Though Christmas is definitely a big deal around our house, we don't actually have that many holiday books. I've always thought that it was silly to buy a book that might not have year-round appeal. And yet, there are many winter titles that would be refreshing reads on an unbearable July afternoon. And it also seems that holiday preparations are starting earlier and earlier so there's really no excuse to miss out on all of the fantastic holiday reads that are out there!
The Christmas staple in my parents' home (besides the Bible and my mom's favorite, The Christ Child) was, of course, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, written all the way back in 1822. I think we had a pop-up version that made the story really come to life. Now, in my own home, we have had a version illustrated by Bruce Whatley for years now but it's always nice to change it up. This year we've acquired a new version, illustrated by Australian Robert Ingpen. It's a little different because it's twice as long -- one page per two-line rhyming couplet. The print is also larger which makes it perfect for emerging readers. Z is getting really good at memorizing poems and so I think it will be fun to work on getting through this one together this year. I'm always good until Papa looks out the window (something about "new-fallen snow" and "mid-day below") and then I need a little help from the book!
If your family leans toward the untraditional or modern, we also have Little Critter's The Night Before Christmas by Mercer Mayer which comes with a read-along cd. The language in this one has been updated a bit (ie, St. Nicholas becomes Santa Claus). I'm a bit of a purist so I'll stick with the original but I know that many children respond better to cartoons and slightly more modern language. However, if I am going to mess with a classic, I like to take it all the way -- like with A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates and illustrated by Sebastia Serra. It features Sir Peggedy and his eight giant seahorses: Salty, Scurvy, Sinbad, Mollie, Cutthroat, Cross-Eyes, Roger, and Jolly. I think I'm going to go look for a copy of that one!
There are a few other Christmas classics in our home as well. First we have a shiny "Party Edition" of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss (1957), which is a must read every year. Mmm ... roast beast. Next is E.T.A. Hoffmann's slightly disturbing Nutcrackerours is the Maurice Sendak version that partners with his set design for the Pacific Northwest Ballet annual production). I didn't realize it was so old but Nutcracker (no "the") was written in 1816 in German. That explains why it is far more terrifying than your standard children's story! And then there's the newer Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Book Ever! (1981). I think that Richard Scarry is definitely a staple for my generation. With caroling sheet music, short stories and a board game, this is a great book for the impatient weeks leading up to the holiday. There's even an instruction section on how to make a pomander (although I don't see Gold Bug anywhere)!
The Twelve Days of Christmas is a carol that is always fun to sing when you have a lot of time to kill but it is a bit disconnected with modern times (having surfaced in England in 1780) with its partridges, lords-a-leaping, pipers piping and maids-a-milking. Sterling Books has just released a set of regional versions of this carol that bring it forward to modern times in a very fun way. With sixteen versions so far, each one features regional authors and artists who bring the states (and districts) to life. The books include "letters" that explain why each item was included. We'll be waiting for the Washington state version and I would love to see a Hawaii one! I know that we have readers in Texas, Arizona (almost), California, New Jersey and Louisiana (originally) so I'd love to hear if they picked the right twelve things for your region!
I've become a fan of paper toys recently and there's a great new book by Marilyn Scott Waters that has some great punch-and-fold designs -- The Toymaker's Christmas: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself. With just a few dabs of glue, I'm going to make ornaments and mantel displays on the cheap. And because they are punch-outs instead of cut-outs, it will be easy for Z to help me.
If you're feeling a bit more ambitious than working with paper, try Fa la la la Felt: 45 Handmade Holiday Decorations or head over and take a look at the myriad of holiday and seasonal crafts on Martha Stewart's website. I usually cut out some paper snowflakes each year and hers look far better than mine so I'm going to get some tips before starting this year.
Of course, if you don't celebrate Christmas there are tons of great winter books out there as well. Two years ago we featured some of our favorites -- Penguins, Penguins Everywhere by Bob Barner, The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll and The Snow Bear by Miriam Moss. We also love The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and you can read that one for free on WeGiveBooks.org!
We don't have any books around for holidays other than Christmas so if you have any suggestions, please let us know about them in the comments. What are your favorite holiday and winter books to share with your family?
Waiting for a winter wonderland,
K and Z
Support our site and buy any of these books on Amazon or find them at your local library. We bought some of these books for ourselves and received some for review.