’tis the season to be jolly…five very merry Christmas stories

peppermint-cocoa from thesweetestoccasion dot comMoms can become jaded and weary at Christmastime, but for children it’s a magical, happy season. Let’s soak up some of their exuberance and delight. Grab a stack of merry stories and mugs of peppermint cocoa, snuggle together, and read 🙂


and then comes christmas cover imageAnd Then Comes Christmas, by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jana Christy
published in 2014 by Candlewick Press

Snowflakes feather down. Neighborhoods twinkle. The smell of gingerbread warms the house.

Everything signals that the time has come! Time to hustle secret packages into the house, play in fresh snow, hang up your stockings, and finally celebrate Christmas together.

This lyrical book walks us through quintessential holiday moments, written with a nod to simple joys  — neighbors bringing plates of cookies to your door and paper snowflakes hanging in your windows.

and then comes christmas interior tom brenner and jana christy

The artwork is juicy-bright and contemporary, bursting with warmhearted scenes. Fuzzy, frosty blues and piney greens, glowing fireside oranges, and a hearty helping of holly-berry-red jotting here and there.  Hugely appealing choice for ages 3 and up.

happy christmas gemma cover imageHappy Christmas Gemma, by Sarah Hayes, illustrated by Jan Ormerod
published in 1986 in the U.S. by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

Gemma is a favorite of the Swanson household. We smile each year as we pull this book out from our Christmas boxes.

She’s a spunky little one with mischief sparkling in her big brown eyes and she certainly gets into a lot of T-R-O-U-B-L-E during the Christmas season, spilling, tearing, messing, andhappy christmas gemma illustration jan ormerod 001 dipping busy fingers into the icing of Grandma’s Christmas cake!

Happily, she’s surrounded by a family who patiently love her including her wonderful big brother, age about 5, and her kind grandmother.

Jan Ormerod is one of my very favorite illustrators and here again are her masterful human figures interacting so naturally with one another and particularly that little scooter, Gemma.  Such a sweet title for under-Two and up; out of print but worth searching for.

a houseful of christmas cover imageA Houseful of Christmas, Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
published in 2001 by Henry Holt and Company

The whole clan is heading to Granny’s for Christmas — aunts, uncles, kids, dogs…even one great-aunt smelling of wild cherry cough drops.

Granny has been baking for weeks, waiting for the hullabaloo to burst through her door, crowd around the table, sing carols, and open gifts.

Then it’s usually time to go back home, but a hefty snowfall this year meansa houseful of christmas illustration betsy lewin everyone’s hunkering down at Granny’s overnight. The grandfather clock gently ticks; snowflakes quietly flit; and everyone settles into a giant heap of blankets and family. So much togetherness! And such sweet peace.

This dear story reminds me of the family reunion in The Relatives Came.  Joosse’s immensely friendly text, sparkling with gentle humor and brimming with love, is complemented by loose, affectionate pen-and-watercolor illustrations by Betsy Lewin.  Wonderful read for ages 3 and up.

christmas with the mousekins cover imageChristmas with the Mousekins: A Story with Crafts, Recipes, Poems and More, written and illustrated by Maggie Smith
published in 2010 by Alfred A. Knopf

Come visit this cute mouse-hold, lively with bustle and gladness, getting ready for Christmas.

The Mousekins are a creative bunch, busily making jolly decorations, baking scrumptious treats, and frothing up peppermint cocoa for carolers. Their cheery story includes snatches of christmas with the mousekins illustration maggie smithclever poems, songs, and even a story-within-a story.

Detailed, illustrated instructions show us how to make the Mousekins’ darling mitten garlands, paper snowflakes, and gingerbread-cookie mice. Nine crafts and two cookie recipes are here to try, for kids about age 5 and up with help.

My daughters, especially, would have loved this when they were young, and would have wanted to try all the things. If you have any crafty, bake-y sorts, you already know they would love this, too.

the christmas giant cover imageThe Christmas Giant, written and illustrated by Steve Light
published in 2010 by Candlewick Press

Up at the North Pole, a gentle giant named Humphrey and an elf named Leetree are best friends. Together, they’ve got the job of making all Santa’s wrapping paper, and they manage it brilliantly!

One year, Santa asks them to grow the Christmastown evergreen. This they do with tenderloving care.

the christmas giant interior by steve light from theresabook dot com

Calamity strikes while hauling the tree to Christmastown, however. The ice breaks up, carrying off the tree! Oh dear.  Leave it to these two to find a beautiful, inventive solution.

This story has a lithe air to it. Steve Light’s pen-and-ink line is elegant, with lovely, sweeping curves and etchy woodcut-style detail. Love that giant’s curly-curly beard!

A wisp of narration and numerous wordless panels move things along nimbly. The graceful font, tall, slim book size, and rich color palette add to the stylishness. A pleasant, original read for ages 3 and up.