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A couple years ago, I started storing our Christmas books with the lights and garland. Unpacking these books we haven’t seen since last year always feels like a reunion with dear friends. It’s one of our traditions that makes the season feel extra special.
This year I also searched our library for Christmas picture books. I primarily looked for Jesus-centered stories, and I wondered if I would wind up with a dozen books that were basically the same retelling of the Nativity story. Instead, I found a delightful variety of books that approached the story of Jesus’ birth from many different perspectives—plus a Santa book I couldn’t refuse.
Here are nine of our favorites.
God Gave Us Christmas is my favorite Christmas picture book. I love the way the author, Lisa Tawn Bergren, depicts the tenderness between a mama polar bear and her curious cub. The two of them set out on an arctic trek to find God and “see how [He] gave us Christmas.” Mama takes Little Cub to see the northern lights, a glacier cracking and roaring into the sea, and more—all beautifully illustrated by David Holm. She explains how each of these things points to a different part of who God is and how He gave us Jesus at Christmas.
I also love the way this book approaches Santa. Little Cub asks about him a few times in the story. Mama Bear expertly avoids any Santa spoilers while gently maintaining, “it is God and Jesus that we celebrate most come Christmas.”
Some of the concepts in this book are fairly abstract, but I hope my kids (currently two and four years old) will understand a little more as we read it together each year.
Even though our family doesn’t really emphasize Santa,* I couldn’t pass up A World of Cookies for Santa by M. E. Furman and Susan Gal. This festive book describes the treats children leave for Santa (or the local equivalent) in over 30 places around the world. The glimpses into different cultures and traditions are fascinating, and there are nine cookie recipes included at the end. I enjoyed the inside cover art that shows the route Santa could take to visit each of the places mentioned in the book.
I was hooked on the first page of Listen to the Silent Night by Dandi Daley Mackall, Steven Johnson, and Lou Fancher. It begins, “In our hearts find a silence in the middle of the noise,/ With the bustling of our Christmas and the clattering of toys./ Help us slip into the silence, filled with hallelujah joys/ On not such a silent night.” Repeated sounds, a lovely rhyme scheme, and gorgeous illustrations tell the nativity story in a fresh, wonder-filled way. This is one I’ll be adding to our family library.
My two-year-old, Caleb, is obsessed with foxes right now, so we had to check out The Christmas Fox by Anik McGrory. A playful fox seems too distracted to visit the baby in the barn, despite repeated invitations from other animals. The story may be a touch predictable from an adult perspective, but it’s sweetly told and beautifully illustrated.
The Most Precious Gift by Marty Crisp and Floyd Cooper is a poignant tale of a servant boy and his beloved dog as they accompany the three kings on their journey to Bethlehem. The author’s mystical tone felt just right for the story, and it was nice to see a Mary, Joseph, and Jesus who looked like they came from North Africa rather than Scandinavia. This book may be a little long and a little sad for very young kids, but I thought it was a wonderful depiction of the value—and reward—of sacrificial giving.
My boys also enjoyed Small Camel Follows the Star. It’s one of few Nativity stories that depict the Wise Men arriving well after Jesus’ birth, which I thought was cool. This is the Star is a lushly illustrated Nativity poem that repeats and grows with each page. And finally, I have to mention Little One, We Knew You’d Come and Song of the Stars, both by Sally Lloyd-Jones who also wrote the fantastic Jesus Storybook Bible.
Merry Christmas and happy reading, from my family to yours!
*I do have to give a quick shoutout to the Santa-centered Christmas movies and TV specials I grew up watching. I still love those things. :)
What are your family’s favorite Christmas books—or TV specials? Let me know in the comments!