Across the tables in my living are currently strewn many of my favorite childhood Christmas stories. I generally don’t look at these books from mid-January to late-November, not because they’re not just as charming in May, but because when I take them out after the halls are decked I am immediately reminded of when I first discovered them.
I can remember sitting with my sister in our bunk beds reading them as we tried to stay up late enough to catch a glimpse of Santa. (At least that’s what I was doing. The little sis was probably staying up to ward against the man in red. She was terrified. But that’s a story for another day.) And as I page through the books again each year, all that childlike Christmas anticipation comes rushing back in.
If I read them in May and felt that, I think waiting six months for Christmas would just be too much. And then I’d become one of those Christmas in July people, and we can’t have that.
So, for all of you who have children to read to or just want to feel that childhood glow once again, I present to you my 12 Books of Christmas (Children’s Edition):
- Christmas Always (Peter Catalanotto)
As I’ve mentioned before, how could I not love a book where the Sandman, Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost are working together to get a little girl to fall asleep before Santa shows up?
- A Wish For Wings That Work (Berkeley Breathed)
Who doesn’t root for a penguin who’s biggest Christmas wish is to fly? Especially when by the end Opus realizes he’s awesome with or without altitude.
- The Jolly Christmas Postman (Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg)
I loved getting mail. I loved fairy tales. I loved Christmas. Hello, all my childhood loves rolled into one awesome book.
- The Night Before Christmas (Clement Clarke Moore)
Every year I would re-memorize this one, so I could recite to myself as I fell asleep. Sort of the book version of my Homeward Bound experiment. Far more effective.
- The Polar Express (Chris Van Allsburg)
Honestly? I still get a little teary about the whole hole-in-the-pocket situation.
- Merry Christmas, Strega Nona (Tomie dePaola)
My sister and I were in the habit of calling my grandma “Strega Nona” after reading the first of dePaola’s stories of the woman. So, we would read this with grandma and clap as the town came together to help “Grandma Witch” on Christmas.
- The Wild Christmas Reindeer (Jan Brett)
A young girl is called in by Santa to train the reindeer. Not only did I get a better understanding as to how those reindeer do what they do, but Brett’s story also showed that bossiness doesn’t really get the job done.
- Santabear’s First Christmas (Barbara Read and Howard B. Lewis)
Not only was the book awesome, but we had a stuffed Santabear who continues to spend Christmases sliding down the banister.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss)
Was it just me or was Max the best character in this book?
- Samantha’s Surprise (Maxine Rose Schur, Nancy Niles and Robert Grace)
I was a big fan of all the American Girl books, but Samantha was always my favorite. Her Christmas plans don’t quite work out the way she expected, but she still ultimately has a wonderful time. It’s a good message for kids as plans will generally go awry.
- Madeline’s Christmas (Ludwig Bemelmans)
You can always trust Madeline to take charge. Plus, magic carpet rides!
- The Small One (Alex Walsh and Jesse Clay)
A little boy from Nazareth can’t afford to keep his donkey anymore, so he sells him to a man who is traveling with his pregnant wife to Bethlehem.
Check back next week for the 12 Books of Christmas for the older set!