Favorite Holiday Books
During the holiday season it’s a great joy to share family traditions and spend time together. Every year, I look forward to reading these beloved books below to my daughter.
By Rumer Godden; illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Rumer Godden begins The Story of Holly & Ivy with the sweetest line, “This is a story about wishing.” When an orphan named Ivy and a dreamy doll named Holly see each other through a toy shop window, magic happens. In this classic Christmas tale, Holly and Ivy both find a sense of belonging in their new home and to each other. Wishes come true in part thanks to Barbara Cooney’s tender illustrations of the festive village and toys. Godden captures the precious beauty of a brave girl unwilling to give up on her dream. (Ages 5-10)
My daughter and I love returning to Christmas Tree Memories by Aliki each December just like the family’s tradition in the book of sitting by their tree with cookies and a roaring fire to recount each story behind their homemade ornaments. Aliki imbues such gentleness to each character, whether it’s Papouli or the children, the love this family feels for each other comes across with her every detail. (Ages 4-8)
By Iza Trapani
Jingle Bells (as told and illustrated by Iza Trapani) is a rollicking fun songbook filled with holiday customs and traditions from around the world. Children will enjoy learning about bearded little gnomes in Sweden, lantern parades in the Philippines, breaking the piñata in Mexico, and presents found in their shoes in Italy. (Ages 4-8)
By Gloria Houston; illustrated by Barbara Cooney
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston tells the story of Ruthie a little girl in the Appalachian Mountains whose Papa is called away to fight in the war. With the help of her resourceful mother, they cut down the perfect balsam tree from Grandfather Mountain and deliver it to the church on Christmas. Barbara Cooney’s pictures of the mountains and the determined characters sweeten and enliven this heartwarming tale. (Ages 4-8)
By Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by Katya Krenina
Based on “The Tablecloth, the Donkey, and the Stick” Eric A. Kimmel retells this old tale in a Hanukkah setting. He originally wrote The Magic Dreidels: A Hanukkah Story for Spider, The Magazine for Children. Katya Krenina beautifully illustrates young Jacob’s adventures with his new brass dreidel and the goblin at the bottom of the well. (Ages 4-8)
By Clement Moore; illustrated by Jan Brett
Clement Moore’s classic poem The Night Before Christmas (illustrated by Jan Brett) comes to life with rich details, as she is well known for including in all of her books. That chubby old elf St. Nick and his sleigh full of toys promise a Merry Christmas for all! (Ages 4-8)
By Patricia Polacco
The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco is a touching story of how two families combine their holiday traditions. When Trisha’s Russian family celebrates Hanukkah, they decide to surprise their Christian neighbors who are suffering from scarlet fever. A gifted storyteller, Polacco’s vivid illustrations of the family’s traditions, like candle-making and carving wooden toys, are also delightful. (Ages 5-8)
By Robert Barry
Sharing the joy of the season in Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, Robert Barry charms readers with his clever lilting rhyme. Dissatisfied with the imposing height of his tree, Mr. Willowby orders his butler to chop off the top. The treetop is handed down to Adelaide the upstairs maid, Timm the gardener and various woodland creatures including Barnaby Bear, Frisky Fox, Benjamin Rabbit, only to return once again to Mistletoe Mouse and his family in the Willowby mansion. (Ages 4-8)
By Dylan Thomas; illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas is the wondrous story of a child’s Welsh Christmas as told by a doting grandfather to his grandson. Thomas’s lyrical tale honors his rich cultural heritage, but also offers us a peek back in time. Edward Ardizzone’s carefully detailed illustrations recall those magical long ago Christmases in the snow. (Ages 7-11)
Nicki Richesin is the editor of four anthologies,What I Would Tell Her: 28 Devoted Dads on Bringing Up, Holding On To, and Letting Go of Their Daughters; Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond; Crush: 26 Real-Life Tales of First Love; and The May Queen: Women on Life, Work, and Pulling it all Together in your Thirties. Her anthologies have been excerpted and praised in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, Redbook, Parenting, Cosmopolitan, Bust, Salon, Daily Candy, and Babble.
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