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My Favorite Family-Friendly Classic Christmas Books

Dec 23, 2020

Christmas books and stories are an important part of my Christmas tradition. When many people are handing out pajamas on Christmas Eve, I was handing out Christmas books to my four daughters. I started this tradition when my twins were born—a Christmas book every Christmas Eve. By the time my daughters left home, they had a collection of 20+ Christmas books. 

The gifting of books and reading aloud to my children is important for several reasons:

  1. Reading aloud to your child helps with language development--their working vocabulary increases and their imagination is strengthened.
  2. Reading to your child is great bonding time. 
  3. Reading aloud to your child creates and strengthens a lifetime interest in reading.
  4. On Christmas Eve, you can send your child to bed with a book and it will give you time to get your wrapping done and get that bike assembled.

Not all of the stories I list below need to be read aloud—nor are they all practical to read in one sitting. I’ll note the ones best for reading aloud with your child. 

So, here’s MY list of favorite Christmas books that I read or shared with my children:

  • A Christmas Carol by Charlies Dickens. Yes, everyone should read this at least once.  And it can be read in one sitting, it’s a novella—longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. This is probably more enjoyable for children from 10 years and older—the language is . There are multiple movie renditions but reading Dickens aloud is a real treat (and educational). 
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. This is my personal favorite—this is funny and lively. Your kids (no matter the age) will thoroughly enjoy this 8-10 year old appropriate chapter book of the Herdman siblings (the worst kids in the history of the world) and how they take over the church Christmas pageant. It is just so reminiscent of me and my siblings and our behavior. The Herdman kids remind me of the Howell kids. 
  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Reading Dr. Seuss aloud is a real treat. Just like A Christmas Carol, there are multiple movie renditions. The Jim Carey version is my favorite. 

“Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” — The Grinch 

  • The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. Sentimental but sweet and tender short story of a newly married young couple and their first Christmas together. The moral of the story is that sacrifice in giving brings great joy.
  • Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Such a relatable story of the chaos and confusion and manic behavior that accompanies Christmas in today’s world. Your older children, and the adults, will thoroughly enjoy this Christmas tale of Luther and Nora choosing to skip Christmas and do a Caribbean cruise—nothing goes as planned. Follow this up with watching the movie “Christmas with the Cranks.”
  • Twas The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. First published anonymously in 1823. It’s interesting to note that this is where the eight reindeer names originated and that has been passed down for nearly 200 years (sorry Rudolph, you’re not part of the original team). Meant to be read aloud. 

Interesting note: Clement Moore has long been credited as the author of this but literary scholars now believe that the true writer was in fact a poet of Dutch heritage named Henry Livingston Jr. Moore’s authorship rings false because the structure of the poem is very different from anything else he had written; the style and imagery match Livingston’s writing. Most compelling of all are the Dutch references in the poem, including several reindeer names, such as “Donder” (meaning “thunder”) and “Blixem” (meaning “lightning”). These names were anglicized in later editions to the now-famous “Donner,” and “Blitzen.” 

  • The Polar Express By Chris Van Allsburg. Meant to be read aloud. Take your child on a magical ride on a magical train to the top of the world. This book is a sweet reminder of the spirit of Christmas. Interesting fact: Chris Van Allsburg also wrote Jumanji.
  • Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien. A collection of real letters written and illustrated from Tolkien to his children between 1910 and 1943, from Father Christmas. These letters were released posthumously in 1976. You can read hints of his imaginings of The Lord of the Rings within these 23 years.  

And Merry Christmas to all of you, our Juxtabook friends. Here’s to a healthier and productive 2021. Thank you for your love of books and the business of books. 

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