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Five children’s books for Advent

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I remember very little about celebrating Advent and Christmastide as a child, aside from reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and gorging myself on candy canes. In an attempt to live more liturgically in our family, we’ve accumulated quite a number of Advent and Christmas books. The sheer number of Nativity stories geared toward children these days is often overwhelming, but if you’re hoping to build your collection a little at a time, here are five of our favorites:


Joy to the World by Tomie DePaola, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2010

I may be cheating here, because there are actually three books (and five carols) in this one volume. That’s part of what makes me love it so much. We learn the old Spanish custom of Las Posadas, read The Story of the Three Wise Kings before Epiphany and display our own poinsettias after reading The Legend of the Poinsettia. You could read nothing but Tomie DePaola books during Advent and Christmastide if you wanted.

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2005

Dear little Mortimer the mouse just can’t understand why this lovely house, so obviously built for him, is instead being occupied by statues. He works every day to clear out his house, until he happens to hear the real story of Christmas and has a change of heart. Mortimer’s sweet prayer and childlike understanding are touching and poignant each time we read this book.

The Nativity, from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, illustrated by Ruth Sanderson, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1993

Sanderson’s art is inspired by icons and Renaissance paintings, so anyone who appreciates art in those styles will find this book a treasure. The pages are meant to resemble those of an illuminated manuscript, and the detailed illustrations will capture children’s attention long enough to read the scriptural account of the Nativity.

The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, Scholastic, 1957

Combining the literary prowess of Rumer Godden and the peerless pictures of Barbara Cooney was a stroke of genius. As a read-aloud, this lengthy story may take a few evenings to get through with younger children. However, the excitement builds until the tale wraps up in the nicest, neatest denouement possible as the wicked get their just desserts and the faithful find fulfillment. Mrs. Jones is absolutely right when she says, “Christmas needs children.” Godden’s The Kitchen Madonna is also an excellent read for older children during Advent.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner, HarperCollins, 1955/2002

Perhaps it’s just because my children are all young and this gives me a glimpse of a beautiful future, but this might be my absolute favorite Christmas book. Jesus Christ, born in a stable, inspires a teenage boy to go beyond the minimum and give the absolute best gift he can give his father, a gift that ultimately blesses the giver as much as the one who receives.

Whether this list becomes the beginning of a new family tradition or simply adds to your established family culture, I pray that you and your family are able to celebrate this Advent and Christmastide together with a simple, childlike faith.

Hill can be reached at rosiehill425@gmail.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017