When we first set a goal to do do the Twelve days of Christmas on our blog, we had no idea that if we did it just like the song, that would be 364 books (albeit lots of repetition), and if we just do 12 books for the 12th day, 11 for 11 and so on . . . that would be 78 books! As much as we love books (and that’s an understatement), we just didn’t feel like it was quite necessary to go that crazy. So, to make it simpler, we each are doing one book for each of the Twelve days of Christmas- which makes 24 total books. I think that should be enough to keep us all busy. Although, I must admit, paring down our lists to just twelve has been difficult. In keeping with the festivities, Cari’s reviews are in red and Holly’s are in green. Rest assured, we have picked a variety to choose from in an attempt to satisfy everyone in your house- even the mouse!
On the 1st day of Christmas my true love read to me:
Flight of the Reindeer The True Story of Santa Claus & His Christmas Mission by Robert Sullivan, drawings by Glenn Wolff
Do you have a Santa doubter in your home? Are you struggling with scepticism this Christmas? Here is the best solution I have ever found! I’ve always been a believer, but this year, knowing we might be getting some serious questions on the home front, I decided to confront the questions head on. I found myself wondering, “Is this for real?” I flipped to the front and found that it’s so real that the Library of Congress categorized this book as non-fiction. When does that ever happen with a Christmas tale? A great coffee-table and reference book for the Santa-challenged parent. I don’t know if I can turn this back in to the library until I buy my own copy . . .
Holly Claus The Christmas Princess by Brittney Ryan and illustrated by Laurel Long & Jeffrey K. Bedrick
Holly Claus is none other then the daughter of Nicholas Claus and his wife Viviana. Holly is a beautiful princess of the land Forever and whose birth was long anticipated. Her existence is made possible by a young boy who writes a letter to Santa Claus and asks Santa what he would like for Christmas rather than asking for a list of presents. However Holly has a curse placed upon her by an evil warlock and her heart is surrounded by ice forcing her to stay in the cold unless she marries the warlock willingly.
Overall I liked this story and the illustrations are really quite beautiful. I call this the ultimate Christmas fairy tale complete with a princess and happy forever (especially since the North Pole is called Forever). There is a novel for middle readers also by Brittney Ryan and illustrated by Laurel Long – same story but much more fleshed out called The Legend of Holly Claus, which I really enjoyed.
On the 2nd Day of Christmas my true love read to me:
The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
This one’s a real tear-jerker, so have a box of tissues on hand and don’t plan on going anywhere until the puffy eyes subside. Two tales intertwine to remind us what family and holidays are all about- love and togetherness. This book left me grateful for my dear ones and more determined to focus on what really counts.
Who will guide my sleigh tonight? by Jerry Pallotta Illustrated by David Biedrzycki
I first saw this book at a book club’s mom and me Christmas brunch. I loved it! It goes through as Santa tries to determine what animal will make the best guide for his sled. Our kids loved this book. He goes through dolphins, skunks and elephants trying to decide which animal works the best. This one is great for children 2-5 and adults get a kick out of it too.
On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love read to me:
The Quiet Little Woman, A Christmas Story by Louisa May Alcott, presented by Stephen W. Hines
Three Enchanting Christmas stories by one of my favorite authors, rediscovered by industrious Mr. Hines, in a long-forgotten children’s magazine. I was thrilled to find that Alcott had stories I’ve never seen. Alcott works her magic in three short stories, The Quiet Little Woman, Tilly’s Christmas, and Rosa’s Tale. Definitely a medley that will please the palate.
Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco
Hopefully based on a true story that the author heard once in homilies in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. If it is true its an amazing story if its not it’s still a great story and the book is classified as fiction so I guess it’s up to the reader to decide. The main character Jonathon is moving with his family to Michigan and he is upset over the move. His father is a preacher and the new church is not exactly new. In fact the whole area is run down and Jonathon wants to go back to his previous home. Through an unlikely series of events water damage in the church, a late bus, a tapestry, sharing tea with an old woman and the gentleman who comes to repair the wall. Jonathon and his father play a role in special Christmas miracle.
On the 4th day of Christmas my true love read to me:
The Great Santa Search As told to Jeff Guinn by Santa Claus himself
Number three in the Christmas Chronicles, I found this book to be hard going at first, but it sure finished up with a bang! Brimming with Christmas history and famous people. The history lover in the family, should enjoy this tale. And the children, and less ‘history’ loving people in the family, will enjoy the occasional illustrations, which will inspire them to read and find out what’s really going on. A nice explanation for the ‘why’ of Santa Claus and Christmas.
Auntie Claus by Elise Primevera
The first rule of Christmas is better to give than it is to receive or that’s what Sophie learns in this Christmas tale. Her whole family loves Christmas especially Sophie and her little brother and the more presents the better. Sophie’s curiousity gets the best of her when she wants to find out where their Auntie Claus disppears to every year around Christmas time and she stows away for an adventure and learns a very important lesson not to mention that Santa Claus has a sister!
On the 5th day of Christmas my true love read to me:
The Christmas Box by Eve Merriam illustrated by David Small
We loved this hilarious tale reminiscent of Mary Poppin’sbottomless carpet bag. When Christmas morning comes, there is only one present under the tree. Can one present really be enough? What was Santa thinking?! Christmas simplified, sounds great to me and with this book it really is fun for the entire family.
Shall I knit you a Hat? a Christmas Yarn by Kate Klise Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
I had to pick this book, it’s written and illustrated by sisters who apparently have collaborated before (I will be looking for more). This is a nice warm story as Mother Rabbit decides to knit a warm hat for Little Rabbit when a bad snow storm is supposed to blow in on Christmas Eve. Little Rabbit is so excited about his nice new hat that he wants to make sure that his friends will have a nice warm hat for Christmas so he and his mom go out and measure his animal friends and make hats for them for Christmas. When the winter storm comes in everyone has customized hat for the cold weather. I thought it would be fun to make a carrot cake as Little Rabbit and his mom have several pieces at the end of the book. Also if you had a child who was old enough you could teach them how to knit. Or if you give this book as a gift, give it with some knitting needles and yarn to go with it.
On the 6th day of Christmas my true love read to me
The Christmas Dolls by Candice Ransom, illustrations by Moira Fain
Claire’s mother volunteers to be Santa’s helper by restoring old dolls. Claire learns that Santa needs many helpers to get ready for Christmas, and as she watches and helps her Mom, she learns how to give gifts of love. A subtle undertone in the book may lead to questions about why she talks about her Dad who is not there anymore (apparently he left before the story began). So, if this is a circumstance you or your loved ones are dealing with this season, this book may be a good conversation starter, and lead to a comforting ending, where you learn to look outside yourself and give to others, to heal your own wounds.
Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner pictures by Mark Buehner
My daughter got this book from her preschool teacher for Christmas last year and it’s a family favorite. The verse is fun and flows well withrhymes and the illustrations are great. The main character who is the narrator describes how he makes a snowman on each Christmas Eve, but wonders “How do Snowmen celebrate?” Then each page is filled withsnowmencelebrating complete with tree trimming, cookie decorating, dancing and a special visit from the snowman Kris Kringle. Also on each page if you look hard you can find a mouse, a cat a T-rex among other things hidden in each painting. We love this book so much we keep it out all year.
On the 7th day of Christmas my true love read to me:
The Bells of Christmas by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Lambert Davis
Christmas 1890 with the Bell family is just as energetic and lovely as it is today- especially when children are impatient for the big day to arrive. “Each day was as long as a month.” I sure remember when it felt that way to me! Twelve year old Jason is having a hard time being patient, but his Mama tells him, “try to get along, it’s Christmas.” But for Jason, “it’s never Christmas, only Tuesday.” I love the way Davis captures the dreams full of excitement and anticipation on Christmas eve in the illustration of Jason smiling into his pillow as he sleeps. What an amazing spread of home-made things in this historically, beautiful Christmas tale for older children who need to occupy some time and perhaps be reminded of a simpler life.
The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket Art by Brett Helquist
I have read one book of A Series of Unfortunate Events and I am not what you would call a huge fan. I thought it was okay so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this little Christmas story. I really liked it. It’s about a Lump of Coal of course and miracles. Life doesn’t always go the way its supposed to for anyone including this little lump of coal, but in the end everything works out through a series of miracles. A good reminder of the real miracles of life, friends, food to eat, and place to spend the holidays. It’s great. Best for older elementary age and up.
On the 8th day of Christmas my true love read to me:
The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans, illustrated by Jacob Collins
A very illuminating story about the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of all mankind. We are all family in this world and as we reach out and help each other, we begin to understand how truly small it is. Thomas buys an ‘ordinary’ candle that the candlemaker promises will give him illumination. As he uses it to light his way, he finds that everyone he meets is someone he knows, loves, and wants to help.
Little Bear’s Christmas by Norbert Landa illustrated by Marlis Scharff-Kniemeyer
Everyone knows that bears sleep through the winter much to the dismay of Bertie the bear. He desperately wants to see Santa Claus and he will be asleep. He sets his alarm to go off on Christmas so he can finally see Santa Claus. A very cute story for 4-9 year olds, but you might want to discuss when to set alarms and not wondering off in the night to look for Santa. I could see some kids trying to do what Bertie does and try wondering out in the night to find him.
On the 9th day of Christmas my true love read to me:
Jingle Bells by Nick Butterworth
Two mice, Lottie and her brother, Jack, are upset at Christmas because of . . . you guessed it, a cat named Angus. They hang up their stockings only to find that the Cat has made sure they won’t get Christmas. After consulting their dear friend, Ton-Chee(a rat), they come up with a brilliant idea, in the spirit of Christmas, to solve their problems once and for all.
The BIGGEST, BEST, SNOWMAN by Margery Cuyler Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
I really like snowman books and this is no exception. Actually, I think my sister gave this book to my daughter a while back and it is another family favorite. Little Nell wants to help with the holiday preparations, but everyone tells her she is too little. So she goes to spend the day with Reindeer, Hare and Bear Cub. They want her to help them build a snowman, which she does. One thing I like about the book is the repetition and how Little Nell is able to do big things
On the 10th day of Christmas my true love read to me:
The Shy Little Angel by Ruth Brown
Warm, endearing illustrations could carry this book on their own merit, and yet they are enhanced by the prose conversations of a chorus of angels who do their best to convince one of their own that she really will be missed if she does not go and greet ‘the baby’ as Gabriel has asked. Stubbornly remaining behind, while watching from above, the little angel is pulled in by the scene, so majestic, before her. Warmed by the nativity scene, the little angel can’t stop herself and shines brighter than the brightest star, gracing everyone with a beautiful smile.
The Mouse Before Christmas by Michael Garland
Rhyming and wonderful pictures send you off on a whirlwind adventure. A common theme in Christmas books is someone wanting to stay up and see Santa and Mouse is no different. Mouse gets his wish to see Santa and then curiosity snatches him up as he takes a peek in Santa’s bag and falls in. So Mouse gets to travel with Santa all over the world and see some of the wonders of the world before returning home.
On the 11th day of Christmas my true love read to me:
On Christmas Eve by Peter Collington
Over 100 pictures, and no words fill this fascinating Christmas picture book with imaginative details. I never knew that Santa had fairies helping him, but it makes sense to me that magical creatures would help each other out. Now I want angel fairies to live in the tree outside my home and make a landing strip for Santa. Well, maybe not. Those military jets flying training missions overhead might decide to stop on in, instead of break the sound-barrier. Beautiful, peaceful read, perfect for relaxing on Christmas Eve.
Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco
Welcome Comfort is the name of a boy who has been in so many foster homes he has lost count. He doesn’t believe in Christmas, miracles or Santa Claus. He is befriended by the school janitor and his wife the librarian who tell him the believing is seeing who go up North every Christmas. After some convincing he decides to try and believe in Santa and goes on a wonderful ride with the big man himself. In the end he thinks it is a dream only to find out when the janitor retires and invites Welcome and his wife to spend Christmas with him and the Mrs. Find out how Welcome Comfort finds his true self at Christmas time.
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love read to me:
The Real 12 Days of Christmas by Helen Haidle, illustrated by Celeste Henriquez
What more perfect way to end the 12 days than a lovely book with simple, elegant water color illustrations that go hand-in-hand with simply elegant explanations for each of the twelve gifts. My family really enjoyed this book and learning the symbolism behind the song. I especially appreciated that there were Bible passages referenced in conjunction with each explanation, so I could go and look it up myself if I wanted to. Looking back at the book now, I just become engrossed in the illustrations- love, love love them!
Bonus: Can’t leave this one out and don’t know which one to replace-
Baby’s Christmas by Francesca
Allen & Felicity Brooks, illustrated by Rachel Wells
My 2 year old’s favorite Christmas board book (the rest of us like it too). A hands-on, interactive book as Baby (attached by a ribbon to the book) moves from page to page, investigating what’s under the Christmas tree. Perfect for little ones who want to get their hands on things and really ‘play’ with books. Baby fits perfectly into each page like a one piece puzzle that toddlers will love putting together and taking apart again and again.
Santa Claus The World’s Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee
I loved this book and so did my daughter. Another book we heard about at my book club’s mom and me Christmas brunch. This of course is one of my new Christmas favorites. The pictures are excellently crafted and compliments the text really well. I cannot say enough about this book. It is wonderful! This works well with pre-schoolers and it’s just a fun book. I would consider buying this book.