Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Bookshelf

Christmas Books

I am so not good at picking a favorite. Even picking my top three or top five or any other number of favorites in any category. But as our Crew Round-up is encouraging us to share some "Favorite" books for celebrating the holidays, I have named a few books that are indeed favorites, and picked out a few books from my archive over at Just A Second that had a Christmas theme and that I remembered as being enjoyable.
I love to read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol every year. And watch the movie, of course. (My favorite is the version starring Alistair Sim, and I'm very fond of some of the newer adaptations too.) I've read this aloud to my kids several times, and I enjoy reading it on my own. 

This really is one of my favorites - Mary's First Christmas by Walter Wangerin Jr. The story of Jesus' birth as if Mary is telling it to her son. The illustrations are gorgeous as well.

The Christmas Journey by Donna VanLiere - Donna VanLiere is the author of The Christmas Shoes, for which I will forgive her, since I so enjoyed this little book retelling the story of Mary and Joseph and their journey to Bethlehem. (I admit I have not read the shoes book, only suffered through the song, which I cannot stand at all, so perhaps I am judging the book harshly!) At any rate, The Christmas Journey literally takes only minutes to read, but VanLiere's simple yet evocative description of the journey to Bethlehem and birth of Jesus is truly compelling, showing Mary and Joseph as very ordinary human beings. One I think I may re-read this Christmas season! (see my original post)


The True Saint Nicholas - Why He Matters to Christmas by William J. Bennett - This little book was a great read for the Christmas season a few years ago, and I think it would be a good choice for a family read-aloud too. Bennett retells what little is known about the historical Nicholas of Myra along with many of the legends and stories that have been told about him over the years, and also explains how the stories of this good bishop traveled the world and were embraced by so many cultures. And in more recent history, how he became Santa Claus and part of Christmas traditions even though his feast day is at the beginning of December. I thought Bennett did a nice job of putting the fantasy and magic associated with Santa into perspective in its place in the celebration of Christmas. 
(see my original post)

Were They Wise Men or Kings? The Book of Christmas Questions by Joseph J. Walsh - The title and cover of this book caught my eye while browsing at the library. It looked like a quick read suitable for age 10 and up. At the time (this was several years ago) I thought maybe I would read some of it aloud to the kids, but that never happened.  However, it was a quick, easy read and answered Christmas season questions in a common-sense way without being simplistic or overly scholarly.  The author taught (still teaches?) a course on Christmas to freshmen at Loyola, and I wondered whether his answers regarding the Nativity and its relevance to the Christmas celebrations would be dismissive.  After reading his answers, I really don't know whether he is a believer or a skeptic, because he stuck to the facts! (Wouldn't it be cool if the NEWS media did that? But I digress...) His answers were honest and sometimes humourous, acknowledging the unknowns such as when exactly Jesus was born, some of the facts surrounding the historical St Nicholas, and details about the wise men and the star. He doesn't gloss over the fact that the church co-opted pagan feast days and remade them into celebrations of the Nativity of Christ, but is also quite clear that it is the Christian celebration of this holiday that has made it great and inspired most of the charity associated with it. The book is organized into chapters by topic - Santa; The Nativity; Celebration; Traditions; etc - and in each chapter is a series of questions along with the answer, each Q&A taking approximately two pages. So you can read the book cover to cover like I did, or just look up the answer to a question that intrigues you. This may be the book to have on hand when your kids ask what holly and ivy have to do with Christmas, and what the twelve days of Christmas are.  Give them a sourcebook along with those famous homeschooler words: "Why don't you look it up?" (see my original post)

The Christmas Chronicles - The Legend of Santa Claus by Tim Slover - I noticed this little book a couple of years ago and thought it looked like a quick and entertaining read. I was certainly right about it being a quick read, and it might even make a good read-aloud. It was truly enjoyable as well!  The 'true story' of Santa Claus is told with some unusual twists, presented as the biography prepared by Santa's court historian. The story is sweet, and humourous in places, and has a fairytale charm. It would be an especially fun read for those who still want to believe in Santa, and who enjoy having their children continue to believe. (see my original post)

Other Crew members will be sharing about their Favorite Christmas books as well. All the posts will be linked in a Round-Up on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog on Tuesday, December 17th.

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