Christmas

Christmas DayChristmas Day in the Morning
by Pearl S. Buck

Money is tight at Christmas and a young boy wonders what he can possibly get his Dad to show him how much he loves him. After lot of anxiety and stress, he finally comes up with the best present of all and this tale of a quiet, love-filled Christmas will totally inspire and warm your heart.

Written by author and humanitarian, Pearl S. Buck, this older book (originally published in 1955) has been reissued with beautiful, full color paintings as the illustrations. If you’re looking for a book that focuses on the holiday spirit of love and giving – this is a perfect Christmas book to pick!

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Written by Janice Levy

Have you heard about the Christmas custom in Oaxaca, Mexico called The Night of The Radish (El Noche de Los Rabanos)? As part of the special festivities, people carve large radishes into elaborate scenes – most of which have a Christmas or Nativity theme.  And some are amazing works of art.

In this story, one radish decides that she does not want to become part of this festival and runs away.  A huge chase ensues and a cast of characters chase the radish in a way that resembles the story of the gingerbread man.

Funny, cute and a nice way to talk about how holiday customs differ from place to place, the Runaway Radish is a great book to add a touch of mirth to the holiday season!

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My Two Holidays COVERWritten by Danielle Novack, Illustrated By Phyllis Harris

Sometimes it’s easy to feel nervous when other children are sharing their stories of celebrating Christmas OR Hanukkah.  Sammy isn’t sure what to say because his family celebrates both.  This sweet book, written by a clinical psychologist, shares what it’s like to have a family with two sets of holiday traditions, both of which are loved, enjoyed and respected.

As there are more and more families that blend two (or more) faiths, this type of book is a wonderful way to talk about holiday traditions as well as respect, tolerance and the beauty of sharing our treasured beliefs with the world.

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Cobweb Christmas COVERWritten by Shirley Climo, Illustrated by Jane Manning

How did glittering, glistening tinsel become part of the Christmas tree?

Shirely Climo takes you deep into the Bavarian forest of Germany to meet a dear little old woman who many of the local children call Auntie or “Tante”.  She lives in her tiny cottage with a bevy of animals, a small barn and – of course – a rooster to wake her up and a hen to lay an egg for her each day.

When Christmastime comes, Tante make special preparations.  She picks a tree from her forest, decorates it, fills it with her own homemade goodies and invites the local children to share it with her.  After the village children leave, it’s time to share Christmas with all the animals.  Tanta loves Christmas but each year she waits patiently and hopes for some special Christmas miracle to grace her cottage.  This book tells the story of the one year that this magic took place and how it warmed her heart and transformed her tree.

This book has lovely illustrations, adorable animals and a beautiful rhythm to it, making it a perfect story for reading aloud at the holidays as well as rekindling a sense of Christmas wonder and magic.

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Written and Illustrated By Patricia Polacco

What is a Russian Orthodox Christmas like?

Author and Illustrator, Patricia Polacco weaves a story from her own childhood memories including delightful Christmas customs practiced in various parts of Russia such as giving some grain to father frost, baking wonderful treats, making beautiful paper stars and hiding a silver coin in a bowl of mush and the one who finds it gets exceptional good luck the next year!  This book tells  of the last Christmas she and her cousins spent with her dear and funny Volodya, knows to all as Vova.  Along with all the other holiday activities, the children treasured the time that Uncle Vova would hitch up the sleigh and take everyone for a ride through the snow. When they finish their snowy adventure, he helped them decorate a beautiful tree outdoors filled with special things for the animals so “they can have Christmas, too”.  Uncle Vova tells them quietly that he’d like them to do that after he’s gone.

As you can imagine, the next Christmas is not the same without Uncle Vova, but everyone tries keep their spirits up to honor his memory.  Then they remember the special tree for the animals and go out to carry on the tradition.  But – wait – there’s something special at the tree that seems like a Christmas miracle.  Something wonderful has happened that reminds them how Uncle Vova’s spirit is still with them.

This is a beautiful book for experiencing diverse Christmas customs and for sharing the universality of marvelous miracles that can happen when the holiday spirit is afoot.  It’s also a great book for discussing loved ones who are no longer with us and how to keep their memory alive in our hearts and through meaningful traditions.


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Written and Illustrated By Tomie DePaola

In the United States, Santa Claus brings presents to the children during the Christmas season.  In parts of Europe, children are visited by Saint Nick.  In  Italy, it’s Old Befana who brings gifts and goodies to the children.

But who is old Befana?  Is she a witch? A cranky old lady?  And why is she always sweeping?  Two things are certain, she’s on a search for the little Christ Child and she’s a big part of the special Christmas celebrations of this season in Italy.  Most often reenacted and celebrated on the feast of the Three Kings (January, 6th), Tomie Depaola tells her legend in a sweet and kind way, as if you were right there with her in a little Italian village long ago.

A touching and beautiful holiday story!


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Written and Illustrated By Patricia Polacco

Set in busy Union City, a kindly and portly janitor at an elementary school befriends a young boy who is being teased for being overweight.  Young Welcome Comfort is also a foster child and finally finds a special place in the hearts of Mr. Hamp and his wife who live next door to the school.  But something odd happens every Christmas as his two loving friends go away. And then there was that vivid Christmas Dream.  Telling any more about the plot will surely give away this lovely holiday story that shares a sense of kindness and compassion that are truly worthy of Christmas.

This is my favorite “Santa Claus” book because it tells such an endearing story and focuses less on the aspect of material gift-giving and more on the aspect of a St. Nick’s love and care for children. Just beautiful!


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Emma lives in a bustling city and has been watching the days get shorter and darker.  People hurry by getting ready for both Christmas and Hanukkah. One cold winter day her Dad tells her it’s time to get out the menorah and her family and extended family’s celebration of Hanukkah begins.  Later that same month, her mother takes down some beautiful boxes and tells Emma, it’s time to get the Christmas tree.  Her whole family shares Christmas preparations with more neighbors and friends.  This quiet little tale shares a thoughtful approach to respecting and cherishing both sets of holiday customs instead of choosing between them.

Perfect for reading aloud in a classroom or library to start a discussion about holiday customs and how they can be shared in a way that respects and values all participants. I especially love the last line of the book telling how the young girl has a lasting memory of the joy of both celebrations.  It tells us that she remembers “the bright lights of both celebrations long after the dark winter nights are gone.”


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Categories : Christmas, Hanukkah, Judaism
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Travel around the world to explore the many different way that people celebrate Christmas in 12 different countries and cultures.  Visited in this book are Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, the Philipines, Sweden and the state of Alaska in the USA.

Beautifully organized, this book has a page of well-written information and a wonderful, colorful illustration for each entry.  A “Christmas Chronology” helps you trace the background of the celebration throughout important dates in history and a section at the end of the book includes unique and unusual Christmas crafts such as Filipino style Christmas stars, an easy advent calendar and Christmas poppers and cornucopias.

Think you know all about Christmas?  Pick up this book and you’ll surely make some new and wonderful discoveries about the celebration of this beloved holiday

Suggested Reading Level –  Grades 2 – 5


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Written and Illustrated By Patricia Polacco

Trishia’s family lives in a rural area and loves getting ready for Hanukkah.  There’s food to cook, presents to make and so much more.  And when Trisha visits her neighbors who should be getting ready to celebrate Christmas – she finds that they are all sick and can’t get out of bed.  Her neighbors have scarlet fever and it looks like the holidays will not come to their house at all.  In this beautiful tale, friendship and the spirit of giving truly saves the day, leaving both families in awe of holiday miracles.

Based on a childhood memory from author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco, this book is a perfect read-aloud and poses a wonderful question – what can you do for your neighbors or your community this holiday season?


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Categories : Christmas, Hanukkah
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Written By and Illustrated by Ivan Gantschev, Translation by J. Allison James

Bulgarian born author and artist, Ivan Gantshev weaves a wonderful winter tale about a rabbit and a bear.  The story takes place on Christmas Eve as two hunters make their way into the forest and come upon a little bunny.  Fleeing the hunters, she takes refuge in a cave and awakens a bear who is having the most marvelous dream.  In her dream, the little bear is in a far-off country and she sees a couple looking for shelter so their baby can be born.  The dream unfolds a breath-taking description of the birth of Christ and the bear is in awe.  The rabbit helps to explain Christmas and a nearby owl shares a prophesy that the baby from the dream will help protect the poor and the weak.

Does the rabbit remain safe and secure on Christmas Eve?  What will the hungry bear do before she settles down for the rest of her winter sleep?  Check out this book and be transported into the quiet setting of a wintery woods where miracles create the most beautiful and inspiring of stories.


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Written By Valerie Tripp. Illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles

It’s going to be a difficult Christmas for Josefina and her three sisters who live on a rancho (ranch) in rural New Mexico.  Her mother passed away before the last Christmas and although her lovely Tia (Aunt) Dolores is there for them, all the girls wonder if the celebration will ever be happy again.  And then there’s Niña – the doll that was supposed to be gifted to Josefina last year by her mom.  No one knows where she is so it seems that one more happy memory will be gone for Josefina this year.

Despite all that, the family becomes busy with Christmas preparations and the book shares the beautiful Las Posadas tradition (see explanation below) as well as details of wonderful traditional foods and crafts (like “colcha” embroidery) that are part of this season’s activities.  Will Josefina be able to play Mary in Las Posadas?  Will Niña ever come back?  Will Christmas be happy again?  Check out this beautiful book to see how so many little Christmas miracles can help bring the happiness and wonder back to the season for Josefina.

Las Posadas – Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.

Suggested Reading Level –  Ages 8 and Up

 


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By Joan O’Brien

Is it time to hide the brooms yet?

Discover wonderful ways that people celebrate Christmas in countries that range from Great Britain, France, Australia, Greece, China, Iraq, Sweden and Norway where it is customary to hide a broom after a beautiful family feast on Christmas Eve.  Wonderful short explanations about meaningful traditions accompany beautiful black and white pictures that are truly inviting to color.

This is a great book that shares background on customs such as hanging stocking, caroling, mistletoe, yule logs and introduces so many other days and ways that people celebrate the season that heralds the birth of Christ.  Great fun as a homeschooling social studies project or just for coloring, Christmas or holiday fun.

Highly recommended. Now, to find my crayons and coloring pencils!


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Written and Illustrated by Tomie DePaulo

What is the celebration of Las Posadas?  Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.

Here Tomie dePaulo takes you into New Mexico near Santa Fe where the celebration happens in one night.  A young couple dress up like Joseph and Mary and walk a path lighted by beautiful luminaries (farolitos).  They ask to stay at several doorsteps in the main square and each time they are met by a devil who won’t allow them to come in. The crowd boos loudly.  But on the last attempt, they are met by kindness and the doors are thrown open and they enter the church.  DePaulo’s story shares these rich details and also a Christmas miracle when the two young people intended as Mary and Joseph cannot make it into town because of snow.  Will the celebration be ruined – or will something even more special happen?

Check out this beautiful book to find out!


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Written by Joanne Oppenheim and Illustrated by Fabian Negrin

This book shares another beautiful version of the Mexican Legend of how a simple weed became a beautiful gift for the Baby Jesus, because it was given with love.   The story takes place during Las Posadas (see explanation below) when Joseph and Mary’s quest to find a place to stay in Bethlehem is reenacted.  Little Lucinda is sad because her family has fallen on heard times and she does not have a gift to bring to the alter – a custom in Mexico during the nights before Christmas.  An angelic voice tells her to gather weeds and – embarrassed – she does so.  As she walks down the long aisle to the church, the whole congregation gasps because her simple weeds have burst into bloom as beautiful poinsettias.

This book has a bit more detail then the Tomie DePaulo “Legend of the Pointsettia” and boasts lovely dream-like illustrations by Argentinian artist, Fabian Negrin. The Miracle of the First Poinsettia also shares the music to a lovely Mariachi song sung during this time of year called El Rorro (the babe) .  However, both stories share the wonder of this legend, the joy of Christmas miracles and a lovely explanation of why this beautiful flower shines so brightly in so many houses at holiday times.

Las Posadas – Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.


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Retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

A beautiful Mexican folktale about how a “useless weed” became a Christmas miracle and a special gift for the baby Jesus (el Niño Jesus). Tomie de Paulo has a gift for creating and illustrating wonderful stories that take you right into the culture he is sharing.  In this story you travel to rural Mexico and share a story about little Lucinda who wants to help her mother weave a special blanket for the town’s Nativity celebration.  But when her mom becomes sick and she can’t accomplish the task herself – she is downhearted.  Right then, a miracle helps save the day and shows the value of any gift that is given from the heart.

An inspiring tale about what it really means to give.


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Written by Jean Richardson, Illustrated By Alice Englander

Set in a medieval court, this book creates a beautiful story around the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas”.  The book centers around a little page named Stephen during the time of the Feast of Stephen, the second day of Christmas (December 26th).  The young page is smaller then the others and often teased, so he wonders why he’s being called before the king.  Instead of a scolding, the King asks him to join him on a Christmas trek through the blinding snow to help one of his poorest subjects who lives deep in the woods.

As you might guess, little Stephen sets out on this journey cold, angry and resentful to miss the Christmas festivities at the castle.  However, he returns delighted, happy and transformed for having experienced the real meaning of Christmas love and charity.  A beautiful book for children and adults, especially for reading aloud!


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Written by Max Lucado  

Illustrations by Liz Bonham

Have you ever felt that something about you kept you separate from the rest of “the crowd”?  In this story, a little lamb named Joshua feels exactly the same way.  He was born with one leg that didn’t work quite right and found it hard to keep up with the rest of the sheep.  However, life brought Joshua a best friend named Abigail who happened to be a cow and Josh’s story unfolds.

Because Joshua can’t keep up with the other sheep, he needs to stay behind one snowy night in the barn with Abigail and gets to witness the miracle of the birth of Jesus.  Joshua not only witness it, but provide the warmth for the brand new baby who shivered in the cold.  The story is a wonderful retelling of the Nativity story as well as a tale of how the obstacles and conditions of one’s life often open the doors that offer the biggest blessings.

Although I cringe a bit at the use of the word “crippled”, in the title, this book is a great read, a real inspiration and joy! Also great for reading aloud.


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Written by Cheryl Benner

What is Christmas like among the “plain” folk of Pennsylvania?  Although there’s no electricity and few modern devices, the holiday season is filled with fun, friendship and giving.

Did you know that students from the Amish schoolhouse are called “scholars”.  Find out if they exchange presents.  How they thank their teacher and postman at the holiday times?  What is a taffy pull – and does it sound like fun?  Nicely written and illustrated in black and white, each page allows a child to not only read about this community but also color and explore the pictures and images.

This is a simple and beautiful book – as much fun to read as it is to color!  Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in simpler holidays or getting back to “the reason for the season.”


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Written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

Illustration by Ellen Beier

Little Virginia is making her way from her house to the school in the cold South Dakota winter. Like her siblings and many friends, she’s excited about gifts of new coats and warm winter wear that will soon arrive from the East.  What is Christmas like on a Lakota Reservation?  This lovely book shares a warm story that Virginia remembers from the holidays of her childhood, complete with a Christmas miracle of a wonderful new coat that perfectly met her needs.

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve was born on the Rosebud Reservation and writes beautifully about Native American culture.  She has won the Spirit of Crazy Horse Award and the National Humanities Medal for her outstanding work for both children and adult readers.

Suggested Reading Level – Ages 5 and up

 


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