Since the pre-Christmas season is upon us, I decided to write up a little post on my favorite Christmas books from my childhood. There are loads of options out there today for kids, which I think is awesome. When I taught first grade, I couldn’t wait to read new books to my students (and they couldn’t wait to hear them!). Growing up, though, the selection was quite a bit less, consisting largely of Golden Books. My mom found a book that Current offered for a short time called “A Story a Day ‘Til Christmas.” We have two volumes of it (I’m not sure how many they made – not many!), and we read and re-read from those books every Christmas. I still enjoy pulling them out and reading the stories over again with my mom. Some memories are worth re-creating.
Anyway, I decided to do a short blurb about each of the books I treasured as a child. Perhaps this could inspire some of you to think back on what brought you to the joy and wonder of the season when you were young – and maybe recreate some of those memories today.
#1: A Story A Day ‘Til Christmas
This book (and the other volumes like it) contains, as would be expected, a story for each day until Christmas – like an Advent calendar of sorts. Some of the stories were classics, while others were a little more recent (meaning possibly unpublished elsewhere). Each night before bed when we’d read the next story, I’d be excited to see what the characters would be like, how the story would end, and what my opinion of the story might be. I loved these books as a kid, and I still love them today. It’s sad that they’re only available through rare books websites – books like this should be more widely accessible!
#2: The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry
This is sort of a cheat (another to follow in #3), because this story was one actually contained within the compilation book I wrote about as #1 (above). I wanted to separate it out, though, because it was one of my favorite stories to read from that book. This story, a classic, tells of a couple who show their love for one another in very self-sacrificing ways, which only lends itself to an even deeper love between them. It’s a beautiful story, and even as a young child who didn’t really understand the complexities of the message, I knew there was something special and touching about it. Definitely worth a read (or two, or three…).
#3: The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Andersen
As I mentioned earlier, this story was also included in the compilation book mentioned in #1 (above). But, as with book #2, it’s so good that I had to mention it separately. It’s a sad story, which confused me as a child, when every other Christmas story I’d read had a happy ending that involved winning a contest, or reconnecting with family, or getting the longed-for item for Christmas, or what-have-you. But this story was different, and perhaps that’s why it drew me in. A tale of a little girl who freezes to death trying to sell matches on the street, it’s most certainly not one to warm the heart at first glance. But there’s a deeper story, involving a grandmother’s love, and the promise of heaven, and it is these things that make this story worth noting. It, too, is a classic, and for very good reason. I found that they have made the story into a few movie versions – might have to check those out.
#4: The Story of Holly & Ivy, by Rumer Godden
This one was another favorite of mine, but was rarely read due to its length and my lack of attention span. 🙂 I do love the story, though. It’s one of a little orphan girl who wishes for someone to love her, especially at Christmas. This story shows how important we are to one another, and how something small (or big!) can change someone’s life. Definitely worth checking out!!
#5: The Christmas Tree That Grew, by Phyllis Krasilovsky
Boy, did I love this book. There were a few mystifying parts about it that made me enjoy it every time my mom and I read it. The first was a silly thing, but in my little world everyone lived in single-family homes. So, I found the idea of an apartment building, housing family on top of family, to be an extraordinary concept! All of those people in the same place – separate yet together. It was fascinating to me. (Now, living in an apartment, reality has set in and it’s really not all that exciting after all. Haha.) As the tree grows, the family on the bottom floor has to cut a hole through the ceiling to let it continue to grow. This allows for the person/family in the apartment above them to enjoy the tree, too. The book continues like this, for three or four floors (my memory is rusty on this one). The joy that the tree brings to each neighbor (despite the fact that when it’s removed they’ll have a huge hole in their ceiling/floor…) is remarkable, and filled me with wonder as a little girl. And hey, who said that children’s books needed to be realistic anyway?
#6: The Biggest, Most Beautiful Christmas Tree, by Amye Rosenberg
This book is terrific because of the characters. When I was preparing to write this post I was racking my brain for titles, and couldn’t come up with the name of this book. But I remembered one character – a chipmunk named Nutley – and thus was able to locate the book via Google. The story is about some woodland creatures who are always passed over by Santa, and they are sad and confused. They decide to make themselves more noticeable so that he will surely find them this year. As they make their decorations and trim the tree, you can’t help but get excited along with them, hoping Santa will finally come this year. It’s a fun little book – not a “moral to the story” type, but a sweet, happy story. Perfect for snuggling up and reading with kids.
#7: Merry Christmas Mom and Dad, by Mercer Mayer
Ok, let me go on record as saying the I LOVE LITTLE CRITTER. Mercer Mayer’s books are extraordinary, and timeless. I can still pick this book up and enjoy it – possibly even more than I did as a kid now that I can catch a different level of humor in it. In the story, Little Critter is beyond excited for Christmas to happen, and, in his usual way, has sort of left a trail of minor destruction behind him while creating gifts, wrapping the presents, and waking mom and dad on Christmas morning. The whole Little Critter series is terrific, but this is one of my favorites in it since I felt I could relate so much as a kid.
#8: The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore
I had to end on the classic of all classics. This is actually the cover of one of the copies we had of this poem. I remember this book being in my hands like it was yesterday (when it was actually more like 20 years ago). My mom and dad said that I had this poem memorized far before I could read it, and that they actually recorded me reciting it on an audiotape once upon a time (no one knows where that tape went, which is a shame). I loved this poem, and still can recite most of it. Of all traditional Christmas books, this is the most essential to read year, after year, after year.
So there you have it. My favorite childhood Christmas books. There’s one that I couldn’t remember the name of and though I tried various terms in my Google search, came up empty-handed. If I get a chance to search through the collection at my parents’ house, I’ll put it up later. I can remember the story, but not the title or author. Agh. HOWEVER, I did enjoy compiling this list and taking this little stroll down memory lane. Reading truly speaks to my heart, and looking over these books has a particular magic of its own. I sincerely hope all of you have similar memories of Christmas books you read as a child!!