I love holiday books. There’s a big box of them under our guest room bed that I look forward to getting out during Thanksgiving weekend. When my son was young, we would read a different one each night before he went to bed, but even now (when he’s 23), I find myself adding one or two new ones every year. The cozy scenes, rich colors, and dancing nutcrackers can really brighten a dark and cold day.
Two new ones stand out this year:
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
It’s too bad this book may be tucked away after the holidays because it’s a beautiful story for any time of the year. Based on the 1950s series All-of-a-Kind Family novels by Sydney Taylor about five sisters and their parents in New York City’s Lower East Side at the turn of the century, this new picture book about preparing for Hanukkah takes place in 1912. The story centers on the youngest of the sisters, Gertie, who is too young to help prepare the potato pancakes, but her father finds the perfect way for Gertie to celebrate the holiday.
Santa Bruce by Ryan Higgins
From the appearance of Higgins’ first picture book about a bear and a group of goslings who think he’s their mother, these books have been a hit – with kids and adults. The contrast between the grumpy (kind of) bear and the cute yellow ducks makes these books laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly sweet. Since 2015, there’s been Hotel Bruce, Bruce’s Big Move and now……Santa Bruce! As someone who is not a big fan of winter, I can relate to Bruce who “used to stay in bed all winter long and skip right through the whole business.” But the geese and the mice have other ideas – they want to celebrate Christmas!
Here are some of my other favorites…
The Nostalgic Favorite
The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia Scarry
Originally published in 1970 – and still in print – The Sweet Smell of Christmas was my younger sister’s favorite book. It’s a “Scratch & Sniff” story with the smells (using that term loosely) of hot chocolate, apple pie, and a few others. When we were little girls, the three of us loved this book, and I was under the mistaken impression that the hot chocolate smell was really good. It’s not, but the orange is nice. Just opening this book brings me back to my childhood.
My Favorite Story
Henry Bear’s Christmas by David McPhail
This is a cozy Christmas book with a good story that celebrates friendship and the holidays. Henry Bear loves everything about Christmas, especially the tree. But when he gets his heart set on a tree that’s being raffled, his “chances” of getting it aren’t great. The fact that he loses the tree because he’s distracted by doughnuts and hot chocolate makes this book relatable and incredibly sweet! For reasons I don’t understand, Henry Bear’s Christmas is out of print, but check your local library or get a used copy on Amazon.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
Every collection of Christmas books should include a copy of this one. Published in 1963, this is a cheerful story – perfect for the holidays. The hero, Mr. Willowby, buys a Christmas tree that, as he learns when he gets it home, doesn’t quite fit. He asks his butler, Baxter (it’s dated) to take a little off the top. The new “little” tree is given to the upstairs maid, but guess what! You get the idea. Not necessarily original, but there’s a charm to this book that keeps in steady rotation.
A New York City Love Story
Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares
Red and Lulu live happily in an evergreen tree, until….the tree is cut down and transported to New York City with Lulu in it! The tree is on its way to Rockefeller Center where, after a challenging search, the birds are reunited. This is a good gift for children who have seen the famous tree.
The Best Christmas Book of…..2017!
The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen
This gentle and magical story deserves a place in every collection. It reminds me a The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. A perfect gift for kids who leave snacks for Santa’s reindeer!
A Stretch to Call it a Christmas Story….
Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Christian Robinson
Technically, not a holiday book, but it would certainly not look out of place under the tree! A toddler bedtime book about the joy of waiting for snow.
A Mix of Holidays and History
Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon
Published in 2015, this book has become one of my favorites. It’s about miracles and a boy named Oskar whose parents have sent him to America to escape the rise of the Nazis. He arrives in New York City on the seventh day of Hanukkah which also happens to be Christmas Eve.
And a few others–
So many choices. The Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Twas’ the Night Before Christmas come to mind as essential Christmas books. We own several versions of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous 1823 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, which we know as Twas’ the Night Before Christmas, but the one my son always requested is the Little Golden Book Version illustrated by Corinne Malvern.
A holiday gift note…
I’m about half-way through Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir. It’s an incredible story, thoughtful and inspiring. It would be the perfect gift for your friend, sister, mother, grandmother – any woman in your life. I was in the Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport last night and noticed it was not available. I asked the woman working at the sales desk about it, and she told me they were sold out. I am not surprised. I thought I knew Michelle Obama’s story, but it was just the biographical details. This is a book about hard work, genuinely wanting to make a difference in people’s lives, and love for family, friends, and country.