Miss 9 and Mr 6 think Christmas books are the best. They only come out for a month each year, so there is a sense of both remembering and rediscovering them, another year older. Here’s a list of ten of our favourite Christmas books.
- The fourth king, the story of the other wise man, written and illustrated by Ted Sieger – the other king, King Mazzel, lives in a tiny kingdom with only his camel, Chamberlain, to keep him company. He has been watching the stars for a sign, so he would know when the King of Kings was born. Finally, he sees the star, and leaves to meet up with the other kings so he can travel to Bethlehem with them. Except that along the way, there are many people and children who need his help. King Mazzel is deeply disappointed that he did not meet the baby King. However, he hears a voice speaking, ‘”King Mazzel, you have not come too late! You were always with me. When I was lost, you showed me the way. When I was thirsty, you gave me water. When I was captive, you freed me. When I was in danger, you saved me. You were always there when I needed you, and I will be with you for ever.'” This is a lovely picture book for 4-8 year-old kids, with two fun foldout pages in the middle of the story.
- Little dog and the Christmas wish, written by Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Robin Cowcher – if you live in Melbourne, you probably know that this book is the theme for the Myer windows this year. Only Miss 9 has seen the Myer windows but we will take the kids in before Christmas because it is such a lovely tradition. This story is simple and sweet, about a lost dog looking for his Jonathan in the rain. The illustrations showcase Melbourne’s city streets – you’ll recognise lots of landmarks. A great read for kids aged 2-6.
- Wombat Divine, written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Kerry Argent – one of my favourites, which I have read to my kids since they were two. Wombat is that childlike character, who desperately wants to be part of the nativity play. But he is just wrong for all the various parts. ‘”Cheer up, Wombat! Don’t lose heart. Why not try for a different part?”‘ But there are no parts left. Luckily, one of the other animals remembers they still need someone for the role of baby Jesus. This is a gorgeous picture book for 2-6 year-olds, reminding them never to give up, and that there is room for everyone.
- The Polar Express, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg – the video for this book is almost mandatory watching during December for our family. The video may be a little scary for some children but the book doesn’t have any scary scenes. The story centres around a little boy who believes in Santa and goes on a magical train ride to the North Pole. He is chosen by Santa to choose the first Christmas gift – ‘I knew that I could have any gift I could imagine. But the one thing I wanted most for Christmas was not inside Santa’s giant bag. What I wanted more than anything was one silver bell from Santa’s sleigh.’ Beautifully illustrated picture book for 2-6 year-olds.
- Applesauce and the Christmas miracle, written by Glenda Millard and illustrated by Stephen Michael King – one of my favourite author/illustrator combinations. This is a modern, Australian take on the traditional Christmas story, seen through Applesauce the pig’s perspective. Love the language – ‘night fell as dark as burnt toast … her heart felt as small as a gumnut … dry creek-beds, burnt bushland and fenceless paddocks … that orange summer evening, tiger-striped with blackened trees’. Applesauce does not feel very Christmasy as she is still mourning her home which was burnt in a bushfire. She is feeling sad that her owners, Joe and Marigold, will not receive any gifts. But as a wise owl reminds her, ‘Christmas comes from the heart’. Lovely and relevant picture book for all Australian kids, aged 2-6.
- Mary’s little donkey and the escape to Egypt, written by Gunhild Sehlin – this is a children’s novel for older kids, maybe 8-12 years. It begins with a lazy but proud donkey, who makes friends with Mary. The story is the traditional Christmas story, about Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. It continues with their escape to Egypt, lest King Herod find them and kill their baby boy. It is a beautiful story of faith in God, faith in their donkey and faith that they will be looked after and their simple needs met. Kids will like the animal influences. ‘For three nights, the boy played with the animals in the desert. He had the same fun each time, and more and more animals came along. On the last night the lions took him to a little oasis miles away, where little monkeys picked tasty fruit for him. In the morning no one in camp believed his story, but when he brought out a bunch of dates they were all amazed. The head driver said: “We used to be amazed that Mary’s little donkey could see angels, but this child is even more amazing. Is he an angel that has come down from earth? Who else could be as safe among the wild beasts as he is on his mother’s knee?”‘
- The night before Christmas, written by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Eric Puybaret, performed by Peter, Paul and Mary – the traditional poem, with gorgeous, gorgeous illustrations. There’s a CD, with Mary from Peter, Paul and Mary, reciting the poem. Wonderful, timeless classic! Perfect for kids aged 2-6 – and probably older as well.
- Room for a little one, written by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft – this is a beautiful pairing of author and illustrator with lovely language and dreamy pictures. It’s the story of animals seeking shelter in a stable on the night Jesus is born. ‘”Come inside,” Kind Ox said. “There’s always room for a little one here.”‘ The book’s theme has become family vocabulary for us – whenever we are squashed together on a couch or around a table, we manage to squash up some more for another kid to fit, saying ‘There’s always room for a little one!’ Problem is, soon I will be the little one in our family – I am predicting I will be the shortest in our family within five years! Lovely picture book for 2-6 year-olds.
- Slinky Malinki’s Christmas crackers, written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd – if your children are fans of Hairy McClary, they will enjoy this picture book where Slinki Malinki gets into all sorts of trouble around the Christmas tree – ‘Glimmering, shimmering, brilliantly bright, the tree was a truly MAGNIFICENT sight. But …’ Lynley Dodd uses language and rhythm in such a way that it extends kids’ vocabulary by introducing sophisticated words in wonderful word patterns. A funny book for 2-6 year-olds.
- Father and Son, written by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Fabian Negrin – this book holds such a beautiful concept. It is a picture book but it is ageless, and I imagine many young kids won’t understand it. Definitely one to read together and discuss. The story is Joseph’s reflection on how best to be a father to Jesus. Here’s an example of Joseph’s thinking – ‘What stories can I tell him? He wrote the whole history of the world.’ Or ‘what games shall we play, boy, you and I? I mean, how can you rough-and-tumble with someone who pinned the ocean in place with a single, tack-headed moon?’ Even though this is a Christmas book, it would make a lovely gift for a new dad.
I hope you and your kids are enjoying some Christmas stories at this time. Which Christmas book is your favourite?