Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Book Tradition: Titles for 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys

As my boys are getting older, I'm realizing that Christmas can be a little confusing for the kids.  As a religious family, mixing Santa Claus and Christmas trees with the nativity and an advent log can get a little complicated for pre-schoolers.  But I always feel like children's literature can help clear up some of the confusion, and I always feel like reading stories with the boys helps them to understand (and get excited for) experiences before they happen.  And frankly, it gets me in the mood too.  I may not be one to get hyped up to build a snowman, but it seems  a little more magical after reading a Snowy Day.  And while visiting living nativities are magical in themselves, doing so after reading The Birds of Bethlehem helps the kids understand what they are seeing a little more.  And seeing how Corduroy or Little Critter celebrate Christmas gives the boys ideas for ways they want to celebrate the season.

As is becoming a tradition in some households, we are choosing to wrap up two dozen books and plan to open one book a night to read with the boys (our second year to do so).  So, without further ado, here are our list of 24 Christmas stories we'll be reading this year, organized by type.
Nativity Stories:
  • Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck and Felicia Bond:  This is a beautiful little book, that is probably my favorite Christmas book for the youngest reader.  The rhyming verses and the simplicity of the descriptions makes it great for beginning talkers.
  • The Little Shepherd's Christmas by Carol Heyer:  For a different perspective on the nativity scene, this one follows a shepherd boy throughout the night as he sees the angel choir.
  • The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie de Paola:  For another perspective, this especially well illustrated book is told by a flock of colorful little birds.  Tomie de Paola is an awesome children's author to check out if you're not familiar with her work.
  • The First Christmas (Pop-Up Book):  A fun pop-up book to interact with the manger in the barn.
  • This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten:  Similar to "Christmas in the Manger" (above), but with different illustrations and slightly longer.
Favorite Characters:  No descriptions for these, they are just Corduroy, Critter, and of course Charlie Brown celebrating Christmas in their own special ways.
  • Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Power of Giving:  A Christmas Story by Howard Binkow and Susan F. Cornelison:  As the name suggests, this story follows Howard's journey of understanding what's really important.  I like that this book also has reflection questions at the end to help discuss the topics raised in the book with your child. 
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg:  We have the audio CD for this one, so it's great to save for a night that you may be riding in a car at bedtime, if you're travelers like us.  And then, we play the movie on our mini DVD player, and by the time it's done the boys will normally sleep for the rest of the drive.  *Santa Spoiler-this one does deal with themes your kids may not have thought of yet, so you may want to save it until their older.  Ours love trains so much, and don't really understand all the plot yet, so we will still let them read/see it.*
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore (several illustrators):  For anyone counting, we actually have two versions of this classic.

Other Christmas Stories:
  • A Christmas Prayer by Sanja Rescek:  As the name suggests, this board book is filled with a different "thank you" prayer on each page.
  • The Special Christmas Tree by Catherine Walters and Simon Taylor-Kielty:  A rabbit family ventures out to find their Christmas tree in this quick read.
  • God Gave us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren and David Hohn:  In this one, the author really tries to bridge Santa and the more secular aspects of Christmas with Jesus's birth in a beautiful story.
  • Just a Snowman by Mercer Mayer:  Just Little Critter having fun in the snow.  Or at least trying to.
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats:  I loved this book so much last year that it got it's own post, here
  •  There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed some Snow!  by Lucille Colando and Jared Lee:  For anyone who loves the repetitive, building verse stories, this edition is fun.
  • One Snowy Day by Tammi Salzano and Hannah Wood:  A simple counting book, great for the youngest kids.
  • Snow Day!:  A short, simple board book about a snowman's day outside.
  • The Three Kittens by Trace Moroney:  The classic rhyme, illustrated beautifully in this board book edition.  My little one still cries with the kittens as they lose their mittens, and *spoiler alert* celebrates with them as they find them.

  • Over the River and Through the Wood by L. Maria Child and Matt Tavares:  Technically, this one is a Thanksgiving story, but I was only familiar with the first verse prior to reading this and have always associated it with being a Christmas song/poem, so it gets to stay on the list.
  • Santa Cows by Cooper Edens and Daniel Lane:  This is a very silly parody of the Night before Christmas.  I have no idea where my mother found it (probably a cattle show), and the first time we read it we weren't so sure about it, but we've grown fond of it over the years and it's now part of our family tradition to read it, though we save it for one of the last nights when we are at grandma's cattle farm.
Additional:  For a few more titles, click here.

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