Thursday, March 7, 2013

2012 Advent Picture-Book-a-Day: The New and Noteworthy

I know, I know, it's still Lent and I'm still writing about Advent, but I can't help myself. Feel free to ignore! I'll try to post a reminder about this post when Advent 2013 is actually upon us.

For the third year, I wrapped picture books for the children to unwrap before we read them each day during Advent and into the Christmas season. I scheduled them through January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. Last year, I chose two books for many days, but I decided to limit myself to one book a day this year, except for Sundays. On Sundays during Advent, we read one book of the Nativity in addition to another book. I made notes of some very wonderful books that will definitely be on the list for next year as we didn't read them all this year.

During Holy Week last spring, we read the story of the Passion in many different books and the children became a little tired of it. I wanted to be certain that didn't happen with the Nativity story, so I tried to select books that covered a wide range of Advent and Christmas experiences.

Finally, I selected a few additional books to put in a book basket each week for the children to look through on their own or that I would read aloud if they asked. I found they glanced through them all but almost never asked me to read them.

Originally I was going to list all the books we read during Advent and Christmas for our picture-book-a-day, but it's long past Advent now. I've also been writing about this activity for a few years and many of the books appear year after year. So instead, I'm going to write about a few of the ones we enjoyed the most or that were new this year and put some links to my old posts at the end for people who are really interested.

One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jonathan Bean. We hadn't read this book before. I liked the text and loved the colors of the illustrations, but the actual illustrations just didn't appeal to me that much. The children seemed to enjoy it, though.

Why the Chimes Rang by Raymond Macdonald Alden is the wonderful story of two young boys who set out on a journey to the great cathedral to see the Christmas Mass. Along the way, they encounter a poor woman freezing in the snow. The older boy stays with her to keep her warm and alive until help can come while the younger one goes on alone. It is a story of great sacrifice that most pleases the Lord and my dear sweet Second Daughter wanted to give pennies at church for weeks after we read this story. It's usually found in a collection of stories (like this one) but I recently received a nice illustrated hardcover from PaperBackSwap that contains only this story.

Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers by Andrew Clements is written from an angel's point of view. Kansas Dad isn't sure the presentation of the angel is perfect (though he didn't say we shouldn't read it), but I do like how the story places an emphasis of how everything was prepared for Jesus and his birth was an extraordinary event in time. Nothing else like it had ever happened before or will ever happen again.

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant is the story of a young boy who receives a silver-wrapped Christmas gift each year that is not the doctor's set he wants but perfectly meets his needs. When he is grown, his heart aches for something and he remembers how he benefited by those packages and wonders what he can do to pass on that gift, the gift of sharing what others need just when they need it.

This Is the Star by Joyce Dunbar tells the Nativity story in verse with some beautiful illustrations by Gary Blythe.

The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park was another new one for us this year and one I was excited to share. It's the tale of a gifted tradesman who collects the resin from very special trees. One of his greatest finds becomes a precious gift for a new-born baby.

The Spider's Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story by Katya Krenina shows how compassion for the smallest of God's creatures can turn into something beautiful.

Good King Wenceslas with illustrations by John Wallner is one of many versions of the carol available in picture books. I like to choose a new one every year from the library. One of these is a good choice for December 26th, which is the feast of St. Stephen.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry is a sweet little story of the top of a Christmas tree that blesses a variety of people and animals. The illustrations are wonderful. If you can't find a copy of this book, you could also try Just Right for Christmas, a relatively new book that tells a very similar story.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is known to nearly everyone. This was the first year I've read it with the children and was pleased at how well they listened. The illustrations in this book are realistic and so warm!

The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by Jane Ray. We always seem to read at least one version of this song because the children enjoy it so much. I think this version is my favorite. I love the illustrations; they're entertaining and charming.

B Is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner is, of course, a Christmas alphabet. It's marvelous. I don't always love Elisa Kleven's books, but this one is nearly perfect. I hope someday we own this book. I'll read it myself after the children have outgrown picture books.

The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve is a book I wanted to share with the children because it describes a particular Christmas in a particular place and time. Virginia needs a new coat. This book tells of the one she receives and how she is able to practice the virtues of patience and selflessness before she is blessed by others.

As I said, I've already made a note of some wonderful books we'll read during Advent in 2013, some old favorites we skipped in 2012 and a few new ones I found but couldn't fit in this year (or read after they were returned by someone else in January). Be sure to let me know if you've read any gems I've missed!

Past Advent-Picture-Book-a-Day Booklists

2010 list (the first year we did this activity)
2011 first week of Advent
2011 second week of Advent
2011 third week of Advent
2011 fourth week of Advent
my favorite five (or seven) Christmas picture books (2012)
an additional Christmas book for My Favorite Picture Books (2012)


  1. I checked out The Third Gift late in the season two years ago and it was one of the books Amanda specifically asked for this past year, even though I hadn't planned to read it, since I tried to stick to books we already owned. I just couldn't do it, though. =)
    Of the new ones we read, the girls really liked Small Camel Follows the Star, and Amanda liked Mim's Christmas Jam (it paired well with one of our old favorites, A Christmas in the City). We also read What's Cooking, Jamela? as a fun "Christmas Around the World" selection, though you/your girls may or may not like it, depending on your experience with your own chickens. Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect was another new addition to our collection that I liked, and I picked up a beautiful copy of An Angel Came to Nazareth, though I think it's probably best for the younger years.

  2. I Liked B is for Bethlehem as well.

    Thanks (you and Tiffany) for the recommendations. I tagged them at the library and will need to remember to start at the bottom of my list next year. ;-D

  3. Thanks, Tiffany! Some of your suggestions look really good. Of course, now Monica and I will be fighting for the library copies. ;-) My Christmas and Advent book collection is getting quite extensive. I keep gathering them because using the library is tricky; I never know which books we'll get, when, and how long we'll be able to keep them. But I don't think I could get away with not using any library books; there are just too many good ones I don't own!

  4. Yes, we love B is for Bethlehem, too. And I agree, KM - I'll be reading it long after the girls have outgrown it.
    Also, the Christmas in the City that we like is the one by Loretta Krupinski - I think there may be more than one book by that title.
    Yes, I try to request the library books in mid-November and read them first in our rotation, so that others can enjoy them, too. Or we can always get them between Christmas and Epiphany, when most other people have stopped reading them.

  5. I think we need to extend our list up until the end of the Christmas season, that would give us a lot more time to get in some good books.

    Yes, requesting from the library is always tricky for holidays and such. I just realized tonite I blew it for St. Patrick's day. Oh well....


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