ho!ho!ho!…a list of…five jolly books about good ol’ St. Nick

There is something remarkably delightful about Father Christmas — his generosity, his good cheer, his unfailing habit of magically bringing goodies in the dead of night — that touches longings in more than just children’s hearts, I think.   Wildly-varied Santa styles, personalities, North Poles and adventures have been written –here are five to charm you.


The Christmas Magic, by Lauren Thompson, pictures by Jon J. Muth

This portrayal of Santa is of a quiet, dear man, who lives far, far in the north in a snug house with a cherry-red door.  For 364 days of the year, it seems, things are pretty quiet at Santa’s house.  No elves.  No workshops.  Just a vast blanket of snow, tinged violet and whisper-pink by the winter sunset and the shimmering northern lights.

As one special day approaches, though, Santa feels a hint of a tingle in his whiskers –the first sign that a whoosh of Christmas magic is coming soon.  He sets about gathering reindeer, oiling black boots, polishing up a massive sleigh, trimming his snow-white moustache, always awaiting the full outpouring of magic.  Finally, one dark, starry night, the magic comes; the reindeer jingle their harnesses and begin to fly, towing that sleigh with its towering sack of toys and  Santa on his happy errand.

Lauren Thompson’s story quietly shines with a sweet, tender Santa, as far removed from the jovial guys greeting children at the mall as you can get.  Rather than a year-round toy industry at the North Pole, this Santa lives a homely, peaceful life, except for that one burst of magic each year.  Jon Muth’s enchanting watercolors picture a modest, smallish old man, brimming with warmth, comfortable in silence, living in a beautiful, snowy, starlit world.  His gorgeous colors and charming details, soft light and starry skies, create a magic of their own, wooing us to cozy up with cocoa and Christmas cookies in childish wonder at the magic of this season.

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore, illustrated by Rachel Isadora

I love this particular rendition of the classic poem, because Rachel Isadora has set it in an African village!   So wonderful to have a way-cool African Santa Claus!

Using paints and paper collage, Isadora creates a striking  setting of low black hills, stark trees and scrubby bushes, and a small  cluster of simple homes.  Then, without hesitation, she sends myriads of fat, round snowflakes onto that hot, dry land, coating the world in white.   Golden-brown faces of children snug in their beds, jubilant African textiles in the carefully-hung stockings, and joy-of-joys, a glad Santa with snow-white dreadlocks and leopard print pants!  All of these burst from zingy-bright pages in fantastic, bold colors and patterns.

Sweet details pop up everywhere — African clothing styles, fabrics, and charming African dollies with their babies tied to their backs  — giving an exuberant,  loving, African tone to the entire book.  If you’re looking for a non-White Santa,  be sure to check this one out!

Snowmen at Christmas,  by Caralyn Buehner, pictures by Mark Buehner

Apparently, even snowmen get visited by Santa!

On Christmas Eve, when children are sound asleep, crowds of snowmen, snow-women, and snow-children, slip off for a Christmas celebration of their own.  They head to the park in the middle of town, where a lofty Christmas tree glows with pretty lights on elegant, snow-laden branches.  And what a festive time they have,  hanging snowballs and icicles about the town square, playing Freeze Tag, sampling ice cream and snow cones, dancing merrily to fiddle music, when…jingle jingle jingle!  A snowman Kris Kringle shows up, led by some adorable snow-reindeer!

After a carol sing, everyone begins to feel drowsy, so back home they head in the rosy Christmas dawn, stationing themselves in their proper yards.  There’s good reason for them to smile so broadly, it seems!

This charming, story-in-rhyme is illustrated in wintry splendor.  The many snowy scenes glow with Christmas cheer, blush with merriment, glimmer with amethyst shadows.   Christmas lights twinkle absolutely everywhere in this hushed, small town.  Snow mounds on plump cars and soft hills.  And the snowmen!  So delightfully fanciful!  Every page is a joy!  Great, imaginative fun.

The Father Christmas Letters, written and illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien

Beginning in 1920, when his first son was just three years old, and continuing for over 20 years, J.R.R. Tolkien would faithfully treat his children to an extraordinarily creative letter from Father Christmas.  The letters, written in curious, other-worldly handwriting, complete with illuminations and fanciful illustrations, were enclosed in elegant envelopes, stamped with exotic, North Pole postage.  These envelopes would mysteriously appear, year after year, to the delight of the children, each installment bearing a personal greeting and a new, amazing tale from Father Christmas.

Tolkien’s Father Christmas manages a hilarious household up at the North Pole, including the well-intentioned North Polar Bear, who is ever causing trouble and mishap, as well as Snow Elves, Red Gnomes, Snowmen, Cave Bears, a couple of mischievous Polar Bear nephews named Paksu and Valkotukka and others.  This troop, who not only have to keep track of toys, but are in charge of the Northern Lights dispenser, also have Goblin enemies to out-maneuver from time to time.  With such a life, Father Christmas always has  fantastic stories of what’s been going on at his place during the year.

Tolkien is, of course, the king of fantasy, and with these letters, we can peek in on his  genius, lavishly presented to his children.  Not unexpectedly, Tolkien also developed another alphabet — a Goblin alphabet — with a letter written in that, as well as an Arctic language for the North Polar Bear.  What an incredible man!  His illustrations vary, from brilliantly colored watercolors, to ink line drawings, but always capture the fantasy feel of this completely foreign land.

Numerous books are available of the Father Christmas letters.  The one I’m linking to has 15 letters, generally running from 1925-1938, along with beautiful colored prints of his illustrations, postage stamps, and envelopes.  Great fun for ages 6 and up, this is one of the books I love pulling out year after year from our Christmas boxes.

On Christmas Eve, a wordless book illustrated by Peter Collington

Dedicated to “chimneyless children everywhere” Peter Collington has illustrated an enchanting story of a little girl, lacking a chimney,  whose Santa comes through the front door, aided by dozens of charming Christmas fairies.

As soon as this little girl is safely asleep under her downy duvet, the Christmas fairy springs to action.  Tucking the girl’s Christmas wish list into her wee sash, she flies down the stairs, lights the Christmas tree candles with her silvery star wand, then welcomes dozens more delicate fairies to the house.  Each one takes a glowing candle and heads off into the snowy night, stationing herself in the dim, white world as a sort of lighted landing-strip for Santa, who appears next, flying in with his team of reindeer and massive sleigh.  Santa is a sweet, kindly fellow, who chooses a number of gloriously-bulging, beautifully-wrapped gifts from his sack, as the fairy checks things off the wish list.  Delivering them to the Christmas stocking at the foot of the bed gets a little hair-raising, but Santa and the fairy are a crack team and work their Christmas magic perfectly.  On Christmas morning, we get to watch the little girl open her presents, so we can see what’s inside of all those mysterious packages, and finally we see our weary fairy flutter back to her charming, snug house in a tree trunk, ready for a well-earned cup of tea by the hearth.

Collington packs many, many whisper-soft, colored pencil illustrations into his wordless book.  Some pages contain just one large picture, while others have many small frames, showing us the details of the story line.  All of them are filled with quiet wonder, a gentle, lean  Father Christmas, and a heap of Christmas magic.  It’s a sweet, imaginative story for preschoolers and up.

Here are Amazon links for all these jolly stories:

The Christmas Magic

The Night Before Christmas

Snowmen at Christmas

The Father Christmas Letters

On Christmas Eve