Monday, November 16, 2009

Great Christmas Reads

It's that time of year: the snow is falling, the air is crisp, and the temptation increases to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and a great book.

As the years have gone by, our family has collected several Christmas picture books that we have made it a tradition to read the days leading up to Christmas. A novel or two has managed to sneak into the pile, as well as a few others, and this year, I'm adding yet more books to the stack.

It's no secret that books play a big role in my life and that I try to instill that love into my children any way I can. Reasons abound, but some of them include that how important not only reading and writing will be to them as they grow up, but so will understanding the world around them, expanding their imaginations, learning to be compassionate individuals, and so much more, all of which can be learned through reading.

Trying to make them great readers hasn't been easy all the time, but gradually, they've all come to love books.

One thing we've done is develop a tradition in our home for Christmas, one our children look forward to each year. On Christmas Eve, each child gets two gifts from Mom and Dad: a new pair of pajamas and a book.

(I must say, books are getting cheaper as they age; paperback novels cost so much less than hardback picture books!) Some years the kids get surprised by their Christmas books, while other years, they beg and plead for a specific book for Christmas.

I love that they care as much about a book as they do about anything they ask Santa for, that Christmas morning, they're just as likely to be hanging out in their new pajamas curled up with that new book as they are to be playing with their new toys.

Score one for literacy.

This holiday season, whether you're trying to find just the right gift for a friend or family member (a book, a book!), trying to find another good novel to read to the kids, or something that the little ones will enjoy by the light of the twinkling lights of the tree, give some of the holiday titles below a shot.

They all have my stamp of approval.

The Crippled Lamb, by Max Lucado
This sweet story is about a lamb who can't go on a trip with the rest of the flock because of his deformed leg. His best friend, a cow, has always said that God knew him and that he was special, but on that night, the lamb is particularly sad because he's left behind. And then a man and woman arrive, and a baby is born and is cold because it has no clothing. While the man goes to find something to wrap the child in, the lamb has the honor of warming the Savior of the world. It's a sweet, touching story, and a reminder that while we're all weak and crippled in our ownway, God can still find a powerful use for us all.

Mooseltoe, by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Henry Cole
A silly Christmas story about a father moose with a giant mustache who does everything to make the holiday perfect . . . but in the process, forgets to buy a tree. When he finally goes to getone, they're all sold out. In the end, the children decorate him.

The Tale of Three Trees, Angela Elwell Hunt and Tim Jonke
Here's one story that's just as appropriate for Easter as it is for Christmas, because it focuses not just on the birth of Christ, but on His entire life and mission. The three trees each get to be a present and part of his life at significant locations and moments: the manger, the boat, the cross.

The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry
A classic tale of selflessness told by the master, one that's been retold dozens of times. Find one that has good illustrations to do the story justice.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
I loved, loved, loved reading this classic to my kids again when they were finally old enough to sit still and listen. We read a chapter or two a night to get through it so they wouldn't squirm. I laughed. I cried. I hope they understood it. If they didn't last time, they'll get another chance this year.

The Forgotten Carols, by Michael McClean
The year my husband and I got engaged, we spent a night reading this book and listening to each carol and we came to it. As our kids came along, we kept the tradition going, but eventually it would take a good week to get it, since little people have a hard time sitting that long. While it was a great experience, we finally broke down one year and decided to get the DVD to watch for Family Home Evening. The kids loved it. I still recommend the book and CD way of doing it, but for families, the DVD is a great shortcut. Michael McClean performs the main role of John himself, and his two sons are also major parts of the show.

Santa Maybe, by Aubrey Mace
New this year (and newly read by me!), this novel is a sweet, funny read for any hopeless romantic out there. Abbie is 30, single, and insists she's happy being that way. But one Christmas Eve she admits to herself that she is lonely, that she'd like more to her life than what she had. In a private (and, to herself, rather silly) moment writes a little letter and leave it by the tree for Santa asking for a husband. "I'll take good care of him," she promises.

In the middle of the night, she's woken up by a thump coming from her living room, where she finds a man lying under her tree with pajamas, some money . . . and no memory.

All Is Bright
This brand new collection of true Christmas stories was recently published by Covenant in time for the 2009 Christmas season. It features stories by Anita Stansfield, Annette Lyon (that's me!), H. B. Moore, Gregg Luke, Kristen McKendry, Lynn Jaynes, Matthew Buckley, and Julie Wright. Many of the stories are downright heart-warming. It's only $4.95 at Deseret Book.

Stolen Christmas: Stories of the Season
This book features the winners of a Christmas short story contest. The book is titled after the winning entry, which was written by one of my favorite writers. "Stolen Christmas" is by Sarah M. Eden, who was a Whitney Award finalist in the Romance category in 2008 and whose next book will be out with Covenant next summer. Many other great writers' stories are featured in the book, which costs only $7.99 plus shipping. Buy it HERE.


Bethany Wiggins said...

Thanks for the gift ideas. I love The Forgotten Carols.

jdcoughlin said...

My kids are teens and they have been getting books forever, now they are asking for them. Actually, they are asking for Borders gift cards. But when I once gave a book to my nephew, he cried. What are you going to do? Me, I'm giving him one again and I'm already looking at your list for ideas.

Great blog!

Feliz Navidad!

Shelli said...

great list thanks ;)

Annie said...

I shared your list on my blog, hope you don't mind!

Rachelle said...

Love this post! Thanks for sharing these great books. I have almost all of them and need to pick up the new ones.
Merry Christmas!

LDS_Publisher said...

Thanks so much for mentioning Stolen Christmas.

I love your list. I have several of them on my "to read" list for this season.

Angie said...

Thanks for posting about Stolen Christmas, Annette. It is a super collection!