A Small Miracle, a wordless picture book by Peter Collington
This is probably my single favorite Christmas book. In it, a poor woman trudges to town with her accordion to earn some money to buy food during the Christmas season. Some listen, but few drop any coins in her box, so she must sell her treasured accordion. Leaving the shop, she is robbed by a thief. She chases him, but forgets her own troubles when the ruffian desecrates the Nativity scene in the church. She sets everything back up before walking home in the snow. Weak with hunger, she collapses on the way.
She's saved by a heavenly miracle, but you'll have to read the book to find out how.
Following closely behind A Small Miracle is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, illustrated by the ever lovely Barbara Cooney. I've written about this book before and Brady mentioned it in her post as well. I'm very excited to share this book with the girls this year. I think First Daughter in particular is going to love it. (It's been tucked away since last year so it will seem new to her again.) I'm not going to count this in my five because it's on Brandy's list and I've written about it before.
The Last Straw by Frederick Thury, illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen, is full of beautiful vibrant illustrations of a camel burdened by his great pride who learns a little humility on his way to the Christ child with the wise men. This is a perfect story to read for the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck and illustrated by Mark Buehner is on my list despite the illustrations. They're fine but not spectacular. The story, though, is a perfect Christmas story. A young man searching for the perfect Christmas gift for his father discovers the joy and love of self-sacrifice. It brings tears to my eyes every year and it's written without any unnecessary description of the moral, standing simply on the merits of the tale. Pearl S. Buck is a master and I'm grateful she shared this beautiful story with us.
I'm not sure if a list of my five favorite Christmas books can neglect the Nativity story itself, but I know no Advent would be complete without sharing a few with the children. We are reading a Nativity story each Sunday, though I purposefully went lightly on them the rest of the time. I wanted these stories to stand out for their beauty and goodness. Brandy already mentioned Pamela Dalton's The Story of Christmas, which is stunning. We read that one on the first Sunday of Advent.
I have two others that are my true favorites, though. The first is Fiona French's Bethlehem with the RSV for her text. Her stained glass illustrations are gorgeous. The bright colors always make me feel joyful. (It's also available in the King James translation: Bethlehem: With Words from the Authorized Version of the King James Bible.)
Last (but not least, of course) is A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith. Wildsmith's style is present as always, laced with glitters and shimmers. I could look at his pictures all day. (The link above is for a miniature version, but I have a large one.) You can purchase a new copy at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts.
All for the Newborn Baby by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Nicola Bayley. I'm not counting it, really, because my children simply do not love it as much as I do. Nothing much happens; it's just a beautiful lullaby from Mary to the infant Jesus. The illustrations are so lovely but in a more elegant way than most picture books.
I see I've selected a number of out-of-print books. I apologize. Of these seven books, one I must request from the library each year, one I purchased new in paperback, one I purchased used, and four I received from the good people at PaperBackSwap.com. (I do receive a credit if you sign up and post ten books if you follow this link, but I wanted you to know that this can be a good resource just in case you haven't already discovered it.)
I failed to limit my list to five books. I concede defeat on the double-dog-dare.
May you and your family have a blessed Advent and a joyful Christmas!