Friday, November 30, 2012

Favorite Christmas Books ~ Pioneer Edition


I’ll pretend like I didn’t forget a couple books on my previous Christmas book lists and tell you that I planned to do a ‘pioneer version’ all along. That will work, right?

1. Kirsten’s Surprise: A Christmas Story by Janet Shaw from the American Girl Collection

“Kirsten and her family celebrate their first Christmas in America, and Kirsten wants to keep some of their old Swedish traditions alive in the new country.” Kirsten's Surprise is a great way to combine celebrations around the world, American immigrants, and pioneers all in one! Kirsten holds a special place in my heart with her secret plans for a St. Lucia celebration, one of my favorite traditions. The story takes place in 1854.


2. A Pioneer Christmas: Celebrating in the Backwoods in 1841 by Barbara Greenwood

A Pioneer Christmas is a companion book to A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840, one of my family’s favorites! The Robertsons, a pioneer family with Scottish roots, celebrate Christmas with stirring plum pudding, making pomanders, playing winter games, singing Christmas carols, decorating their home, and reading the Christmas story.

The Pioneer Sampler books (including A Pioneer Thanksgiving: A Story of Harvest Celebrations in 1841) combine fiction stories with recipes, hand-on activities, historical information, and more to make the pioneer days come alive for children. (A Pioneer Sampler and A Pioneer Thanksgiving are both available at, but A Pioneer Christmas is only available through third party sellers. I found that Rainbow Resource has inexpensive copies available.)



3. Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

And, of course, Christmas in the Big Woods. Because an American pioneer Christmas wouldn't be complete without Laura Ingalls. Would it?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Favorite Christmas Books ~ Around the World Edition


1. The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola

Set in a village in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Night of Las Posadas tells of the Spanish custom which celebrates Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.



2. The Legend of the Poinsettia retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

“When I first heard the Mexican legend of the poinsettia, about a little girl who offers weeds to the Christ Child as her gift for Christmas, I was touched by it as only Christmas can touch me. I knew that one day I wanted to create the story in pictures for children.” ~Tomie dePaola, The Legend of the Poinsettia



3. Brigid’s Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story by Bryce Milligan, illustrated by Helen Cann

Brigid's Cloak is a beautifully illustrated story about the fifth-century Irish saint, who travels back in time to visit the stable in Bethlehem. As a word of caution, there is a Druid in this story, which may be off-putting to some families. (ETA: I just read the story of Balaam in the Old Testament and it is very similar. God speaks through a fortune-teller to bless God’s people.)



4. Tree of Cranes by Allen Say

Allen Say’s books have a magical quality to them. So spare and peaceful. Tree of Cranes is a story of a Japanese boy who celebrates his first Christmas. His mother tells him of her childhood in California where Christmas was celebrated with a decorated tree and gifts. Together they decorate a tree with silver cranes and candles. (No mention of the birth of Christ, however.) My boys and I enjoy folding paper cranes to decorate our own Christmas tree after reading this story!



5. The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan

I love to add books to our Christmas collection each year. Because we traditionally celebrate St. Nicholas Day with close friends, one of the books I’ve chosen this year is The Miracle of St. Nicholas.  This story tells of a Russian village's return to church after years of persecution.




6. Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov

Baboushka and the Three Kings tells the Russian folktale about the old woman who declines to journey with the Three Kings as they search for baby Jesus. She is unable to find him on her own and resumes her search each Christmas.



7. The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola

As delightful as I find Tomie dePaola’s books, we are adding The Legend of Old Befana to our collection this year, as well. Italy has a similar folk tale of an old woman who turns down a journey with the Three Kings.



8. Annika’s Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis

Given my Swedish heritage, I love books and traditions from Sweden. Annika's Secret Wish is a story about the Swedish tradition of finding an almond hidden in the rice pudding Christmas Eve. This is a beautiful story of sacrificial love.



9. The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren

The Tomten is a gnome-like creature who comes out at night in Sweden when human beings are asleep. In this story, he goes about to the farm animals and talks to them ‘in tomten language, a silent little language a horse can understand.”

You may also enjoy The Tomten and the Fox.

Christmas in Noisy Village is another one of our Christmas favorites by Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking).



10. Christmas Around the World Coloring Book by Joan O’Brien

For an inexpensive taste of traditions all over the world in one book, Christmas Around the World Coloring Book is the perfect thing. Each page has a detailed picture to color accompanied by a short paragraph explaining the traditions. Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United States are all represented!


Do you have favorite Christmas books that tell of stories or traditions from other countries or cultures?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Favorite Christmas Books


I’m beginning to think I have ADD. I didn’t used to be this way, but motherhood requires so much multi-tasking in general that I seem to have lost my ability to stick with something and finish it! So I have baby shower pictures, a maternity photo shoot, the next installment in my curricula series, and my November links and book list round-up all coming up this week.

Today, however, I want to share my favorite Christmas picture books so that anyone who wants to find or purchase them will have time before the Christmas season is over!

Speaking of books, I finally figured out how to add my Amazon affiliate links to book titles in my posts. I mean, it really isn’t rocket surgery (as I like to say), but I am very slow on the up-take. Seriously. This means that all my Amazon book links are now affiliate links (for full disclosure and all that). I truly appreciate those of you who purchase through my links (even if you purchase items other than my recommendations). It helps fund my book obsession my children’s education. But, guess what? I truly appreciate all my readers, even if you don’t buy through Amazon. Because of you, this blogging adventure has been a great blessing to me, and I’m thankful.

(P.S. Lola’s darling Thanksgiving dress was purchased with All About Spelling affiliate dollars. It was a huge treat for Lola and me, so thank you for purchasing through my AAS affiliate link on the side bar, as well. She will be able to wear the dress for years!)

(P.P.S. I’m sorry if you didn’t get a chance to snatch up a less expensive copy of my favorite Advent book. Several of you took me up on my recommendation, which is only available through third party sellers.)

On to the books. Oh, how I love Christmas books!



1. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, pictures by Barbara Cooney

I think it only fitting that The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story sits at the top of my list. Barbara Cooney is hands-down my favorite illustrator (see top picture), and this book tugs at my heart strings. Perfect in every way.



2. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, pictures by Barbara Cooney

The Story of Holly and Ivy. Did I mention my love-affair with Barbara Cooney? Her illustrations are simply magic in this tale about a little orphan named Ivy and a doll named Holly. (And having a sister named Holly and a niece named Ivy makes this story even more perfect!)



3. The Remarkable Christmas of the Cobbler’s Sons told by Ruth Sawyer, pictures by Barbara Cooney

(Are you sensing a pattern here?) The Remarkable Christmas of the Cobbler's Sons is a quirky traditional Tyrolean folktale retold by Ruth Sawyer (also the author of my most favorite Christmas chapter book). My boys love this story about Fritzl, Franzl, and Hansl.



4. Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant & Diane Goode

Christmas In The Country is a simple story about a simple Christmas. Cynthia Rylant and Diane Goode make me want to jump into the pages and live this Christmas.

“Grandfather always brought home a tree that was a little too wide or a little too tall and we would have to spend the next few weeks squeezing around it in the living room. It seemed sometimes like an embarrassed guest. But we loved that tree and couldn’t wait to turn on the lights at night. It was the prettiest thing we had.”



5. I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie

May I have two most favorite illustrators? I have never, ever met two pigs with so much personality and emotion. Holly Hobbie’s illustrations spring to charming life Toot & Puddle’s I'll Be Home for Christmas.



6. Corgiville Christmas by Tasha Tudor

I hate to tease you like this since it isn’t available for a reasonable price on Amazon, but check your library for Corgiville Christmas. I don’t think Christmas would be complete without a little Tasha Tudor on the book menu. This is a darling book about a little dog village getting ready for Christmas. Tudors sketchy illustrations are marvelous.

“On December sixth, the Bigbee Browns put up their Advent calendars and light their Advent wreath, made from boxwood greens, which do not shed needles into the teacups below, as spruce and balsam do.”

(If you want to experience the village of Corgiville (for a more reasonable price), try Corgiville Fair. It is one of my family’s most favorite picture books.)



7. Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco

I love Polacco’s stories. Christmas Tapestry is a story about Jonathan, whose family has just moved to Detroit, Michigan to pastor a rickety old church. And it makes me cry. Every. Single. Time.



8. Silent Night: The Song and Its Story by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Tim Ladwig

Another book not easily available (what is it about my book stash?), check your library for Silent Night: The Song and Its Story. The dark, rich illustrations are gorgeous.



9. Hallelujah Handel by Douglas Cowling and Jason Walker

Hallelujah Handel is the book version of Classical Kids: Hallelujah Handel!, a beautifully recorded dramatized story with musical selections. We love all of the Classical Kids series. Highly recommended.



10. James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

No, it isn’t a Christmas picture book, but every child should own a copy of James Herriot's Treasury for Children. And then pull this book out every December and read “A Christmas Day Kitten.” Sob.



11. Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book

Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book is the latest addition to our own Christmas collection. This is a 220 page book full of carols, stories, poems, recipes, and more—accompanied by the unmistakable art of Norman Rockwell.

That Holy Thing

by George MacDonald

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.

O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail!

My how or when Thou wilt not heed,
But come down Thine own secret stair,
That Thou mayst answer all my need--
Yea, every bygone prayer.


BONUS: A Classical Kids Christmas

No, it isn’t a picture book, but I mentioned the Classical Kids audio series earlier and Classical Kids Christmas is my favorite Christmas CD. It is a pageant-style dramatized recording with stories and music of Christmas from around the world and ending with the nativity story. LOVE.


(P.P.P.S. I have several “Around the World” Christmas books to share tomorrow. Come back to check them out!!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving ~ The Walk

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you’ll know that we traditionally take a family walk after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Our weather cooperated this year, so we enjoyed the fresh air. Picking apples, jumping ditches, tossing a football, and riding a scooter—all while hanging out as a family. Lovely. (And it made up for the fact that it rained on Friday and Saturday, causing us to postpone our Green Friday tradition indefinitely.)

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