As I mentioned in my last post, one of my favorite Advent traditions is setting aside all of our everyday literature and reading special books during this time of year. The list below, in no particular order, are our current favorites.
Most of these title are available at the library. However, if you click through the links and purchase any of these books from Amazon, 100% of the commission will go to the adoption fees of children with special needs from around the world. You can learn about these special children at the Orphan Report blog, or by going directly to Reece’s Rainbow.
UPDATE: I just emailed with Leila from Orphan Report and it appears the links below probably won’t give her the commission since it’s not coming straight through her site. Bummer, right? Would you please consider making all of your Amazon purchases through her Amazon Associates account? All it takes is one extra click. 1) Go to Orphan Report. (Bookmark it for easy access later.) 2) Click the Amazon icon on the right sidebar. 3) Make your Amazon purchases within 24 hours and children around the world will benefit. Remember, Leila takes NONE of the profits. 100% of all commissions go to supporting adoption fees of these special children.
Back to the books:
‘Twas the Day Before Christmas is the touching tale of how Clement Clarke Moore wrote his masterpiece, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” for his children as a Christmas gift. Beautifully illustrated, it also includes neat maps of New York long before it was the booming metropolis it is today. It is a wonderful introduction to the art of writing and a powerful example of a father’s love for his children.
Little House Christmas Treasury is a collection of Christmas stories from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. Each story is a chapter or two from her books and follows the life of the Ingalls family, as well as one from Almanzo Wilder, Laura’s husband. What I adore about these stories is the simplicity of Christmas. The children receive little more than a small gift (mittens! a tin cup!) in their stockings and some special candy and cakes, and yet they are so content. More than content, actually; they are ecstatic. The kids and I giggled at how, in more than one story, Laura proclaims, “There never was a Christmas such as this!” Gianna informed me that she has had better Christmases to be sure. But we all appreciate the simple gratitude reflected in these stories. In fact, we’ve dubbed this Christmas: The Little House Christmas.
My First Nutcracker is a whimsically illustrated retelling of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet. It is written at a level so that young children can understand the story, but retains the elements of magic that drew us to the Nutcracker in the first place.
The Story of Holly and Ivy is a heartwarming tear-jerker. It’s story revolves around a brave little orphan and a Christmas doll, both hoping to find a home for Christmas and forever. It’s a picture book (beautifully rendered) but the content and themes attract children way beyond preschool years. This is my personal favorite this year.
The Shoemaker’s Dream is a story about seeing Jesus in people you encounter every day. The watercolor illustrations are captivating, and while an adult will easily see where the story is going, my children were surprised by the theme. This story appears to be out of print, and a new one runs about 500 buckaroos, so unless you’re reeeeeeallly generous, you may just want to look for this at your library.
The Clown of God is one of my favorite Tomie de Paola books, and that is saying a lot. It speaks of the value in using your talents for the good of others (and ultimately for the glory of God), and of humility in the face of pride. Plus, it takes place in Italy and who doesn’t love Italy? I remember this one from when I was a child, and it was one of the first books I bought for my classroom as a young teacher.
An Orange for Frankie is special to me for various reasons, not the least of which is that our family has a 3 generation long tradition of tangerines in our stockings! Frankie is anxiously awaiting his Pa’s return the day before Christmas Eve. He wants his Pa home most of all, but he also can’t wait to get the orange his Pa will bring for their family’s Christmas tradition. It’s a story about generosity and the simplicity of building and maintaining a Christmas tradition.
The Little Match Girl is a Hans Christian Anderson tale. A poor young girl, barefoot and alone on New Years Eve, has no shoes and no one to care for her. She elects to light the matches she is supposed to sell one by one to warm herself. With each match she imagines a beautiful holiday scene until finally her beloved grandmother, long dead, comes and takes her home to heaven. If you aren’t steeped in the lore of real (traditional) fairy tales, then this one may shock you. But beneath what we see today as a horrific tale of poverty is a deep and beautiful story about a girl with a miserable earthly existence whose last moments on earth are filled with joy, and who finally reunites with the one person who loved her. Another edition is here: The Little Match Girl, although I can’t vouch for the translation or illustrations in this one.
The Friendly Beasts is simply an illustrated old English carol about the gifts the stable animals gave Jesus. The lyrics are appealing to children and the tune is easy enough for even a tone deaf parent to carry. Last year my kids made felt animals to go along with the song and acted the whole thing out. I contemplated uploading the video, but it’s pretty long and, um, it showcases my terrible stage mom attitude, so it’s best left out. Nevertheless, the book is worth a read and a sing!
The Tie Man’s Miracle: A Chanukah Tale. Our Advent booklist always contains a handful of Hanukah selections. This year, we found this treasure at the library. It contains references to the Holocaust and thus is not appropriate for very young children. My kindergartner and first grader both enjoyed it very much, though. The ultimate destiny of the tie man is left to the imagination of the reader.
Do you have Advent favorites? Please share them in the comments boxes! And if you’ve written a post (this year or in the past) about your favorite Advent books, please add your link below!