As Christmas approaches with all the excitement and preparation, I also try to turn my children’s hearts and minds toward the celebration of Christ’s birth, the miracle of his coming and the anticipation of his return.
Many years ago when my children were babies I was fortunate enough to come across the idea of a Picture Book Advent using whole and living picture books through Sally Clarkson’s ministry (www.sallyclarkson.com). She described how she wrapped 24 picture books every year and placed them in a basket. Starting December 1st they would open a book each day and read it together. Inspired by this idea I made a list of books and set out trying to collect as many as I could.
Gradually over the years our Christmas Book Advent Library has grown and it has become an anticipated tradition. Each year I carefully choose and wrap 24 books in complimentary wrapping paper and arrange them in a basket to be brought out December 1st. Each night a book is chosen from to be read aloud before bedtime.
While we give and receive gifts on Christmas to remember the gift of Christ, I also hope to encourage my children to be loving, serving, self-sacrificing and compassionate. Excellent picture books are a wonderful way to enliven the imagination and reach the heart through positive stories.
If you are interested in starting your own picture book Advent or just would like some recommendations here are 12 of our favorite picture books for Christmas.
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
A touching story of a girl who shows kindness to a homeless man at Christmas. Every year I catch my breath at the dénouement. Beautifully illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
Illustrated by the incredible P.J. Lynch, a widow and her son commission the local woodcarver to carve their nativity set. The woodcarver, nicknamed “Mr. Gloomy” finds healing and hope in the process
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston
It’s Ruthie’s Family’s turn to bring the Christmas tree to the Church for Christmas day. She and Papa picked it out on the top of the mountain earlier that year, but then Papa was called away to war. Will there be a tree for the church this year and will Ruthie’s prayers be answered?
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
Based on a true story a boy gives what he has to someone in need. And when his precious Christmas orange is lost, his family gives him a special gift. A poignant story about family and giving at Christmastime.
The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park
A son learns from his father the skill of gathering myrrh. We learn more about the third gift the Magi gave to the Christ Child and its significance. At the back we discover the author’s curiosity from childhood about myrrh and how it led to the creation of the book.
Papa Panov’s Special Day by Mig Holder
A poor, lonely cobbler helps others while waiting for Jesus to come on Christmas Day.
Annika’s Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis
Every year Annika hopes to find the almond in her bowl of rice pudding so she can make a special wish she is sure will come true. She already knows what she’ll wish for and surely this will be her year. But when the time comes Annika learns that some things are more important than getting her own wish.
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
A farmer’s son gives his father a Christmas gift he’ll never forget and learns the meaning of sacrificial love.
How Little Porcupine Played Christmas (or Little Porcupine’s Christmas) by Joseph Slate
The other animals don’t want Little Porcupine to participate in the Baby in the Manger play. His mother assures him that he his perfect just the way he is and in the end he saves the play.
Littlejim’s Gift by Gloria Houston
Littlejim has a tough father and they live in hard times. Littlejim works a dangerous job so he can earn enough money for a tool set he hopes will enable him to be a help to his father and gain his approval. But when it comes time for the Christmas tree gift giving service at the church Littlejim chooses to use his hard earned money to bless someone else.
The Remarkable Christmas of the Cobbler’s Sons by Ruth Sawyer
Christmas is going to be bleak and cold for the three young sons of a poor cobbler until an unusual visitor unexpectedly brings magic and warmth when they offer him what little they have.
The Christmas Eve Ghost by Shirley Hughes
A lovely story about a poor widow who works hard to provide for her children in 1930’s Liverpool. A sweet message of toleration and kindness.
Winter photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com