December 12, 2010

Our Christmas Booklist

Like I mentioned in my previous post, the kids and I unwrap a book each day during the month of December as we count down to Christmas.  There are many "holiday" books out there, but it's harder to track down some sweet, gospel-centered children's books (for younger children) that are more about preparing their hearts for the birth of our Savior.  Or is it? I thought that it was a daunting task, but over the last year, as I've done some research and between garage saling, thrifting, and the surprisingly good selection that our library has to offer (I just returned 6 books to the Bryan library yesterday, so if you're in the area, you can have a chance to enjoy these, too) we've found a good number of books to add to our rotation.

Here's what I posted last year about how it all works:


Though we're not "doing Santa" we still want our kids to experience the anticipation, excitement, wonder, awe, and use their imagination and creativity for this most special time of the year as we celebrate our Savior. I found a cute idea (and now, of course, I cannot recall where I found it. I just know that I aimlessly happened upon was a stranger's blog. Yes. I'm guilty of being one of those creepy lurkers.) that I knew my kids would LOVE!

And since I can't find it, I will just have to show you mine. The inspiration...with a few of my own spins:

Gather 25 children's Christmas books.

Wrap them.

And place them in a basket (that normally houses your library books) under your tree. Let the kids choose one book to unwrap and read each day in December.

But wait...there's more.

Designate the Christmas story for the "Do NOT open until Dec. 25" book. Yes, you can see through this paper. Charlie asked why I wrapped it like that. "Because we don't want this story to be kept a secret. It's the greatest story ever told. We want everyone to be able to know about it."

********************** now that you know how it's a list of books that we have really enjoyed.  I will try and give a brief summary or review of the ones that we've read so far and an * with denote if I think it's worth adding to your collection.  I hope this serves to give you some sweet stories to share with your children, as it will also serve me when I am trying to plan our booklist for next December! 

Disclaimer: Some of these re-tellings of the Christmas story are not completely accurate compared to Scripture. The following two mistakes are often made: 1. Mary and Joseph were not married (Luke 1:27) 2. The wise men came to see Jesus at the home of Mary and Jesus, not at the stable. (Matthew 2:11). Both of these mistakes happen often in the retelling of the real Christmas story, but I wanted to let you know that before purchasing, you may want to check into it if it bothers you, because I don't ALWAYS include that in my "reviews".  This does not, often, bother me about most "Christmas books", I think it can be a great teaching moment to remind your children of the truth from Scripture.  I just don't like it when a story claims to be "The Christmas Story" and it's not entirely truthful.
This is a cute, simple story where the "stable" animals are preparing for Jesus to come stay at their house. We have this in a boardbook, and is great for itty bitty ones to young children.

Rhonda Gowler Greene
This is a simplified version of the story of Christ's birth with beautiful pictures introducing the "stable characters" in repeating rhyme. I love that it is not too advanced for toddlers but still appealing for the parent that will read this over and over.  

The Manger Where Jesus Lay*

Martha Larchar
This is very similar to the book above, but I don't mind having both in my collection! 
 Each page adds a new line, with a key word represented by a picture. Once my kids saw each picture, they were able to recite the entire sentence and "read" along with me.  They love this book because of that!

Christmas in the Manger*

Nola Buck
This is a sweet board book to add to your collection IF you are just starting this tradition as your family if this is your first or second baby or toddler and you plan on having more children, I would recommend it, but I'd pass if you youngest child is 3 or over.  It is simple and sweet, but there are still other books that I'd rather add to my collection, or maybe you could see if your library had it?

Maggie Barfield
This is similar to the three books above this on the list. (And my kids enjoyed it.)  It is sweet, simple and makes a great read-aloud.  I would recommend it over Christmas in the Manger because it had more depth, but I don't feel it's necessary to add all of these to your collection because of how similar they are to one another, unless you just find all of these for $1 or less. 

One Shining Star: A Christmas Counting Book*

Anne Vittur Kennedy
This is a GREAT book to have if you have little ones.  It is a sweet, Christmas counting book with really cute illustrations.  My kids love helping me count the items in each picture.

We check this one out from our library, so we don't need to purchase it, but it's one that's worth adding to your collection permanently if you can find it second hand if your library doesn't carry it.  Kind Ox slowly makes room for more and more animals to share his stable on a cold winter's night and finally the animals make room for a donkey, who, of course, is carrying Mary great with child as they make room for THE "little one who came for the world."
Will Hillenbrand
This is a cute book for little ones that, once again, I would add to our collection if our library didn't carry it, about Baby Owl who asks his Momma Owl lots of questions about the Holy Child, who came from the Heavenly Father, sleeping in their stable.  My kids enjoyed this is especially good for preschoolers.

If I hadn't gotten this at a garage sale for a quarter, this would not be one that I would be spending my "Christmas book budget" on.  The illustrations are beautiful and the villagers are awakened by shepherds who are bidding, "Come see, Come out and see." The entire village gathers to worship and rejoice as Jesus is born...though, the name Jesus is never mentioned.  It's great for a supplemental book, and since we have so many other Christ-centered books in our collections, I enjoy it.  If your library has it, I would still encourage you to check it out, but not to necessarily run out and buy this book.

I'd gotten this at a consignment shop for fifty cents, and once again, this is not one that I would spend more than that on.  It is cute and I love the adorable illustrations, but it's not an accurate retelling of the Christmas story.  It's still cute, but  I would not want this to be the only source of the Christmas story that my kids were learning.

Fear Not, Joseph!
Julie Stiegemeyer 
This was a surprise find at our library and I really enjoyed this re-telling of the familiar Christmas story from Joseph's point of view and how we were constantly reminded to, "Fear Not," but to trust the Lord.  I would definitely add this one to my collection later on, as my children grow older.  This was a harder one (since it was longer) for McKlayne to stay interested in, but Asher was engaged most of the time.

The Christmas Pageant
Jacqueline Rogers
This was another great surprise find from our library!  The text is almost completely, if not completely, from the gospels of Matthew and Luke and is the re-telling of the Christmas story while the illustrations show the children performing in their Christmas Pageant.  What we really enjoyed about this book was how every couple pages, at appropriate breaks in the story, the page had a verse or two of about 6 or 7 traditional Christmas carols: Hark the Harold Angels Sing, Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem, We Three Kings, Joy to the World, etc.  My kids liked that I would stop and sing these throughout the book and we used this as a guide to help us insert songs as we plan for our Christmas Day reading of The Christmas Story.

Animals Christmas Carol 

Helen Ward

We got this book from our library.  The illustrations are beautiful but I wasn't too impressed with the story told from the animal's viewpoint.  It is based on the Carol of the Friendly Beasts.  My kids happen to know if since they have a Veggie Tales Christmas CD with it on there, but they didn't seem to make the connection.  I don't remember them ever mentioning Jesus or who He is.  This, again, would just be supplemental and I would only check this one out again if I needed a filler book.

This is SUCH a cute book that I would love to add to our permanent collection!  It's great for young children to intermediate.  The Christmas story, from the sheep's perspective, is told by Grandpa Wooly, a sheep who is retelling the Christmas story of three curious sheep who followed the shepherds, to his young grandsheep.  It's a super cute book, HOWEVER, we checked this out from our library in BOARDBOOK and I would NOT purchase it that way. I would want to buy it with the full version b/c the board book has too many words crammed onto a page with very few/small pictures.  That is my only complaint.  If you're buying online, the full version of this book should be 8x8 inches and contain 44 pages, not 32.

Rick Osbourne

The storytelling was a little bit cheese are the author lays on the adjectives a little thick but my kids didn't seem to notice.  We enjoyed this story and I would add this to my collection BUT would not pay full price for this book.  I have no idea how entirely accurate this is, since I have not researched my history of the Christmas tree :) but this "legend" definitely pointed to Christ and I appreciated that. (Great for young-older children...this held Asher's attention, but McKlayne was a little fidgety through this.)

Lori Walburg

I enjoyed this story much more than the one above.  I loved the emphasis of Jesus in this book as it talks about how the colors of the candy cane symbolize his death and his purity through his death.  We ate candy canes while reading this book, so McKlayne was much more still during this one, but I would say that it is also suitable for older children. 

An Angel Came to Nazareth*

Maggie Kneen
I REALLY like this book and would definitely add it to my collection (if I didn't already own it) as it is great for young to probably even older children.  My kids ask to read this one over and over.  An angel approaches four animals in Nazareth and asks them who of the four travelers they'd like to carry, warning them to choose wisely for one will carry the greatest of them all.  The strongest animal chooses the brave soldier and all the way down until the donkey is left to choose Mary.  It is a sweet story that I can't recommend enough!

Christmas in the Barn

Margaret Wise Brown
(This is an updated edition with new cover/illustrations...the original is very old.)
I normally love most of Brown's book and this was a cute one, but not compared to all the other ones to choose from to buy for your own collection.  If you're familiar with The Big Red Barn, it reminded me a lot of that.  Once again, this is one that we checked out from our library, so I would check it out again if we needed another book to fill in, but wouldn't spend my money on buying our own copy.

Franklin's Christmas Gift*

Pauletter Bourgeois 
This book is obviously not any re-telling of the Christmas story, but I knew my kids would like it because they love Franklin books.  And, I actually LOVED the message of this book! Franklin must decide which of his old toys is special enough to be given away to a child who may only receive one toy for Christmas.  This would be a great book to use as a "prep" if you're cleaning out toys for a toy drive, etc.  It can encourage much discussion on thinking of the least of these and loving others, if you take the opportunity.

Dandi Mackall
I love this book, told from the lowly Shepherd's perspective of how Angels could have appeared to kings, nobles, religious leaders, or rabbi's-but God had chosen to reveal such news to humble, uneducated, commoners.    This book is great for young-older children...not itty bitties, but if you see it for a good price, I'd grab it and save's that good...and it won't be long before your itty bitty is  BIG!

That's all for now...I will continue to update this list as we unwrap more books! Happy reading!  And, feel free to chime in with any good book recommendations!


Jennifer :) said...

I just LOVE your blog. I'm going to have to remember to go back and review all the great ideas you have for when my baby girl gets older! :)

Hope you're feeling good!

Megan said...

We definitely "borrowed" this idea from you this year! We aren't doing a book everyday (because I couldn't get my act together and gather them all). But, I am going to try to do this same kind of post with the books we do have once we finish them.

Can't wait to see what other books y'all are reading so I can start collecting for next year! :)

The Allens said...

I just LOVE this idea of Christmas books and plan on using it next year! Thank you so much for posting all the books and your reviews on them! I hope/plan to start collecting through this next year!

Looking fwd to seeing what your other books are! :)

Josh and Ricci said...

I saw this idea while lurking somewhere, too, so you're not alone. I think it's a great idea to do with your kids!

Have you ever read "Humphrey's First Christmas?" I mean, I obviously think it's cute because the camel has our last name, but it is about a camel who travels with the 3 kings to see baby Jesus.