Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One a Day: Picture Books for Advent

This year, among our other Advent activities, I decided we'd read a picture book a day focused on the Christmas season. I originally read this idea on a blog (which I reached following a link from elsewhere, not a blog I regularly read) and decided it was perfect for us given my love of picture books. Also, young children adore opening presents. We started last Sunday, of course, and have already had to establish a schedule for who gets to open the book each day. I also had to put the lid on the bin each day after we read our book because Second Daughter would try to open all of them as soon as I had my back turned.

Surprisingly, I had to wander the Christmas books at the library to find enough picture books to fill our days. I hope to continue this tradition in future years, filling out our collection enough to use our own books (and no library books) and to keep it up through the Epiphany. Some of the books this year, too, were more "fillers" than "my favorite Christmas books" so I'll be looking to replace some of the selections with others. A few longer ones I do like I didn't include because First Son wasn't very interested in them yet like The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and The Birds' Christmas Carol. We'll have room to shuffle things around and include them in later years either as part of our "unwrapping books" or as a family read-aloud. I really need to read A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas for myself this year, too. I may add it to our family celebrations next year. (Can you believe I haven't ever read it? Especially since the Mazzucco family recommended it last year. But I was pregnant and then I had a baby.)

Some of this year's books are more for the younger children and some (I must admit) are mainly for me. Please tell me I can continue this tradition long after my youngest child is as old as First Son is now! So many of these books are so wonderful! Surely picture books are good for all ages...

Anyway, here are the books we're reading this year. (We have a few others lying around as well like Jingle the Christmas Clown and Gingerbread Baby, as well. I couldn't wrap them all!) Please comment or email with any other recommendations for next year's list.
  1. The Last Straw by Frederick Thury (My children adore this book. Second Son is receiving a copy as his Epiphany gift so we'll have our own copy next year.)
  2. A Christmas Story: Mini Edition  by Brian Wildsmith (Oh, how I love his illustrations!)
  3. The Night of Las Posadas (Picture Puffins) by Tomie dePaola
  4. Saint Francis and the Christmas Donkey by Robert Byrd
  5. A Small Miracle by Peter Collington (This is a fabulous wordless book. Please check it out if you've never had the pleasure of reading it.)
  6. A Christmas Like Helen's by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
  7. A Gift from Saint Francis: The First Creche by Joanna Cole
  8. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  9. Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Steigemeyer (for the feast of St. Nicholas)
  10. The Christmas Story: From the King James Version illustrated by Gennady Spirin
  11. To Whom the Angel Spoke by Terry Key
  12. The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola (for the feast day of St. Juan Diego)
  13. A Christmas Tree in the White House by Gary Hines
  14. The Donkey's Dream by Barbara Helen Berger
  15. The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie dePaola (for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, of course)
  16. The Legend of the Christmas Rose by William H. Hooks
  17. Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
  18. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston (and illustrated by my most favorite illustrator Barbara Cooney)
  19. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
  20. Lucy's Christmas by Donald Hall
  21. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad (A Golden Look-Look Book) by Mercer Mayer (This one is for the day of Kansas Dad's birthday.)
  22. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
  23. The Huron Carol by Frances Tyrrell (I'm also requesting some CDs from the library to see if I can find a good version of the carol for us to hear on the same day.)
  24. The Friendly Beasts illustrated by Tomie dePaola
  25. Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
  26. The Miracle of Saint Nicholas (Golden Key Books) by Gloria Whelan
  27. Bethlehem: Revised Standard Version Of The Holy Bible, Catholic Edition illustrated by Fiona French and The Night Before Christmas: A Victorian Vision of the Christmas Classic illustrated by Anita Lobel (two for Christmas Eve)
  28. All for the Newborn Baby by Phyllis Root
We are reading them in this order. I had to schedule some of the ones I borrowed from the library early in Advent because I knew they would be requested by someone else and I'd have to return them by the end of this week. (Yes, I wrapped library books for my children to open. The joy of unwrapping is great. The desire to own them is apparently greater in their mother than in the children.)


  1. ACK!!! Thanks for posting all the titles and links. You've got my head all spinning with good ideas. I purchased the St. Nicholas one (Day 9) about a month ago, and I absolutely adore Tomie dePaola. I have not seen his Friendly Beasts, but was just thinking how I'd love to teach Gemma that song. Thank you again. This is just great.

    By the way, Parenting with Grace is in-transit. ;-D Loved it!

  2. I just requested a handful of these from the library. Did I mention you rock!! Thank you so MUCH for this post.

  3. Thanks for the list! We're reading a Christmas book (or two) each day for Advent, too, though I'm not wrapping them. That would be fun, though! I think that only five on your list are on mine, though, so I'll check them out. We have a substantial collection already, but I did request a handful of books from the library that we don't own, yet. And a number of the ones we'll be reading I bought throughout the year, so we'll have to see how we like them.

  4. Monica, maybe I should have waited until after Christmas to post my list. You might be requesting ones I'll have to return. ;-) (Not really, I already renewed them, so I get to keep the ones I have other than a few that have to go back on Friday.)

    Tiffany, please share your list, especially any you particularly like! I cannot believe how much the kids like unwrapping the books. It's very nearly the highlight of their day.

    We received quite a few of ours through PaperBackSwap and I think I'll plan on buying at least one new book for our Advent reading every year. This year it was the St. Nicholas one. I actually just had time to glance through it before I wrapped it, but it looked pretty good. Of course, you're not Catholic so that might make a difference with those saints books.

  5. The St. Nicholas one (Day 9) has beautiful art work I think, and yes the story seems very nice.

    Here's a few more I can think of


    My MIL has several really neat ones as well that aren't coming to mind just now. Something about a homeless man with a monkey (I think?) and a little boy and his Christmas program. The title is completely escaping me though. I will check with her and post back.

  6. Yes, Monica, please let me know the other titles! I think The Gift of the Magi is on our list for this year. I actually have a copy of The Little Match Girl but wasn't sure my kids were quite ready for that one yet. I'd forgotten about it or I might have mentioned it as one of our future books.

  7. Yeah, Little Match Girl is kind of depressing. I thought about that.

    I'll check with my MIL and let you know soon.

  8. Hey, Kansas Mom, great idea about wrapping the books. My kids would love that! Of course that would mean I'd have to be a little more prepared than usual. :)

    I have a few of the ones you have listed. I should have gotten more at the library because they are probably all gone now.

    But, I do have a few from the library that look really good:
    "Silent Night: The Song and Its Story" - Margaret Hodges

    "The Legend of the Candy Cane" - Lori Walburg

    "Waiting For Noel: An Advent Story" - Ann Dixon

    "Merry Christmas, Strega Nona" - Tomie dePaola

    And one that looks absolutely fabulous and I could probably use it alone for most of Advent:
    "Hark! A Christmas Sampler" - Jane Yolen, ill. by Tomie dePaola. It has stories, legends, songs, poems, and even a little play.

    I'll have to check at the library for more next week!


  9. Yes, I will. But it might be a day or two. Our Thanksgiving guests just left today. I might just e-mail it to you. The whole list has over 40 books, so maybe just the highlights.

  10. Janet, I'd forgotten about Waiting for Noel and The Legend of the Candy Cane. Those are good possibilities for next year. I haven't read the Silent Night book, but I just requested it. I love Margaret Hodges's books. I also requested the sampler. It sounds great! I'm not really a fan of the Strega Nona books. They're almost the ONLY books by Tomie dePaola that I don't love.

    Tiffany, I'd appreciate any suggestions you have! I can see myself using at least two books a day eventually, maybe more, as I incorporate our Advent and Christmas celebrations into our lessons more than I am this year. (I'm mainly replacing our catechism and leaving everything else the same right now.) The more recommendations, the better!

  11. KM, I really appreciate this post! I am always looing for new Christmas titles, so I'm going to check out the ones on your list that we don't have and see what would fit for us. I especially appreciate the St. Nicolas book as I have been looking for one for a VERY long time...come to think of it there is a chance you gave me the title last year and I forgot about it. Oops! I'll put it on my list now before it happens again...

  12. Brandy, I haven't read the St. Nicholas book yet myself. I bought it based on the recommendations in Catholic Mosaic and just had time to glance through it before I wrapped it. I think it'll be a good one, though. I'll have to let you know for sure.

  13. Here are some additional books that we like - (Some of these are appropriate for the preschool crowd, but some are longer picture books.)
    Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
    Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell
    This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar
    B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner
    An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
    Johann's Gift to Christmas by Jack Richards
    The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown
    Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins
    One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham (Chapter books with gorgeous illustrations)
    The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (We read this one to mark the beginning of Hanukkah - it's a Hanukkah/Christmas Book)

    And these ones are non-religious, Christmas books that we also like:
    The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
    "Christmas" chapter from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    The Nutcracker (we read an abridged, picture book version)
    Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
    Night Tree by Eve Bunting
    Christmas in the City by Loretta Krupinski
    The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

  14. Tiffany, thank you for your list! There are so many I'd forgotten or haven't read at all! I'm making notes for next year.

  15. I have to mention, the Sampler is not as great as I thought. I still like it and it has a lot of neat legends and stories in it, but I've run across a couple that weren't so great. You'll know what I mean when you read them. I was disappointed in the little play as well. It's still a good book if you read it to them and pick out the good stuff, but I probably wouldn't give it to my child to read.

  16. H of B, I've been reading the sampler a bit already and think I agree with you. Some of it is great and some of it is not-so-great. Ah, well, a perfect sampler was probably too much to hope for!


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