The holiday books are an amazing opportunity to reflect on family, charity and compassion. These books all explore these themes in different ways – some comical, some with adventure. I also love them because they tie in with the seasonal weather all around us and make snuggling under a blanket with hot-cocoa all the more appealing. Use them as jumping off points for dramatic play!
Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? By Jan Brett
In this adventure story, Bret works wonders with illustrations that are filled with gorgeous detail and a story that is at once fantastical and relatable. A young boy and his bear find charity in the home of Kiri, a little girl who is left in charge of her house. They have to defend her home and the Christmas feast from rascally trolls who threaten to eat everything. Happily, the bear comes to the rescue and the dinner is saved. The wickedness of the trolls and the heroism of the kids and bear are in wonderful contrast and provide great talking points for your kids. This book provides fantastic opportunity to play the trolls and the bear and re-enact the bravery of the protagonist-kids with your own!
This stunning classic story about the power of the imagination is a must-read-aloud for the family! A young boy ventures on a magical train, experiences the North Pole and requests that he keep a single bell so he can always remember his adventure.
I love this book for it’s timeless themes of gratitude and wonderment. The transcendent train ride fits right in with games that you can play with your child based on the book. No surprise it won the Caldecott Medal and was a New York Times bestseller.
My personal favorite. The Grinch is a classic “villain” who is deeply fun to voice. Letting him be as grumpy and irascible as possible makes his journey all the more satisfying. He also has an incredible transformation when he learns a lesson in what it means to have the “Christmas spirit”. I adore the fantastical characters of the Whos (little Sally always gets me…) – they effortlessly unite in song even though they have no presents or food. Seuss’ transcendent rhyming and clear characters make this a great candidate to ask your kids to become the characters.
With imagination and wit, Newman transports us through a village celebrating Chanukah. When a boy spins a dreidel that then runs away, we get to experience an exciting chase, through the town, into the country, to the beach and then finally up into the night sky! This book brings together traditional Jewish ideas familiar to many American children, and sets it in an inclusive and multicultural landscape. The rhymes and illustrations make is a delightful read-aloud for the holiday season.
Isadora is of my favorite fairy tale authors (look at her re-telling of Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel for truly inspired adaptations), this version set in Africa, the stunning illustrations of Caldecott medalist, Isadora. The African toys and a dread-lock-wearing Santa are visual highlights of the book. Clement C. Moore’s original text is in place, making story of Christmas all the more universal when set in the beautiful collage-scapes of Isadora’s world.
A heartwarming story bringing holidays and humanity together. Trisha, a young Jewish girl, helps to decorate Christmas trees for her neighbors who are too sick with scarlet fever to do it themselves. This story about interfaith friendships connecting Hanukkah and Christmas. I love it for its themes of kindness and compassion and what it means to be a good neighbor. Without being preachy, it helps children appreciate religious tolerance. Trisha’s favorite carvings of wooden animals would be a fantastic craft to replicate after you read the book with your children.