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Word by Word

My Favorite Christmas Books

Every year on December 1st, we haul out two boxes of Christmas books. It became a tradition, mostly started as a way to help temper my son's excitement and let it build more slowly. I still get the books out on Dec. 1st, even though my son is now in college.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite Christmas books. Most of them are for children, but not all:

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
A Christmas classic picture book. So much better than the movie. I hang silver jingle bells on the tree every year.

On Christmas Eve by Margaret Wise Brown
I am so glad this was reprinted with new illustrations. The text captures both the shivers of excitement and the peacefulness of Christmas Eve.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
A classic on the true meaning of Christmas. Read the book, then watch the cartoon narrated by Boris Karloff. Don't bother with the movie.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
This gentle wordless picture book was made into an animated short movie some time ago. The movie is worth seeing and has an exceptionally beautiful score.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
The best movie version is the 1940's black and white movie with Maureen O'Hara. This book came after the movie, in an unusual switch. I have the version illustrated by Tomie dePaola.

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
A seasonal sequel to The Jolly Postman, with letters and games that actually pull out of the book.

The Christmas Alphabet by Robert Sabuda
My favorite of the pop-up book artist's Christmas titles. All the pop-ups are in white, on colored background.

Peter Spier's Christmas by Peter Spier
If I could choose only one Christmas book to read every year, this would be it. It's a wordless book, a simple story of a family getting ready for Christmas. For me, the magic is in the fact that the book ends--not on Christmas day, with gift giving--but in undecorating, taking out the trash and the tree, returning items, and the sense that Christmas will come again next year. There's something incredibly reassuring about that--things don't have to be perfect! I get another shot at it next year!

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas by Russell Hoban
This is a wonderful book to read aloud. Jim Henson made a muppet-style movie of the book, which I enjoy. But the book is better. Maybe because I'm a musician, I really appreciate the musical context.

Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge
This is a book for adults, set in England following World War II. It's not primarily a Christmas book, but the end scenes take place in an old inn, at Christmas. The author's descriptions are incredibly visual.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Another book that is not primarily a Christmas book, but has a wonderfully Christmasy scene in it. And who doesn't love Mole, Rat, and Toad?

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Always winter, and NEVER Christmas? The spell is broken when Father Christmas arrives.

Santa Calls by William Joyce
The pictures of the North Pole are outstanding in this humorous adventure book set in a fictional 1908 time period. Think of old adventure movie sequels.

It's a Wonderful Christmas by Susan Waggoner
A non-fiction book for Baby Boomers. The subtitle is "The Best of the Holidays 1940--1965. Tons of photos and old ads.

That's my list. Have a wonderful holiday and a happy New Year!

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