE MIRACLE MAKER, Written by Ann Acton, Illustrated by Dan Burr
In a gloomy little village where there is little hope a message comes that the Miracle Maker is coming to their village. Everyone shows up to watch for his arrival. They expect a grand personage arrayed in expensive robes. Instead a humble man carrying a chicken is the only newcomer to arrive. Discouraged they return to their homes. This quiet man who appears in need of a miracle himself sets in motion a revolution of kindness one to another. He creates beauty where once there were only rocks. Where there was indifference he plants the seeds of concern for one another. The art work is beautiful and captures precisely the emotions on the faces of the villagers.
Ann Acton with her husband and children lives in Washington State while Dan Burr has a fine arts degree from Utah State University and a master’s from Syracuse University. He and his wife live in Tetonia, Idaho, and are the parents of two children.
THE MIRACLE MAKER, Written by Ann Acton and illustrated by Dan Burr, published by Covenant Communications, 30 pages, hardcover $14.99.
WE BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS, Written by M. Weber Longoria, Artwork by Mark Missman and Dona Gelsinger
We Believe in Christmas is a collection of amazing art work with each piece of art accompanied by a brief poem drawing attention to a Christmas tradition or story to bring the reader nearer to our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, such as: We believe in Christmas bells that chime for all to hear, filling hearts with peace on earth and drawing heaven near. This is a book the whole family will enjoy both for the reminder of various tradition’s connections to the nativity story and for the sheer beauty of the artwork.
Both artists were drawn to fine art at an early age and have gone on to become exemplary portrayers of spiritual art work.
WE BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS, Written by M. Weber Longoria, Artwork by Mark Missman and Dona Gelsinger. Published by Covenant Communications, 40 pages, hardcover $12.99.
SEEKING CHRISTMAS by Larry and Lisa Laycock with Ryan and Larissa Chase
Looking for Family Home Evening ideas or just a way to gain a deeper appreciation of the symbols and traditions of Christmas? Seeking Christmas is eighteen ideas for just this. Each symbol (tree, stars, lights, Santa, stockings, nativity, etc.) has its own chapter which begins with a beautiful picture of the symbol followed by an explanation of how that item became a Christmas symbol and how it connects to the Christ Child and the celebration of His birth. Next comes suggestions for teaching the family of its significance and activities centered on the symbol. And finally a page is devoted to a recipe connected to the symbol to make as a family, serve to the family, or share with neighbors.
The Laycocks, parents of four children, recently returned from the Chile Santiago East Mission where he served as Mission President. He is an attorney and she retired early from teaching high school English and coaching dance. Ryan Chase served a mission in Sao Paulo Brazil, and is currently the director of operations at the advertising agency, Chase Marketing Group. Larissa is a school counselor. They have two children.
SEEKING CHRISTMAS by Larry and Lisa Laycock with Ryan and Larrissa Chase, published by Covenant Communications, 119 pages, hardcover $19.99.
THE CHRISTMAS LIST by Ed J. Pinegar
The Christmas List is a follow up to Pinegar’s previous Christmas book The Christmas Code. The book stands alone well enough that it is not essential to read the earlier book to enjoy this one. This story takes place a few years after Mr. G’s passing and begins with his grandson reading the old man’s journal. In it he discovers a code called “10 Ways to Capture the Christmas Spirit.” After deciphering the code he decides to get all of the people who knew Mr. G and were closest to him together again and challenge them to experiment by trying out Mr. G’s 10 Ways. As they experiment with being grateful, forgiving, helpful and living more like the Savior they gain new insights concerning the challenges they each face in their personal lives.
Ed J. Pinegar is the author of more than sixty nonfiction books, audio books, and talks. He and his wife have eight children and are grandparents of thirty-eight children and great grandparents to twenty-four children.
THE CHRISTMAS LIST by Ed J. Pinegar, published by Covenant Communications, 111 pages, paperback $7.99. Also available for eReaders.
As an extra bonus I’ve added two fun and touching Christmas DVDs, The Christmas Project and Christmas Dress.
Christmas Dress is based on a long time favorite Christmas story of a poor family living far from the nearest town who are awaiting a package from the mother’s sister. A severe storm prevents the timely arrival of the package carrying the few gifts the children are to receive for Christmas, but when it arrives at the post office late Christmas Eve the postmaster and his son set out in a blizzard to deliver it.
The Christmas Project sets Matthew Buckley’s (Marion Jenson) family of boys in the peculiar position of feuding with the bullying Hagbart family by day and sneaking around at night to deliver Secret Elf treats for them. (The treats are Mom’s Idea.) When the Hagbart boy does the unthinkable, Matthew wants to get even, but will he remember the lesson he’s been taught “to good to those who hate him?” This delightful comedy will be enjoyed by the whole family.
Both DVDs are produced by Covenant Communications. The Christmas Project, 91 min., $12.09 Christmas Dress, 27 min., $5.99