1. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett
I always love reading Jan Brett's winter-themed books around this time of year. WIth so many books out there about the twelve days of Christmas, Jan Brett's version is by far one of my favorites. From golden pears, to plump turtledoves dressed in Christmas gowns, to swans swimming with crowns, to drummers drumming on gallantly dressed horses, the book is filled with vibrant and detailed illustrations that little ones will love. And of course it wouldn't be a Jan Brett book without a hedgehog hovering nearby.
2. Who Is Coming To Our House? by Joseph Slate
Who Is Coming To Our House? is a book full of anticipation and excitement for Christmas day as all of the farm animals get ready for the big celebration. "Who is coming to our house?" "Someone, someone," says mouse. After dusting and cleaning and making room, the animals are ready. "Who is coming to our house?" "Mary and Joseph," whispers mouse. "Welcome, welcome to our house!"
3. Baby's First Christmas by Tomie dePaola
A book I remember from when I was little, Tomie dePaola's stories and charming illustrations never get old. With simple text, dePaola captures the essence of the Christmas spirit and traditions. "This is the wreath that hangs on the door. This is the candle that lights up the window...This is the manger scene that sits on the mantle..." While the book makes a lovely Christmas gift for a child's first Christmas, it's a book toddlers will readily enjoy as well.
4. Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck
Nola Buck's Christmas in the Manger is a lovely introduction to the manger scene and the meaning of Christmas. As every page introduces a new aspect of the manger -- "I am the donkey, soft and gray, I carried his mother from far away. I am the ram, with my curly horn I guard the stall where the child is born..." -- the book concludes with the baby Jesus: "I am the baby asleep in the hay, and I am the reason for Christmas Day."
5. Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
Another Jan Brett favorite, the famous gingerbread boy comes to life through cheery, energetic, and colorful illustrations. While the book isn't about Christmas per se, gingerbread cookies always come with the season of Christmas.
6. You Are Mu Miracle by Maryann Cusimano Love
You Are My Miracle puts into words what parents hold in their hearts -- that the love of a child is greater than any Christmas gift. "I am your parent; you are my child. I am your quiet place; you are my wild." "I am your hush now; you are my lyrical. I am your peace on Earth; you are my miracle."
7. Bear Stays Up For Christmas by Karma Wilson
For those who are familiar with Karma Wilson's bear series, Bear Stays Up For Christmas has the usual crowd of friends. It's the day before Christmas and bear is asleep in his den. But soon Hare, Mole, Badger, Mouse, Gopher, and Wren arrive. "We won't let you sleep through Christmas this year" they say. And getting Bear up they head outside for a busy day ahead. First they cut down a tree, make a popcorn garland and fruitcake, then hang up their stockings. Soon the friends are cozy in bear's den ready for Christmas. "When Christmas arrives, so lovely and white, Bear's friends awake to a glorious site. Presents and goodies are piled up tall" and Bear stayed up!! At the end of the day there's one last surprise -- "Badger shows Bear a quilt just his size." And so Bear snuggles in for a long winter's nap. It was a good Christmas.
8. Dear Santa by Rod Campbell
I was very excited to hear about the release of Dear Santa since our son is still very found of Dear Zoo. The book follows a similar pattern as Dear Zoo -- the child writes a letter (this time to Santa) and then Santa has to decide what to send. "I wrote to Santa to send me something special for Christmas. So he wrapped up a...car. Too small, thought Santa. I'll send something else"...and so on. With Campbell's signature lift-the-flap style, Dear Santa is sure to entertain the youngest of explorers.
9. Merry Christmas Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
Laura Numeroff's books are always fun to read. In Merry Christmas Mouse, mouse is decorating the Christmas tree. He adds one star. Then two angels. Then three snowflakes. Then four reindeer...etc. And being mouse...he may get a little carried away with the decorating. But who doesn't love a tree packed with ornaments?
10. Spot's Christmas by Eric Hill
It's almost time for Christmas and Spot is getting ready. Spot sings carols, helps his dad decorate the tree, bakes cookies and cakes, makes Christmas cards, and wraps presents. Then it's time to hang his stocking. Merry Christmas Spot!
11. Madeline's Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans
I'd be interested to hear how many of you like Madeline's Christmas. It's a long enough book that I wouldn't have expected it to be in board book form. It's also not a story that I would expect many children under the age of four to completely understand.
It's Christmas eve and Madeline is busy tidying the big house and making soup. Suddenly there is a knock on the door -- a merchant selling rugs. Madeline buys the rugs, placing one beside every little girl's bed. Soon the merchant returns -- he is cold after selling all of the rugs that kept him warm. So Madeline fixes him up with a warm plate of food and before long he is thawed out from the cold. Then the merchant (who is also a magician) takes his ring and saying some words makes all the carpets fly through the air, sending twelve little girls home to their parents for Christmas day. But like all spells in stories they soon come to an end and Miss Clavel brakes it with a ring of her bell. And so all the children are back with Miss Clavel -- this time celebrating New Year's.
Like I said, I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this one. My overall assessment is that the story is too advanced for a child under four (how many children under four would understand the orphanage reference unless they were familiar with the other Madeline stories?) and the story really isn't about Christmas, except perhaps for the idea of making Christmas wishes.
12. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
"'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house...." Not much to say about this one! We all know the story. A classic for everyone's shelf.
13. Dream Snow by Eric Carle
Another Eric Carle classic, Dream Snow is the story of a farmer who has a horse, a cow, a sheep, a pig, and a roaster. Their names are One, Two, Three, Four, and Five. One afternoon the farmer feels very sleepy---so sitting down to a cup of hot peppermint tea and a slice of bread with honey, the farmer quickly dozes off. He dreams that he's covered in snow and that all the farm animals get covered in snow as well. When he wakes up he realizes that real snow has fallen outside. Grabbing his coat, hat, and gloves, the farmer goes outside to check on the animals and to decorate a tree by the stable for One, Two, Three, Four, and Five to see. Now everyone is ready for Christmas.
14. The Christmas Star by Maite Roche
A very good friend of mine gave our son this book and I love it. With really lovely illustrations it's a beautiful introduction to the Christmas star and the Magi. "A new star rises in the sky, and the Magi leave their homes to follow it. They cross deserts, they cross mountains. The star guides their way through the night." Soon the Magi come to Bethlehem where the star shines above. They are filled with joy and soon they find Jesus and his mother, Mary. And going down on their knees they offer him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
15. An Otis Christmas by Loren Long
An Otis Christmas is really a sweet story. With all of the favorite friends, Otis and the farm animals are excited for Christmas day, as well as the arrival of a foal.
On Christmas Eve, the farmer comes into the barn to give the animals a special meal, and to give Otis a shiny, gold horn. Otis had never received a Christmas gift before. Feeling very happy Otis begins to fall asleep. But Otis soon wakes to the sound of voices. Something is wrong with the horse who's expecting the foal. The farmer needs Doc Baker. With deep snow already covering the road the farmer's truck quickly gets stuck. It's now up to Otis to venture out in the snow to get Doc Baker. Over hills, through woods, Otis finally makes it to Doc Baker's house. And honking his new horn, Doc Baker quickly wakes up, scrambling to return to the barn with Otis. "Putt puff, beep, beep, honk, honk!" They make it back to the farm, and soon everyone is celebrating the arrival of the little foal -- who on Christmas day was born with a star on his forehead. For Otis, this Christmas was the best one yet.
16. Little Blue Truck's Christmas by Alice Schertle
Little Blue Truck is back for Christmas -- this time carrying trees to all his friends. One for goose, now four trees left. One for frog. Now three trees left. One for pig, now two trees left. One for goat, now one tree left. "Beep, Beep this one's for me!" says Little Blue.
A fun little story. Our son is particularly fond of the twinkling tree lights on the last page of the book.