The promise of Christmas was originally peace on Earth and isn’t that still the longing of our hearts in these troubled and fractious times?
I recognize that the holiday season finds you all in remarkably different places; some awash in sorrow, some effervescent with joy; some dreading the particular loneliness, pain, or friction experienced during this time of year; some relishing moments of togetherness.
Whatever your circumstances, my wish for each of you is a measure of peace.
Today I’ve got some new holiday titles. I hope you can check out an armful from your library, light some candles, brew some tea or pour up a mug of cocoa, and settle in — with or without small children — to the peace and merriment of these tales.
There are well over 100 other titles on my Christmas list with links to my reviews, so check there for lots more gems.
Silent Night, a traditional carol, illustrated by Lara Hawthorne
published in 2018 by Lincoln Children’s Books
I was so happy to see this favorite old Christmas carol, newly, beautifully illustrated.
Gorgeous artwork in lush, rich hues graces every page. I love that Hawthorne gives her people such a lovely, welcome range of skin tones, far better suited to the Middle East setting of the nativity story than many other renditions.
You just can’t miss with this one. A year-after-year gem for ages 2 and up.
Snow, by Walter de la Mare, illustrated by Carolina Rabei
first published in the UK in 2014; U.S. edition published in 2018 by Faber & Faber
This tranquil poem, first published by Walter de la Mare in 1924, here receives a stunning interpretation by artist Carolina Rabei.
As snowflakes quietly filter onto this charming town, one cozy family prepares for Christmas Day. Throughout the night, snow continues. “It heaps its powdery crystal flakes, of every tree a mountain makes.” In the morning, we witness the magic and joy of the family’s celebration.
A gem of beauty, playfulness, snug homes, and wintery joys, for ages 3 and up.
The Queen and the First Christmas Tree, by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Luisa Uribe
published in 2018 by Albert Whitman & Company
Meet the lovely Queen Charlotte, who married George III of England as a young 17-year-old, traveling from her homeland in Mecklenburg, Germany to a court where elegance and pomp were expected.
But Charlotte was an outdoorsy girl who loved growing things and had a fondness for children. When Christmas of 1800 rolled around, with a new century just around the corner, Charlotte decided to throw a lavish party. The way she decorated the hall for this spectacular celebration would change the way we celebrate Christmas still.
Fascinating history, with illustrations striking notes of beauty and kindness. Ages 4 and up.
Santa Bruce, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
published in 2018 by Disney Hyperion
If you’ve followed the antics of the lovable, curmudgeonly bear, Bruce, over the past few years, you know he’s been the begrudging victim of mistaken identity, adopted against his will as mother to a squadron of busybody mice and a gaggle of needy geese.
Now it’s Christmas and once again, Bear finds himself steamrolled into a role he never wanted — that of Santa!
This time the whole forest neighborhood is in on the fun, with Bruce protesting loudly, a remarkably unjolly old St Nick, but one we love.
Silly fun for ages 3 and up.
Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker, written and illustrated by James Mayhew
published by Barron in 2012
Yes, there are dozens and dozens of Nutcracker stories out there, but this sparkles with so much charm, I’m adding it today.
It’s the day of the ballet class party when mysteriously Ella Bella gets swept into Clara’s adventure, the two of them thwarting that wretched Mouse King, then swirling off with the Prince to the Land of Sweets and fanciful dances. Happily, Ella returns just in time for the jolly party.
Enchanting, dream-come-true illustrations capture all the magic of this tale, and Ella’s participation scoops readers into the story. A confectionary delight for ages 3 and up.
Nativity, text adapted from the KJV and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant
published in 2017 by Beach Lane Books
This stripped back version of the Nativity story is wonderfully calm and pure, with Rylant’s naive paintings anchoring the pages in broad, serene spaces, a welcome perspective emphasizing obscurity and isolation. I love her inclusion of Mary, all alone, pondering these things in her heart.
Rylant then fast-forwards to the Sermon on the Mount. She quietly tucks in several of the Beatitudes as a fitting extension of the birth story.
A lovely addition to the canon of children’s Nativity stories, for ages 3 and up.