Between Christine and I, we have more than 100 holiday books and have read hundreds more. In fact, we could write a Reading Christmas Books Every Day blog. We’ll shelve that idea for now, but since tomorrow marks 25 days until the big day, we wanted to share some of our favorites.
Because we love holiday books so, we’re going to feature them in the next few posts. We’ll try to contain ourselves. Feel free to comment and share your favorites. If you tell us a little more and/or send a picture, we may feature you in one of our posts.
Our Favorite Christmas Classics
We’re dedicating this first post to the classics. If you’re going to make a tradition of reading over the holidays, these should be on the top of your list.
My husband and I began a tradition of seeing The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center in New York City more than ten years ago. When our oldest was two, we brought her for the first time thinking we’d probably have to bail during the performance. She sat captivated for the entire show!
The Nutcracker, illustrated by Valeria Decamp, is based on the New York City Ballet production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker so the scenes remind us of the live performance with magical choreography and sets. We may be biased but this is our favorite retelling of the Nutcracker story, and my two little dancers adore it.
The Jolly Christmas Postman
If you enjoyed reading The Jolly Postman featured in my Rediscovering Favorites post, then you’ll love The Jolly Christmas Postman by husband and wife team Janet and Allan Ahlberg as much as we do.
In this festive holiday rendition, the Jolly Postman is at it again, delivering Christmas mail to the nursery rhyme greats and, of course, visiting with Santa! This humorous little book contains interactive envelopes so little readers can delight in reading the mail, too. It’s getting us excited to open holiday mail!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A Christmas library staple, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas literally came alive for my girls when we attended a read-aloud by the Grinch himself. Honestly, I think it might have been the actual Grinch. The reading was amazing, but even after hearing the Grinch admit to a change of heart in the happy ending, my older one was hesitant to pose for a photo with the fabulously grouchy host.
As you might have seen on Instagram, this is a favorite of Christine’s youngest, too. He refers to it as the “Inch” book and requests it all year long as you can see from the Halloween pajamas. Secretly, Christine shared with me that she loves reading it, trying to imitate Boris Karloff from the original 1966 cartoon version.
The Polar Express
Another Christmas classic is Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express in which a steam train takes a boy, feeling the first doubts about Santa’s existence, on a magical ride to the North Pole.
This book has been in my own library for many years. To me, it is as enchanting for children as it is for adults in both its artwork and message about the magic of Christmas.
This year, we have explored the illustrations in anticipation for a Christmas steam train ride of our own in Connecticut later this month.
The Legend of the Poinsettia
After a visit to a local arboretum that was filled with poinsettias last December, the girls and I became curious about the colorful plant that is associated with Christmas. Tomie dePaola’s beautifully illustrated book describes this “flower of the Holy Night,” retelling the Mexican legend of the poinsettia.
When Lucida’s mother is too sick to complete a new blanket for the baby Jesus in the town’s Christmas procession, she tries to help. But instead, she tangles the weaving beyond repair. But her simple gift to the manger scene, a tangle of weeds, blooms into a beautiful and familiar gift.
I know we’re missing The Night Before Christmas, but Christine has another post planned for that. Stay tuned.
Go Beyond Reading
- Talk about traditions. What makes a book a classic? It’s enduring. People read it again and again…so much so that it becomes a tradition. We hope reading books is part of your holiday tradition! Chat with your kids about what traditions your family has. What would they like to make a tradition?
- Experience the book. There’s nothing like seeing a live performance, especially during the holidays. Treat yourself and the kids to a performance of one of these classics. Or put together your own. (Look at these adorable finger puppets for The Nutcracker and How the Grinch Stole Christmas). While live makes more of an experience, you can also watch a movie version. Then compare the book with the performance/movie. What was the same? What was different? What was better or worse about the different versions?
- Embrace some literary-inspired treats and traditions to compliment your reading together time.
- Make Polar Express hot chocolate. The hot chocolate described in the Polar Express sounds irresistible so we found a recipe. We girls love a good cup of cocoa on a wintery night! We will enjoy during our next reading of The Polar Express…but maybe not on the sofa!
- The feast at the end of How the Grinch Who Stole Christmas is an iconic scene in which the Whos and the Grinch come together for a meal. Plan a holiday, Grinch-inspired feast for your little readers. Ceremoniously pass your dishes around, sing a little, and indulge in the sharing of the season. You needn’t have Roast Beast (or do!). Choose something you can all enjoy.
- The Nutcracker ballet’s second act is full of sweets. Marzipan! Candy canes! Coffee and tea (for grownup readers of course)! Chocolate! Check out the illustrations or listen to the Nutcracker’s orchestral suite as you enjoy some sugarplums of your own.
Don’t forget. Share your favorite holiday books. We look forward to hearing from you. Happy December!
Great recommendations! My daughter also really enjoyed reading Counting to Christmas by Nancy Tafuri and The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers. Both are beautifully illustrated.
Thanks, Joanna! I’m glad the books were a success with your daughter. Happy New Year!