Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Sentimental, Tugging-at-your-Heartstrings Christmas

I love sentimental Christmas stories that illustrate the true meaning of the season; of miracles, generosity, and changes of heart; of family togetherness, simpler times, and by-gone days.

My boys are still too young to enjoy these stories.  As my eldest says, "Mommy, that was a LONG book." Their attention spans and maturity are not yet ready for my favorites.  Thank goodness I can share them with you!  Here are my favorite picture books of the season. May yours be Merry and Bright!

December by Eve Bunting; Illustrated by David Diaz - The dazzling artwork of David Diaz, combined with the hope-filled storytelling of Eve Bunting, gives this book a place on my list.  December is an angel torn from a calendar and hanging on the cardboard wall of Simon's house.  He and his mom are homeless, but their generous spirit incites a miracle.  This book reminds me of the Bible verse: "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40, NIV)

A Christmas Like Helen's by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock; Illustrated by Mary Azarian - I am a Vermonter and a distant relative of the Helen written about in this book.  The opening lines transport me to another time: "To have a Christmas like Helen's you'll need to be born on a Vermont hill farm, before cars, or telephones, or electricity, and be the youngest of seven children." The story goes on to describe farm-life, keeping the spirit of Christmas all year long, and the importance of family. Mary Azarian's gorgeous woodcut illustrations add to the charm and old-fashioned feeling of this lovely Christmas book.

The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco - Patricia Polacco is well-known for her memoir-like picture books, and this one is no exception.  She recalls a Hanukkah when all of her neighbors fell ill with scarlet fever and couldn't celebrate Christmas.  Her family took it upon themselves to decorate trees and bring food to their neighbors and it was remembered by all as the year when "Santa really did come." Another time-honored treasure of friendship and generosity, I liked to use this book in my third grade classroom since it highlighted both Hanukkah and Christmas and offered an opening to discuss what it means to have a giving spirit.

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillio; Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline - When Frances discovers that the organ grinder and his monkey sleep on the street, she is very troubled.  Her dismissive mother is only worried about Frances' role in the Christmas pageant.  On their way to church, Frances invites the man to come. When it is her turn to say her line as an angel, she is still so distracted by the organ grinder's plight, that she can't speak. Until the door opens and the man and his monkey arrive.  Now her lines have meaning: "'Behold!' she shouted. 'I bring you tidings of Great Joy!'"

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski; Illustrated by P.J. Lynch -  Jonathan Toomey is an unhappy man with no family, but he is the best woodcarver around. When he is asked to carve the figures of a Nativity scene, Mr. Toomey's life is turned upside down by the frequent presence of a polite, but opinionated boy and his thoughtful mother. In a character conversion similar to that of Ebenezer Scrooge, Jonathan Toomey learns a lesson of love, healing, and generosity. This modern classic has been made into a movie and you can get a copy of the book with a CD of the story read by James Earl Jones.


  1. These look like very lovely books. Some of my favorite authors and illustrators. They may be a little long for me as well, but I don't mind when the Mom Person's voice lulls me to sleep with sweet thoughts. Thanks for sharing these!