WHEN MOST people think of Christmas, they think of baked ham, ponche de creme, sorrel and pastelles. I think of books. This is the best time of year for parents to introduce children to the magic of books, and Christmas picture books feature illustrations that are works of art. Christmas books offer many of the values – like caring and giving – we try to nurture in our children for the entire year.
Christmas reading also offers adults time to wind down from Christmas parties. Some of the most memorable books of our lives are Christmas stories.
So, in the spirit of Christmas, here are my favourite books and the favourite books of many of the students who visit my library.
1. Mr Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos – Once again, the late, great Cuban American writer Oscar Hijuelos tops my list for a book that captures the spirit of Christmas.
Mr Ives thought he was living the perfect life until his son, who, studying to be a priest, is killed as he is walking past a liquor store during a robbery. Then, one Christmas years after the crime, Mr Ives decides to visit his son’s killer in prison.
In this short novel, Mr Ives, a kind-hearted family man, who works in advertising, provides readers with a lesson on love and forgiveness.
2. The Christmas Genie by Dan Gutman – Children from eight to ten will love this light-hearted story about 11-year-olds trying to decide on the perfect Christmas wish granted by a genie who crash-lands in their classroom. What is the perfect Christmas gift? The children in this laugh-aloud novel are trying to figure that out, and they have a time limit to make their decision.
3. The Angel Tree by Daphne Benedis-Grab – Every year a Christmas wish tree magically appears in Pine River. Residents write their wishes on a paper, which they put on the tree, and somehow their wishes come true. This year, a group of teenagers, who have their wishes granted, decide to play detective and find out who the benevolent soul is who makes every wish come true.
This Young Adult (YA) novel for 12 years to adulthood is a Christmas mystery. Readers must decide if it is right for these teens to identify the person who wants to remain anonymous.
4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – This Christmas classic of Uncle Stooge facing three ghosts that change his view of Christmas is a timeless classic. Stooge’s transformation from a cranky old man to a kindhearted soul teaches invaluable lessons about facing fear and facing the past.
This is a great book to read to children from eight to 12. They will never forget it
5. A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe – This beautifully illustrated picture book of a pine tree that has been overlooked until it is too large to be taken home as a Christmas tree provides touching lessons about friendship, sharing, caring and identity.
6. The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith – This nonfiction story about a widow who wonders how she will provide Christmas for her three children becomes an invaluable lesson in random acts of kindness. Again, there is a mystery to solve.
7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – In the opening scene of this YA classic, the March sisters grumble that their father, who is serving in the civil war, won’t be home for Christmas. It sets the stage for one of the most endearing books about love and family.
8. Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle – These three interlocking stories are a popular YA read in my school. These action-packed stories are light and funny. Each author uses characters from the other authors’ stories. Again, love and giving are resonating themes.
9. Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow by Holly Hobb – I love Toot & Puddle for their realistic lessons for children. Here, the duo deliver a lesson about caring, in their usual fun-loving style that manages not to be didactic.
10. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham – Grisham is known for his legal thrillers, but here is a refreshing different side to the crime specialist. Grisham delves into humour to present the story of a couple who decide to skip Christmas. It’s amazing just how much can go wrong.
Ask your favourite bookstores for their Christmas books. Here’s hoping you create a tradition of reading for Christmas. It’s one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your children.