Every year, I wrap up Christmas picture books and put them under the tree to countdown to Christmas.
The past several years I have used holiday nesting boxes, which saves a lot of wrapping time. The children love to pick a box and delight in the familiar and loved story we will be reading together. We snuggled up at night, and the child of the day (Oldest is Monday, youngest is Friday, Mom and Dad get the weekends. The child of the day sits in the front seat if there is a skirmish, says all of the prayers, and usually gets a little bit extra tuck in time at the end of the day). The Christmas Book Countdown is my very favorite Christmas tradition as a family. I love that my older children will snuggle on the couch to read, and I love the excitement in their eyes as they open the package and see what wonderful, familiar but surprising treat is in store for them.
Here is last year's post:
"What are your favorite Christmas picture books that we read every year?"
The girls didn't miss a beat. Cupcake called out, "A Wish for Wings that Work, I'll Be Home for Christmas, The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, Auntie Claus, An Orange for Frankie . . ."
Dancegirl said, "The Red Ranger, The Last Straw, Auntie Claus, The Littlest Angel, The Nutcracker."
But, there were some other books that they couldn't quite remember the titles . . . "What's the name of the one with the reindeer and the troll girl?" Dancegirl asked. The girls asked The Boy to run down and get the Christmas book box out of storage. Then the fun truly began. I asked them to choose their top three to five books. It was hilarious and very gratifying as they pulled out books and squealed with delight. (My son prefers me to note: The Boy didn't squeal.) I had to make a rule that they couldn't read the books, just look at the titles (so we can keep the anticipation alive for our Christmas Book Countdown). I thought it was interesting that they didn't keep with many their off-the-top-of-their-head choices.
Here are the books they fought over:
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera
The Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed
A Wish for Wings that Work by Berkeley Breathed
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza by David Shannon
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
|This is Cupcake absconding with Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera|
So starting with the oldest child, here are their favorites:
The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke is the story of a selfless man who sees the Star in the East and begins to follow it, hoping to meet up with his friends, three other wise men from distant lands. Throughout his journey he is met with challenges and opportunities to help others. He strives to do what he believes the new King would want him to do, but in all of the serving, he loses his opportunity to see the Infant King and worship him. This wise and generous man is rewarded at the end of his life when he learns that his generosity and kindness have been seen of the true King.
Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon is based on the true story of soldiers in WWII who put aside their differences and celebrate the birth of the Savior across enemy lines.
Santa Calls by William Joyce is one of my favorites, too. This is an adventure story, a story of Christmas wishes coming true, but most of all the story of a relationship between a brother and his little sister.
I must admit, seeing The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett on more than one child's favorites list was a surprise to me. This is the story of Teeka who is given the job of preparing Santa's reindeer for the big night. I love Jan Brett's intricate illustrations on every page that give a glimpse of the storyline yet to come. This is the story of a young girl learning how to co operate and work hard, and learn to put other's needs above her own in order to accomplish an important work.
Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus
(Oh no! It wasn't in the box. Last year I tried to glean and asked around what books the children liked ... I think Cupcake said it wasn't one she thought anybody liked, and I think I might have given it away. Dancegirl might forgive me if it doesn't turn up, but only if I promise to get a replacement! But there aren't any examples that look the same on Amazon. Oh no! I may be in big trouble.)
UPDATE 2013: I had given this book to my book club friend Myra. She read my post and brought the book back to me. Bless you, Myra. Thanks so much!
It was no surprise that Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed was named as a favorite of many. The book has a bit of a surprise ending that never fails to delight. The story seems a little long to me at times, but it is a great story of a child not getting quite what he wants for Christmas, yet learning to be grateful for the giver behind the gift and the joy that giving can bring.
I'm so glad Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Richard Shneider made Dancegirl's list. The dance world often demands perfection and leaves little room for appreciation for individual shapes and sizes. This book tells of a the desire for perfection, but one little tree showing that the real value of an individual doesn't come from one's outside appearance, but comes from the heart.
Cupcake struggled with ranking her books. The middle three were especially difficult to put in a certain order.
Look Alikes Christmas by Joan Steiner is a book that takes hours to enjoy. We love to peer over it looking at the creatively amazing uses of everyday objects turned into surprising art senses. We have had this book for years and years and still find new things to appreciate every year.
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera may be everyone's most favorite Christmas book. It's the story of a girl (who has quite a close familial relationship with Santa Claus himself) learns that it is better to give than to receive. It also shares the story of a sister's love for her brother and the extent she will go to see that his Christmas wishes can come true. The other two Auntie Claus books are fun, but not quite as appealing as the original. (But if you LOVE the first books, you will appreciate the next two.)
The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher made many a favorite list, but we had to give it to Cupcake because she loves baking (and cookies!) so much. This is a fun story of sharing the joy of Christmas with others and the happiness that sharing can bring to your life.
I think Coconut had the least overlap with one individual, but the most overlap with multiple individuals. The Last Straw is only kind of the favorite book . . . the best part of the story is listening to my mother read a mimeographed (yes, purple ink and before Xerox) two page folded up paper version of this story. When I saw it in book format, I had to get it for my mother. (And I think three of my five sisters gave her this book the year it came out as well.) It is a great story, but the book leaves out the very best line. " . . . and I hate Kelly!" The story of siblings learning to love each other as they learn to find joy in serving each other and serving Jesus makes this timeless and endearing.
Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon (who is married to our favorite storyteller, Carmen Deedy) is an amazing story. I described it above in the Boy's favorites, but Coconut insisted that it show up on her list, too.
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a girl who is missing her soldier father during the Christmas season. She is going to be in the church's Christmas play, and invites a street performer and his monkey to join her. A beautiful story of acceptance and love through the eyes of a child. My Coconut is good at seeing other's needs, and has a tender heart for the less fortunate, so I can see why she likes this book.
A Wish for Wings that Work was a book many of the children "fought" over, but they let it end up on Coconut's favorites. It's the story of the cartoon character Opus, who wishes for wings to fly. But his unique talents of "flying" underwater are just what is needed to save Christmas . . . and yet he gets his Christmas wish, too.
Elise Primavera is a favorite. (Lala and I especially like her Thumb Love book, a book that helped Lala determine she wanted to try to end her thumbsucking habit.) The Auntie Claus series is great fun, but still captures the Christmas spirit of love, family and giving.
The Christmas Witch by Steven Kellogg is by a favorite, maybe even adored author. We read this at Halloween and at Christmas. The story of a little witch who just can't be mean and brings Christmas joy back to a feuding nation is a delight.
What are your favorites? I'm always looking for new treasures to add to our countdown . . . We have several new ones coming this year all ready, but there is always room for more! We may have to start the countdown earlier . . . Labor Day maybe? But you won't catch me complaining!