2011: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Brett Helquist,
abridged by Josh Greenhut
2012: Christmas Is Here, by Lauren Castillo
2013: The Night Before Christmas: A Sampling
2014: O Holy Night: Christmas with the Boys Choir of Harlem, illustrated by Faith Ringgold
2015: McDuff’s Christmas, by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
2016: Christmas with the Mousekins, by Maggie Smith
This was the hardest one of all.
I love this A Christmas Carol because it makes the story accessible to younger kids (and I love Brett Helquist’s illustrations!).
I love Christmas Is Here because it’s an illustrated version of the Luke 2 account of the nativity.
But I’m going to choose Christmas with the Mousekins because it starts two weeks before Christmas, just about now, and recounts the (easily imitated) preparations and activities in which the Mousekin family is involved. A family with younger kids can use this to help come up with ideas for spending their time before Christmas with their children and help young ones use their anticipation for something other than driving people crazy! This is a great book for browsing and reading in smaller sections!
2011: The Crippled Lamb, by Max Lucado with Jenna, Andrea, and Sara Lucado,
illustrated by Liz Bonham
2012: That’s the Spirit, Claude, by Joan Lowery Nixon, pictures by Tracey Campbell Pearson
2013: A Baby Born in Bethlehem, by Martha Whitmore Hickman, illustrations by Guiliano Ferri
2014: Santa’s Secret Helper, by Andrew Clements
2015: The Christmas Day Kitten, by James Herriot, illustrated by Ruth Brown
2016: A Christmas Goodnight, by Nola Buck, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright
A Baby Born in Bethlehem is the book I think I like the best out of these. Although I don’t have a copy to reread, my previous review reminds me that it’s a seamless, embellished retelling of the nativity story with information gleaned from both Matthew and Luke. The illustrations, while not typically childish, are beautiful, and the story is best as a read-aloud shared with a child or a few children because it’s a little more complicated than a typical picture book.
2011: The Christmas Story, by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrated by Wendy Edelson
2012: The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
2013: Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift, by Kathryn Lasky
2014: Snowed Under and Other Christmas Confusions, by Serge Bloch
2015: Frosty the Snowman, by Diane Muldrow and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, adapted by Rick Bunsen
2016: Santa Mouse and the Ratdeer, by Thacher Hurd
I have to go with The Christmas Story on this one! We got this as a gift from a Sunday school teacher, and we used it for several years when the kids were very young as our traditional Christmas Eve reading of Luke 2 since it has a basic retelling with the illustrations, then the text of Luke 2:1-16 (KJV) is printed on the last page.
2011: Merry Christmas, Mouse!, by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
2012: Christmas Time, by Gail Gibbons
2013: One Wintry Night, by Ruth Bell Graham, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson
2014: The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza, by David Shannon
2015: Twelve Lizards Leaping, by Jan Romero, illustrated by Christine Mau
2016: Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All, by Ted Dewan
For Biblical Christmas content, I’d have to say One Wintry Night, with its beautiful illustrations and retelling of the Biblical narrative starting way back in Eden, is the most lovely of these books. But the most accessible–and therefore my choice for young children–is Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All! Crispin is a pig in more than one sense of the word; he is greedy, selfish, and unappreciative…and an actual pig. When he receives an empty box for Christmas which contains “the only thing [he does] not have”, he is furious and dumps it outside. When the empty box draws imaginative neighborhood children in, Crispin is first possessive, then finally interested and engaged. He keeps thinking that the only reason the children come to play is because of what he has, but he eventually realizes that, through shared play, they come to play just because of who he is…a friend.
2011: The Secret Keeper, by Anna Grossnickle Hines
2012: Dragon’s Merry Christmas, by Dav Pilkey
2013: Can You See What I See? The Night Before Christmas: Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve, by Walter Wick
2014: The Very Fairy Princess: A Fairy Merry Christmas and Sparkles in the Snow, by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
2015: Carl’s Christmas, by Alexandra Day
2016: Wombat Divine, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Kerry Argent
Once again, I’m torn about these books. I truly love both The Secret Keeper and Wombat Divine! The Secret Keeper shares a little boy’s disappointment about being left out of the secrets at Christmastime and shows how his grandma helped him with his own secrets so he could feel included. Wombat Divine is just a great story about finding where you fit and having the love and support of friends (in this case, a wombat finding just the right role in a nativity play). Either one is a great read!
2011: Mousekin’s Christmas Eve, by Edna Miller
2012: 10 Trim-the-Tree’ers: A Holiday Counting Book, by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Linda Davick
2013: Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas: A Safety Guide for Scaredies, by Mélanie Watt
2014: Listen to the Silent Night, by Dandi Daley Mackall
2015: Where Did They Hide My Presents?: Silly Dilly Christmas Songs, by Alan Katz and David Catrow
2016: A Letter to Santa Claus, story by Rose Impey, pictures by Sue Porter
I really like several of these titles because they’re funny or just fun for kids to read, but my favorite title from Day 7 is Listen to the Silent Night. I always like a well-done nativity story, and this one actually stretches out the whole experience from Mary and Joseph setting off for Bethlehem to the shepherds and wise men doing the same. Its focus on the sounds means many actions are described, and it’s written in poem form, so reading it aloud while your child examines the beautiful pictures is a must!
2011: Pippin the Christmas Pig, by Jean Little, illustrated by Werner Zimmerman
2012: A Christmas like Helen’s, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, illustrated by Mary Azarian
2013: Grace at Christmas, by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu
2014: Marvin’s Best Christmas Present Ever, by Katherine Paterson
2015: Dinosaurs’ Christmas, by Liza Donnelly
2016: When Santa Was a Baby, by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Geneviève Godbout
Grace at Christmas, the book title with a double meaning, is my favorite of this collection. In it, Grace learns that opening your heart and life to others is the best way to celebrate Christmas, and she finds that new traditions that include others are a good addition to the old ones. Best of all, she shows love and hospitality to someone who is feeling alone and disappointed at Christmas, just as we all should!
2011: A Houseful of Christmas, by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
2012: Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve, by Janet Morgan Stoeke
2013: Christmas Around the World, by Mary D. Lankford, illustrated by Karen Dugan
2014: A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas, by Philip Yates
2015: Dinosaur vs. Santa, by Bob Shea
2016: Here Comes Santa Cat, by Deborah Underwood, pictures by Claudia Rueda
I love all the Bob Shea books, but at Christmas time, Barbara Joosse’s A Houseful of Christmas wins hands down! The reminder of how a house full of love and family is truly what makes a “houseful of Christmas” is a good one as homes fill with all the personalities and crowdedness that often accompany a gathering of friends or family during the Christmas season. We can all strive to manage what can sometimes be an overwhelming amount of togetherness in the spirit of showing and receiving love from those around us. If there aren’t as many people to gather together as in the past, we can use that as a reminder to cherish the ones we have and to gather more people into our circle of Christmas love!
2011: My Merry Christmas: And the real reason for Christmas joy, by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Linda Clearwater
2012: Merry Christmas Everywhere!, by Arlene Erlbach with Herb Erlbach, illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm
2013: A Child Is Born, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrations by Floyd Cooper
2014: Big Fun Christmas Crafts & Activities, by Judy Press
2015: Just Right for Christmas, by Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
2016: The Christmas Pageant, by Jacqueline Rogers
While I have to proclaim My Merry Christmas: And the real reason for Christmas joy (as oddly capitalized as it is!) my favorite, The Christmas Pageant is a close runner-up because of how it summarizes the Christmas story while it shows the preparations and performance of a rural Christmas pageant. My Merry Christmas was a board book I picked up when GirlChild (now 9!) was still just a baby, and I love how it simply presents the Christian symbolism and reasons behind some of our typical Christmas activities. Since the pages are glittery and attractive to little ones and the text is rhymed and brief, it makes a perfect annual read-aloud (even now!) to remind our children of why we celebrate the way we do and the reason we celebrate at all!
2011: Countdown to Christmas, by Bill Peet
2012: Llama Llama Holiday Drama, by Anna Dewdney
2013: Bear Stays Up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson, illustrations by Jane Chapman
2014: Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck
2015: And Then Comes Christmas, by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jana Christy
2016: Merry Christmas Mr. Mouse, by Caralyn Buehner, pictures by Mark Buehner
Okay, once again I’m torn between two very different books. On one hand, Christmas Day in the Morning made me cry. On the other hand, my son was Llama Llama Holiday Drama come to life one year. Both are meaningful to me in different ways, of course; Christmas Day in the Morning because it’s so very, very beautiful and moving, and Llama Llama is just so fun to read aloud! I’m going to have to go with both today!