December 8, 2011

More Books...

The list keeps getting longer, but I thought I'd give you the most updated post here. If you're counting down to Christmas with books, check to see if your library carries them. My library carries over half of these. 

I'll continue to add more reviews as we come across new ones :

A few of you have emailed, asking me for more details on a couple different advent activities.  I'm taking some new pics and sifting through old ones from last year so that I can show you what we did with the Handprint Nativity Animals and the shepherd's pouches in the next couple days. 

More details to come on those...but for's a repost of our Christmas Book Countdown/Book reviews from last year:

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 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.

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 denote with an"*" 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, I know I'll be thankful that I have it 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.

Joseph Slate
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.  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 it since they have a Veggie Tales Christmas CD with it on there, but they didn't seem to make the connection.  I would only check this one out again if I needed a filler book. Update: If I sing this instead of 'read' it...they LOVE it.

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 cheesy as 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.

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!

Jeannine Q. Norris
Our library had this one. We really enjoyed it.  I love that it's from Mary's perspective, who is in "awe" of her first baby but also in "awe" of Her King.  We talked about how though Jesus is God (so He is his mother's Savior, too) he was also her baby...a human.  It provoked lots of questions from my children as they really began to think about this.  The illustrations are beautiful and, being a mom, of course, I loved it since I could relate to how a new mother feels about her baby.  (I'd say if you have toddlers, wait until they're preschoolers who can begin to formulate questions and really dialogue about this's a great read, but the little, little ones may not enjoy it as much as my preschoolers did.  They are so many other simple books, for toddlers to understand and appreciate.)

Kate DiCamillo
The illustrations are BEAUTIFUL...they truly make this story. But even the pictures are not enough to make me recommend this book.  I was SO EXCITED when I saw that Kate DiCamillo had written a Christmas book.  My kids LOVE the Mercy Watson series.  They are obsessed. When we began reading Great Joy, it seemed like it was going to be such a cute story but the conclusion felt incomplete and left me wanting more.  She could have done so much with this storyline, but I was disappointed with the rushed conclusion.  I really had to coach my children through thinking about what may have happened in the end...they seemed confused.

Pauline Palmer Meek 
I found this OLD book at a garage sale.  I love the old, quirky pictures in this book. The angels are a bit scary, but maybe that's a pretty biblical illustration? I also love the way the author told this story...I wish this book wasn't so old so that it was more readily available...because I'm guessing it's out of print now...since it's been 40 years since it's been published. My kids really enjoyed it, too! If I came across it again at a garage sale, I would definitely pick it up for my nieces/nephews to add to their collections.

M. Christina Butler
This was a darling book about different animals seeing the Star of Bethlehem which leads them to the stable where Jesus is born.  It doesn't mention "Jesus" but the message is pretty clear. the illustrations...the very last page is a star that "twinkles" with lights. I think young children would enjoy this book up to around 1st graders or so. 

O. Henry
I didn't love this book...or the message it was sending. It did provoke some good discussion with the kids about how some people think Christmas is primarily about gifts. You can go read the reviews on Amazon to see if this is something you'd really may be a good read for older kids;  I just wanted to make a note not to check it out at the library next year.  

Tomie dePaola
I may need to retract my statement from last year's post regarding The Animal's Christmas Carol.  If I recall correctly, The Friendly Beasts is along the same premise.  Basically, when I read this I just "sang"  The Friendly Beasts carol, which my kids know well (and sang along, too) from The Incredible Singing  Christmas Tree. My kids asked to do it again and again they liked it so much.  I'll have to look back into The Animal's Christmas Carol because I do remember the pictures being beautiful.  Maybe they'd like it better than they did now that we all know that song well...?

Sally Lloyd-Jones
Cate got this for my kids for Christmas.  We haven't actually received it yet but I know my kids are going to love it.  It's by the same author of The Jesus Storybook Bible.  I previewed it on Amazon and it from what I can see (I don't know if any pages are even missing the preview?) it looks like a really cute book.  I know my kids are going to love how "all of creation" comes to meet their "Rescuer". 

I read this book at Meg's the other night.  It was so cute.  I definitely want to add it to our well as look into the other titles by this author.  She seems to about four other Christmas books that look really cute! (Good for Ages 2 and Up) I think I'm going to have to replace The Legend of the Christmas Tree (it's just too cheesy, though I love the "history" behind it...and my kids are just so disinterested...maybe I'll try again in a few years?) with this book and read it on the day we put up our tree.  The book describes the meaning behind various ornaments and symbols of Christmas in an easy to understand, captivating way.

(A little Golden Book)
Jane Werner
This is an old book that was first published in the 70's (I think.) It is an accurate re-telling of the Christmas story from Scripture, although not every part of the Christmas story is included in detail (Joseph wanting to divorce Mary and the Gabriel appearing to him)...but most of the text was taken directly from Scripture.  My kids enjoyed it.  This would be a great book to add to your collection, if you don't yet have a re-telling of the Christmas story from when Mary is greeted by the angel all the way until the wise men visit Jesus as a young child.

(A little Golden Book)
Gale Wiersum
This is another sweet, old book. This cute and clever book is retold by the animals that gather in a stable on Christmas Eve to re-tell the story of long ago, as they remember the Savior's birth. It's a counting book told in rhyme.  I got this at a garage sale, and will definitely be on the lookout for it to pass on to friends and family. I bet you can find a very inexpensive copy of this secondhand.

Gaby Goldsack
This book was an excellent surprise! My mom found it at a thrift store and sent it to us in the mail this December during our Christmas Book Countdown.  In my opinion, it's a better re-telling of the Christmas Story than The First Christmas (above).  We enjoyed the beautiful pictures, the rhythmic verse, and the detailed retelling of the traditional Christmas story from Gabriel appearing to Mary all the way to Joseph being warned to pack up his family and flee to Egypt.
Jean Little
Cute! My kids liked it. Read the book description from Amazon. A little too wordy for toddlers but my older kids (4 & 5) enjoyed it.

The Something Wonderful: A Christmas Story*

Karen Hill
A cute book that is published by Crossway...all the animals are busy preparing for 'the something wonderful" and start to get lost in the "hustle and bustle" of the preparation. 

Nancy Tafuri
Very simple. Very cute. The babies sat through it b/c they loved reciting the animal sounds. But even the bigs kids loved it for it's illustrations and simplicity.

Arthur Ginolfi
I checked this board book out from my library mainly for the babies. It was cute, but hey were bored with it. It didn't make enough of an impact to make me want to add it to our collection. If your library has it, check it out...and decide for yourself if you like it or would recommend it to a friend. There are so many other cute ones that I'd rather have in our collection.

Norma Farber
This book was so disappointing! The title was cute. The pictures were promising. It's a very simple story told in rhyme by just a few boring words. There is not much depth to this story.

Eve Bunting
My older kids loved the absolutely beautiful illustrations in this book, but at the same time I think they may have been a little too "fuzzy" for the younger two...they were uninterested.  The idea was cute...the storyline not carried out very well. I would check this out at the library, like we did, but not aspire to own it.

Marcus Pfister
We loved this book. Loved the illustrations. Loved the storyline. So cute. We'd be happy to add this to our permanent collection!

Pam Munoz Ryan
Again, this book started out, seeming so promising, but fizzled out just a few pages into it. My 5 year old looked at me after we read the last page and said, "Well...that was kinda lame." I thought so, too! The pictures were beautiful but, unfortunately, that's all I can really say about it.

The following books aren't related to the nativity, but we've enjoyed them, nonetheless:

Karma Wilson
We love all the "Bear" books, so once again, this one was a hit!

Paul Bright
For some reason, my kids LOVE this book. I think it's the way "Grumpy Badger"'s voice sounds when it's read aloud--they think it's hysterical. And, even more so, when Daddy reads it. 

Nancy White Carlstrom
My kids are big Jesse Bear it's no surprise that they enjoyed this one just like the rest.

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.

This just so happens to be the copy that we have, but the point really is to find any "12 Days of Christmas" that you can sing-(read) along with. I'm sure most will do, as long as they include the traditional lyrics. My kids make me read this several times a week during advent because they think singing to it is so much fun.

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!

You can see all my advent-related posts here.