A Christmas (Reading) List

All Images: Sarah Pinault

In Iceland, it is a tradition to exchange books on Christmas Eve, Jolabokaflod, and spend the evening reading. In America, some people wrap 24 or 25 books for December to count down the days in Advent. Some people read The Night Before Christmas every year on Christmas Eve. In our house, we need no excuse to buy books; it’s more a way of life than a tradition, though I admit we are starting Jolabokaflod this year! Just as we have a carefully curated collection of Thanksgiving books for all ages, we also have a collection of Christmas books. Every year we add one or two more books to our collection—last year it was Llama Llama Jingle Bells, this year, well we added several.

The Crayons’ Christmas by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

My son has long been a fan of Oliver Jeffers, especially the artwork he provides for the crayon books. The Crayons’ Christmas combines three of his loves: Crayon books, Christmas books, and books with pockets with things inside them, a la Jolly Christmas Postman. Upon finishing this book, my seven-year-old proclaimed, “I like everything about it, and I don’t not like anything.” The book continues the story of the peach crayon, who was left wrapper-less in the previous book. It comes with all kinds of structural gimmicks, including a board game and a pop-up Christmas tree.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

Even if you do not read it at Christmas every year, every household should have a copy of this famous poem by Clement C. Moore. From this poem, we get much of our mythology concerning Santa and his reindeer. Almost 200 years later it is as vibrant and entertaining as always. There are many versions of this poem, illustrated in many fashions. This one illustrated by Roger Duvoisin we acquired this year, mostly because I fell in love with the opening view from the window and with the coloring of each scene.

Peppa Pig and the Christmas Play

There are a few characters that we try and keep in our reading pile, and so have a nice selection of seasonal offerings already: Llama Llama, Little Critter, and Peppa Pig. This year’s Christmas book from the creators of Peppa Pig concerns the school nativity play. It’s not something that’s common in the US, but in England, they are in every school. I myself played Mary as a shy and retiring 6-year-old. I still recall being told to smile “coyly” and not knowing what on earth that meant. Now that I understand, I’m not sure why they needed Mary to be coy. In Peppa’s story, you don’t get the story of the nativity, you get the story of how Santa is supposed to be coming to their Christmas play. Like Peppa or loathe Peppa, it doesn’t really matter because the kids love everything this little pig does.

Little Robin’s Christmas by Jan Fearnley

This book was published in 1998 but is new to us this year as a result of being published in the US for the first time. It speaks to my heart song on so many levels. Little Robin is joyously preparing for Christmas, with his many vests laid out and ready to wear each day leading up to Christmas. I myself have a wide variety of Christmas sweaters I try and wear throughout December. However, each day he comes across a chilly friend in need, and so happily gives up his beloved Christmas vests one by one, to help keep them warm. Will he remain cold on Christmas day? Now that would be telling.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

We have two versions of this book: the original picture book with no words and the revised storybook version with Santa added in per the TV special. Either of these makes for a good dramatic storytelling. Though your children will instantly want to build a snowman. The story tells what I suppose is an English version of Frosty the Snowman, in which a boy builds a snowman who then comes to life. It was brought to life in the 1980s in animated form, which if you haven’t seen, you should see immediately.

Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

For us, this is the perennial classic and is perfectly suited to the throwaway culture that we find ourselves living in. The Christmas tree that Mr. Willoughby has purchased is too tall for his house, so he lops off the top and throws it away. It is found by Baxter the butler who takes it to the maid. It is too tall for her room, so she lops off the top and throws it away. This continues down until almost nothing is left. In the end not a scrap of the tree is wasted, as people’s different needs are met by the same tree.

Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas by Lillian and Russell Hoban

This was not a Christmas movie I grew up with in England, but my husband did, and now my children do. There was much excitement in our house last year when the soundtrack was released on CD. A few years ago we were over the moon to discover that this was based on a book by one of our favorite children’s book writing duos, Russell and Lillian Hoban. In the spirit of The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, this sweet tale of a mother and son is heartwarming and beautifully illustrated. If you are a fan of Jim Henson’s holiday special, you will love the original story.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

For the last decade, our family has been avid readers of Karma Wilson and Jane Chapmans’ tales of a Bear and his friends. Though nothing will match the original scene in which the bear wakes up and discovers his cave has been invaded, all of the subsequent tales have had their appeal. For this Christmas version, the charm lies once more in the love these friends bear for each other, and their willingness to step outside their comfort zone to make the lives of their friends a little better.

Toby and the Snowflakes by Julie Halpern

Now, this is just a good silly story. I long ago began collecting books in which the names of my children featured, and this is one of the first books I found way back when I was a naive mother of one. Toby is sad; his best friend in the whole world has moved away, and he has nobody to toss around the ball with. Then it begins to snow, and as the flakes fly, they begin to speak with him, and he is suddenly surrounded by friends. This book is all kinds of silly, and reminds me of my own childhood in the strangest ways!

GeekMom received Peppa Pig and the Christmas Play, Little Robin’s Christmas, and The Crayons’ Christmas to add to our already healthy collection of Christmas stories.

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