As we glide towards Christmas and the final days of 2020, our deep need for peace and goodwill is certainly evident.
Today, in that vein, I’m reprising five Christmas stories I’ve loved over the years, all of which highlight lovingkindness, community, and neighborliness.
I hope you find this stay-at-home time
a golden opportunity for lots of snuggly stories!
Finding Christmas, by Lezlie Evans, illustrated by Yee Von Chan
published in 2017 by Albert Whitman and Company
Hare, Squirrel, and Mouse are happy housemates. The air in their snug burrow is festive with tree-decorating and hazelnut cookie baking. There’s just a wee bit of shopping left before the celebrations can begin.
Suddenly an emergency presents itself in the form of a swallow, sick, collapsed in the snow, who needs tender nursing to survive. One at a time, the gifts these friends secretly bought for one another are urgently needed to treat their ailing guest. These sacrifices prove to be the truest display of Christmas in this heartwarming story. Ages 3 and up.
Christmas Eve at the Mellops, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer
republished in 2011 by Phaidon Press
The Mellops are an adventuresome family of pigs — Father, Mother, and their four sons, Casimir, Isidor, Felix and Ferdinand.
Each of the boys secretly sets out to surprise the family by bringing home a Christmas tree. The result is a houseful of trees and a lot of tears. Father wisely suggests they bring their trees to some needy orphans. When they get there, however, the orphanage already has one. They go on to visit the hospital, jail, and soldiers in their barracks, eagerly looking for someone to help, but everyone already has a tree. The Mellop brothers droop with sadness.
Just when they’ve given up hope, they discover a small, weeping pig who introduces them to an entire apartment house full of folks in desperate situations. Not only are the brothers able to find homes for their trees, they are able to pitch in and help in many other ways, bringing Christmas to every room in the house. Which makes them very, very happy.
Back home, the Mellops celebrate their own Christmas, topping it off with Mother’s beautiful plum cream cake, a magnificent concoction that makes its way into every Mellop story. A Swanson favorite, for ages 4 and up.
The Christmas Eve Ghost, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
published in 2010 by Candlewick
It’s 1930. Bronwen and Dylan have just moved from Wales to Liverpool with their Mam after their Da was killed in a mining accident. Next door live the O’Rileys — Mr. and Mrs. and their two strapping boys. Mam has told her children never to speak to them. Bronwen wonders why. They do go to a different church, not at all like the Chapel where they go on Sundays. This seems to be the sticking point for Mam. She’s very stern when the subject comes up.
However — on Christmas Eve Mam leaves the children home alone to do a last bit of shopping when a terrible knocking, plonking noise scares the bejeebers out of the children! They’re certain it’s a horrid ghostie! Skedaddling out of the house, they run straight into Mrs. O’Riley and soon not only is the mysterious sound discovered, but a new friendship has blossomed.
Marvelous watercolors depict Depression-era Liverpool and bring this lovely collection of folks to life. An endearing beckoning to friendship across the divide for ages 4 and up.
Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
published in 1994 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Dear Mr. Putter loves to give Christmas presents, but it’s quite tricky to come up with the perfect gift for his best friend and neighbor, Mrs.Teaberry. She has such unusual tastes. For one thing, she loves fruitcake. Simply gobbles the stuff every December. Mr. Putter thinks this is a bit concerning. He is a little suspicious of fruitcake, it seems. So, he decides to bake her an out-of-this-world, delectable cake. One that’s light and airy and delicious. Not heavy as a brick.
Of course, things do not always go as planned, and the hilarious misadventures of Mr. Putter’s baking project are one of those things! Happily, though, Mrs. Teaberry is as good a friend as anyone could hope for, and between the two of them, Christmas turns out very merry. It’s an easy-reader but also makes a jolly read-aloud for ages 3 and up.
The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson, illustrated by Garth Williams
first published in 1958; reprint 1989 by Harper Collins
If you’re looking for a holiday read-aloud, this one is a favorite of mine.
Unattached, responsible for no one but himself, Armand is a happy, old Parisian tramp who enjoys many friends and glories in his carefree life. He is not on the lookout for a settled home, but for adventure. Above all, Armand wants to avoid children. Starlings, he calls them. “Witless, twittering, little pests.” His dear friend, Mireli, accuses him of being afraid of children. “You’re afraid the sly little things will steal your heart if they find out you have one,” she says.
Thus on this cold December day when Armand meets three, ragged children sheltering under a bridge, he feels decidedly grumpy. He wants nothing to do with them. Yet the Calcet children aren’t afraid of Armand’s gruff exterior. Before he knows what’s happening these children have indeed wormed their way into his heart and Armand is working overtime to help make their Christmas wish for a home of their own come true.
This 1959 Newbery Honor title spills over with humor and heart and as a bonus it’s illustrated by the one-and-only Garth Williams. Read it aloud to ages 6 and up.
Wishing you hearts healed with peace and opportunities to spread kindness this holiday season!
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