Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beautiful Christmas Books and Stories for the Family Library

A family tradition I established some years ago was to each Christmas buy one Christmas story to add to our family library. As the Christmas season draws near I would love to share with you the books that I have read to my children over the past few years. I love beautifully illustrated books that reflect the true spirit of Christmas and I hope that these recommendations inspire you to find books for your children that remind them that Christmas is not all about receiving presents - though I must say books make great gifts! Perhaps there is one here you have not yet discovered that you may wish to give as a gift this year and you may even adopt our tradition of the 'Family Christmas book gift'.

My absolute favourite Christmas story book is Annika's Secret Wish by Beverley Lewis. This book takes you back in time to the early 1900's and into the home of a Swedish family. The most anticipated event for a child on Christmas Eve is finding the almond hidden in the rice pudding - this is what Annika longs for, finding the almond means she will be able to make a wish. She dreams of owning a black pony to ride with the wind - her secret wish. Is her dream going to be fulfilled?

The outcome is one that is truly touching and so beautiful I cried when I read this for the first time! Acts 20:35 says 'It is more blessed to give than receive' and this is the essence of this story. Not only does it have a lovely moral lesson, it introduces the reader to the traditions of a Scandinavian Christmas - rice pudding and gingerbread houses, gilded apples and walnuts, straw angels on the tree and candles in the windows to light the way for Jesus, the Christ child.

The illustrations by Pamela Querin are exquisite and capture the delightful details of a Swedish country home, the painted furniture, the stitching on the white household linen and blue and white crockery set out on the table. After reading the story you will return to just stare at the pictures and reflect on the beauty and simplicity of the Swedish home, the dress of that time and its family traditions.

I would go as far as saying that this is probably my favourite illustrated book for children of all time. I was so inspired by this book I named one of my daughters after the main character! This book has become part of my family's Christmas heritage and I am relishing the opportunity to read it to my children once again this Christmas season.

Another beautifully illustrated story book for children is 'The Candle in the Window' by Grace Johnson. It begins 'Once upon a time in a little German village.....' and introduces us to the main character Gunther, a cobbler, a lonely man who has lost all hope and joy and believes he has no reason to celebrate Christmas anymore, until he meets a very special family who bring him a candle to set out in the window of his little shop.

Another story which portrays the truth of God's Word and shows us that when we minister to 'the least of these' we are indeed doing it 'unto the Lord'. The story closes with an ancient candle prayer which is so beautiful I am going to use it when we light the candles in our home this Christmas.

" Lord Jesus, thou whose birth we celebrate, we have lit our candle in the presence of each other and the holy angels. Kindle in our hearts thy flame of love, that day shall break and shadows flee away. Amen."

Another well-known seasonal story first published in 1995 is 'The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey' by Susan Wojciechowski. The central character of this story, a woodcarver, is called 'Mr Gloomy' by the village children. In similar circumstances to Gunther in the 'Candle in the Window' he also has every reason to be miserable at Christmas. Once again, the Lord sends him a mother who has a special request - would Jonathan carve a set of nativity figures for her and her son? This is the beginning of Jonathan Toomey's Christmas miracle.

If like me, you love books that are beautifully illustrated you have probably seen or own at least one of Donna Green's books. Her illustrations for the keepsake holiday book 'Christmas at Our House' capture the magic of Christmas and the loveliness of festive family traditions. Designed as a book to record Christmas memories, it also includes sayings, carols and recipes but I bought it mostly for the pictures! Even if you choose not to write in it, you can set it out on a table and browse as you nibble on a mince pie or a Christmas cookie!

Another practical book that daughters who love the idea of a traditional Christmas might enjoy is 'Elsie's Christmas Party How to Plan, Prepare and Host An Old-fashioned Christmas Party'. We own the complete collection of Elsie, Millie and Violet books published by Mission City Press in their Life of Faith series. They were favourite read alouds and I treasure these books because the characters did inspire my girls especially, to live a life of faith. Elsie's Christmas Party helps you to celebrate Christmas as a girl during Elsie's era may have done. It introduces charming Victorian traditions and gives lots of ideas for everything from invitations, to table decorations, food and even 'parlour games'. There are recipes, crafts, gift wrapping suggestions - all very feminine and if you were thinking of having a Victorian theme for your Christmas decor and celebrations at home this year, this would be the perfect book! Take a peek inside at the section on table decorations. Fruit and flowers, china, linen and lace and not a plastic plate in sight - yay!

The most recent addition to our Christmas library was a gift given to me last Christmas by my daughters. It is a collection of short Christmas stories by my favourite author Louisa May Alcott.
I had no idea that she had written so many stories about this wonderful time of the year, so what a joy it was to discover this compendium. In true Louisa May Alcott style, there are compelling characters, evocative writing and the glorious expression which she is famous for, of sentiments of hope, faith, joy, redemption and goodness. It's starting to sound a lot like Christmas! I have read a few of these stories to my children but have been saving the rest for this Christmas season.

Reading aloud to my children is one of my most favourite things to do, reading aloud at Christmas in the surrounds of a home decorated for the season with lights twinkling on the tree in the background and the smell of spice biscuits baking in the oven is for me 'mother joy overload'. Oh just the thought is urging me to finish this post and get started on my Christmas decorating. I have been so busy with birthdays and renovating our formal living room I'm a little behind this year. If you are in need of some inspiration do pop over to my Christmas blog. I hope to get some new posts up as I complete each task I need to do but I'm planning on a simple but beautiful Christmas this year.

Hope you enjoyed seeing our Christmas book collection. What are your favourite Christmas books? Do you also have this as a family tradition? I have not had time to check whether all these books are still in print but I'm sure you might find them on Amazon.

With Love and Joy,


A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

That is a lovely tradition and quite possibly one I too do that I was unaware of.
I always buy a Book club Christmas book but have none of the lovely titles you show....More the night before Christmas and other favs.
My Kids just love books and especially if we read to them.

Unknown said...

Some lovely books, we really love the "candle in the window" another one of our favourites is the Angel with a Mouth Organ by Christobel Mattingly- not sure if it is still in print! Our new book for this year is an Inconvenient Chritmas

Niki said...

We too have a similar tradition.
But I am inspired by your collection, Ann.
Once again your post fills me with a sense of home & homemaking. I am sitting here with a very milky coffee @ 2pm after washing bedding, re-doing our first aid kit for the holidays, ironing special outfits needed over the next couple of weeks & cooking tonights dinner & your post just tops off a wonderful homemaking day.
We are just so lucky that we get to do this.


SF said...

Hoorah for Christmas!! :D I love how you say "Mother joy overload" - I can so relate to that feeling! We have several of those books, along with a few others. I am starting a new tradition this year. I'll write a post about it soon.

And you have shown me a few more Christmas stories I'd love to add to our collection, thank you Ann! xx

SF said...

I couldn't help myself..... I just went to the Book Depository and purchased Annika's Secret Wish. :)

Suzanne said...

We do the same thing here too! great minds think alike:-) I was wondering which to buy this year I love Annika--she will be promptly bought --thanks so much!

Camille said...

What a beautiful tradition Ann! Such gorgeous books you have shared with us here! Oh I *love* the coziness of the Christmas season. I would imagine you never have a white Christmas there though ~ LOL! :) I'm so glad to see that you make it cozy and welcoming in your home even in the midst of summer.

I appreciated seeing inside all those lovely books you have...such gorgeous pictures. :)

I's not all about the gifts. May we all remember the real Reason for the season!

Blessings to you!

Camille said...

Oh and I meant to say that your *PEACE* display with the candles and figurines is just lovely! :)

Erin said...

I love reading Christmas lists:)
I have just posted a selection
and have more here
more to come so stay tuned:)

Fruitful Harvest said...

What really fun books!
I love love the illustration!
So warm and cozy!

We too get a new book every Christmas.

A few years in a row(we don't do it every year) what I did was, wrap 25 books each in Christmas wrap. Each night one child would choose a wrapped story for the bed time read.
It was a count down to Christmas!
The wraped books can be displayed along a window seal or something. They also serve as inexpencive decortations!

Peace and Love,

Renata said...

Hi Ann
It's lovely to catch up with your blog - what a great post! I had never thought to have this for a tradition- but I love the idea!!! Thanks for sharing these books - they look just beautiful. I think I'll have to write them down & go searching - at least for one to begin our own christmas book tradition!
Hope you are keeping well - I was thinking that your little boy must be almost one now & you are coming into your busy birthday/Christmas season!!! Have a wonderful weekend & enjoy your precious family
God bless

Chookie said...

Two I have and love are Julie Vivas' illustrated version of the Nativity story, taken from Luke's Gospel, and Wombat Divine by Mem Fox -- "A Nativity without the baby Jesus is no Nativity at all!"


Blog Widget by LinkWithin