by Jill Swanson

(Jill writes a regular blog recommending great children’s literature, and has taken some time to give some COTC some special recommendations. You can find her blog at orangemarmaladebooks.com)

Digging out the box of Christmas books has always been a much-anticipated moment in our family. Over the years we’ve collected a nice stash mostly from library sales, rummage sales, and used book stores. Plunking down with mugs of hot chocolate and favorite stories — Father Christmas and Swedish tomtes and the nativity all jumbled together — is a sure sign that Christmas is coming.

A number of young moms I know have an annual Advent tradition of wrapping up 25 books. The children open and read a book a day as they count down to Christmas. The same 25 can be used over and over because with a whole year gone by, it’s like greeting old friends.

Reading together is a sweet way to anticipate, to rest, and to make memories. I have many favorites for this season, but here are a few suggestions. You can read longer reviews of these and find lots more titles on my children’s literature blog, Orange Marmalade Books.

Favorite Advent Book:

One Wintry Night, by Ruth Bell Graham, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson – The angels announce that a “Savior” is born, so… who needs saving? And from what? Mrs. Billy Graham traces the salvation story from Creation through the Old Testament, Christ’s birth and on through his death and resurrection. The artwork is stunning. A long book to be read in segments throughout Advent.

Especially for toddlers:

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Christmas Is Here, text from the KJV, illustrations by Lauren Castillo – A sweet mix of a live, snowy nativity scene and the scenes from Bethlehem by one of today’s top illustrators, with just Scripture for text.

Listen to the Silent Night, by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher – Christmas was probably quite noisy rather than silent. Enjoy the sounds of that first Christmas in this energetic account.

Peter Spier’s Christmas – Peter Spier is one of the all-time best children’s illustrators. This wordless book is his marvelous sequence of panels showing the many activities leading up to and following Christmas.

Ages 3 or 4 and up:

The Christmas Pageant, retold and illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers – A group of children rehearse and put on a Christmas pageant in a barn, as we read a retelling of the Biblical story and sing the included carols.

There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrations by Dennis Nolan – Quiet, free-verse account of the birth of Christ with gorgeous text and artwork.

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The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by LeUyen Pham – New this year, the talented LeUyen Pham brings a diverse, multicultural flair to this old song and includes a history of keeping the twelve days of Christmas.

The Third Gift, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline – An award-winning team imagines how the gift of myrrh came to be given by the magi. Fantastic story.

Christmas Eve at the Mellops, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer – The Mellops may be a family of pigs, but they have hearts of gold when it comes to bringing Christmas joy to others.

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The Christmas Eve Ghost, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes – Trust me, it’s not a ghost story. It’s a delightful story set in 1930s Liverpool by the UK’s most beloved children’s author/illustrator.

Christmas Tree Memories, written and illustrated by Aliki – A young family nestles together enjoying  the homemade ornaments on their tree and recollecting the Christmas each was made.

The Doll’s Christmas, written and illustrated by Tasha Tudor – A dear account of some highly creative children who pull together a lavish Christmas for their dolls and stuffed animals.

The Father Christmas Letters, written and illustrated by J.R.R.Tolkein – There are numerous collections of these incredible, illustrated letters which Tolkien wrote annually to his young sons. Highly imaginative, of course!.

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As I said, there are gobs more titles on my blog.  Just look for Christmas in the Subject Index.