Danny Recommends: Children’s Christmas Books
Every so often we dip our toes into a series called Danny Recommends:, posts that tip you off to the stuff that I…you know. The recommendations might be products for use in your ministry, resources that will help you develop leaders around you, or just fun stuff that you need. Want. Whatever. You can also see a full list of recommended books and such over at the Reading List. For other posts in the series, check out the link at the bottom.
This Danny Recommends gets chalked up as a purely personal tip from Uncle Danny. There are a couple of things I love: books and Christmas (I love a lot more than that – I see you, Breyers Chocolate Chip ice cream! – but for now let’s just focus on those two). If you happen to love those same two things, and you happen to be the parent of younger kids, this post is for you.
Since our daughter’s first Christmas with us, she and I have had an annual tradition of a special Christmas book. (She didn’t know it was a tradition at first. She was a fairly bright one year old, but she wasn’t that bright.) The new book makes its debut the week after Thanksgiving, and then we rotate through the old books as we move through the Christmas season. It’s something we both look forward to at December bedtimes each year, and if you have kids or grandkids, this is something you ought to consider.
I have a few ground rules for what makes the “special Christmas book” list:
- It has to be aesthetically appealing: this is not the time for a few pencil drawings and comic sans font. Books have to be illustrated, and they have to be illustrated beautifully.
- It has to be a hardcover. I fully intend for these to be books that Haven will read to her kids one day, so they have to last.
- It has to be a one-night read. This is not the time for Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I have no problem with longer books – and we will often read a few pages of one every few nights to supplement the season – but the special Christmas book has to be relatively brief.
- It doesn’t necessarily have to be Bethlehem-centric. While most of our books so far have centered around the proverbial reason for the season, I’ve mixed a couple of secular books in along the way. Because again…we’re rotating through the entire pile all through December.
Finding books that match these qualifiers is becoming more challenging. We’re hitting our seventh Christmas together, and each year the trips to Barnes and Noble or the surf times on Amazon get a little longer.
So what’s on the shelf so far? I’m so glad you asked. Here’s the list, starting this year and working our way back.
(Clarification: this post was originally written in 2017, but I’ve chosen to keep the list updated as we go.)
(Brooke Vitale, Luke Flowers)
I am personally ashamed of myself that I just found out this existed. The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best Christmas movie that ever existed (I will fight you), and it’s a yearly rewatch for us.
I recognize that this is the second Christmas Carol spinoff on my list, but Bean Bunny is indisputably a better character actor than Beverly Anne the guinea pig, and I will die on that hill.
2022: The Christmas Light
(Claudia Cangilla McAdam, Igor Kovyar)
This one made the cut because it mirrors the stage of life my daughter is in as a twelve year old. It’s a beautiful story of the innkeeper’s cranky preteen daughter, who learns how to selflessly serve the Christ child.
(Charles Dickens, Tess Newall, Alex Goodwin)
Okay look: I’m no prouder of posting this than you are of seeing it. But when you have a preteen daughter who has a guinea pig – and that guinea pig is a pretty big deal in her world – it’s inevitable that something like this makes the list.
(Pearl S. Buck, Mark Buehner)
I’ve heard the song on those 24 hour Christmas music radio stations, but I’ve never read the book (is the book based on the song? Did the song spring from the book? Now I need a CDITM / Pearl Buck biopic.)
2019: The Gift of the Magi
(O. Henry, P.J. Lynch)
This year, sadly, I realized that we’re beginning to turn the corner from children’s books, and the classic O. Henry story moved us into official “grown up” territory. (Pardon me while I cry in a corner.)
(Russell Hoban, Lillian Hoban)
If you’re a child of the 70’s / 80’s and this wasn’t your favorite Christmas special growing up, I’m not sure I can respect you as a human. So when I saw that there’s now a book version on Amazon (based on the movie, which was – and I just found this out – based on a book), I gave ’em all my money. It’s not a one-night read, but it’s still going in this year’s rotation.
2017: The Christmas Promise
(Alison Mitchell, Catalina Echeverri)
To be honest, this one barely squeaks through the “aesthetically appealing” category. The cartoony drawings are cute, but not my favorite. That said, it’s a part of the “Tales That Tell the Truth” series, so the message is solid.
2016: A Night of Great Joy
This one made the cut because it met my rules, plus 2016 was the year that Haven had her first Christmas play. So the theme just worked, y’know?
(Keith Christopher, Christine Kornacki)
A very typical poetic retelling of Jesus’ birth, but the illustrations, y’all. Stunning.
(R.C. Sproul, Chuck Groenink)
When R.C. Sproul writes a children’s book…nay, when R.C. Sproul writes a Christmas children’s book…you buy it. There’s a little bit of “story within a story within a story” business that drives me a little bit nuts, but still.
2013: Angelina’s Christmas
(Katharine Holabird, Helen Craig)
Again, theming was big this particular year. 2012 was the year Haven was into all things ballet, and she was especially into all things Angelina Ballerina. This was a no-brainer.
2012: Song of the Stars
(Sally Lloyd-Jones, Alison Jay)
Let’s face it: if Sally Lloyd-Jones published her grocery list, we’d all buy it. She’s the one who brought us The Jesus Storybook Bible, and this particular Christmas book may be my favorite she’s ever written (yes…I just put it above JSB. Whoa.) It’s hard for me to read this one to Haven without getting choked up. “Heaven’s Son / sleeping under the stars / that he made.” That’ll preach.
2011: Room for a Little One
(Martin Waddell, Jason Cockcroft)
The first Christmas book is still our favorite. I’ve likely read this book hundreds of times to Haven. The illustrations are gorgeous, the story is sweet, and if you’re an adoptive parent trying to read this particular book to your child while navigating your first year, I dare you to read it without your heart exploding.
Disclaimer: FTC watchdogs will probably want to know that the vendors listed / linked above did not ask for this endorsement, nor did they provide me with free swag in order to do so. I’m just a really satisfied fan who wants to let you know about helpful things. I only promote items that have benefitted me and that I believe will benefit you. So there.