Last year, on the first Friday of Advent, I headed down to the basement to grab our wreath-form, so I could take it to church that night and make our Advent wreath.
Since I was rummaging around in the Advent box, I grabbed a dozen or so of our favorite Christmas books and brought them upstairs, too. As the kids and I looked through them, it was like catching up with dear friends we hadn’t seen all year, remembering all over again why we like them so much.
“Ooh, Mama.” Jane held up The Witness. “Can you read this?”
“Oh!” Jack grabbed One Wintry Night. “I love this book! Can we read it? Right now?”
In our house, December is all about candles and books.
You’re on your own finding candles, but I’ve listed the kids’ and my favorite Christmas books in the hope that you’ll find a new book or two to love.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
One of my favorite Christmas stories, this book brings a glad smile to my face each and every time I read it. P.J. Lynch’s gorgeous illustrations illuminate this story of hope and transformation.
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner
Every time I read this book, I get teary or choked up or both. My kids don’t get why, but that’s okay; they like the book even if it does make Mama cry. It’s a beautiful story, and I was thrilled when I learned several years ago that it had been made into a picture book. Lovely, all the way around.
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson
I’m not sure this is technically a Christmas book, but we’ve read it every year during Advent since Jack was three. The story weaves between a boy lost in an Appalachian blizzard and the whole sweep of the Biblical narrative, from creation to crucifixion. And the illustrations – oh my. They’re simply stunning:
The Witness by Robert Westall, illustrated by Sophy Williams
Okay, so this book takes some liberties with the Nativity story. Purists will be appalled. For the rest of us, though, this lovely book tells the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of an Egyptian temple-cat who’s been captured and sold to a Judean shopkeeper. Though it’s long for a picture book, it’s compelling: Jane sat through it, to my utter surprise, when she was just two.
The Story of Christmas, illustrated by Pamela Dalton
The text is the Christmas story from the King James Version, which is unparalleled for the beauty of its language. Dalton’s cut-paper-and-watercolor illustrations, which stand out dramatically on black backgrounds, are nearly edible in their deliciousness.
Other Christmas books we enjoy:
The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger. A weary donkey dreams some seriously beautiful and richly symbolic dreams.
The Friendly Beasts, illustrated by Sarah Chamberlain. This is unfortunately out of print, but there’s also a version by Tomie dePaola.
Silent Night, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. The angels’ late 1970’s hairdos alone are worth the price of the book. It makes me giggle, but Jane thinks it’s beautiful. To each her own.
Great Joy by Kate diCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. An organ grinder, his monkey, a little girl, and a Christmas pageant add up to great joy in this sparely written and lushly illustrated book.
One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jonathan Bean. The rhymed text is fine, but it’s the stylized illustrations that make this book.
Lighthouse Christmas by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. It’s pretty hard to resist the allure of a lighthouse, a one-eared cat, two endearing children, and Carpenter’s pen-and-ink art.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. But of course. How could you have Christmas without the Herdmans? They lie, they cheat, they steal…and they teach everyone what Christmas is really about.
If you have favorite Christmas books that I’ve not listed here, will you please let me know? I’m always up for a good book! (Or two. Or ten…)
Florilegium comes from two Latin words, meaning flower (flor) and gather (legere). Legere is closely related to the Latin word for reading (lectio). So a florilegium is literally a gathering of the flowers of reading: a collation of the best words, the best books.
I hope you’ll come by on Fridays to gaze on some beautiful heart-mind-and-soul flowers. (And stop in at Susan’s, too, for another bouquet).