2013 Advent Tour: 10 Terrific Christmas Books

I was thinking, when I saw this button for this year’s Virtual Advent Tour, that I’d been a part of this since the very, very beginning. So, I went back and looked, and discovered that, yes, I have been. One of the benefits of being an Old Fogey in Blog Years.

One of the downsides is that it’s difficult coming up with new ideas every year…

But, going through past posts, I’ve talked about stories, yes, and I’ve talked about books, but I think what was needed is a list of all my favorite Christmas stories. (I am also doing this in the hope that I can get some good suggestions for next year’s book.)

1. Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff: I don’t have many Nativity books, mostly because the ones I find are either too didactic or too saccharine. But this one, available only in board book, is charming and sweet and perfect.

2. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg: Do I need to write about this one? I still cry at the end, no matter how many times I read it.

3. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, by Frances Pharcellus Church: A lovely Victorian-inspired illustrated version of the original letter.

4. The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Jan Brett. There are many versions of this one, but even after years and years, I love Jan Brett’s version of this. (Though Holly Hobbie‘s new one is quite lovely as well.) I’m not a big fan of Brett, overall, but her style suits this story.

5. Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline: Simple story of a homeless man and a young girl in a church nativity play. It’s not often so few words pack so powerful a punch. Gorgeous illustrations as well (which is a must!).

6. Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner: I don’t often read this one because it’s long, but it’s worth the read. And Buehner’s dark, lush art only adds to this touching story.

7. The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Laurel Long: it’s just the Christmas song, but in this case, the art is Everything. I am also fond of Emma’s Christmas by Irene Trivas for a retelling of this. Unfortunately, I think it’s out of print.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr Seuss: I keep wondering if I’ll ever get tired of this because we read it constantly during the month of December every single year. I don’t think so, though.

9. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. Not a Christmas book, but a winter one. And gorgeously quiet.

I had a couple that could go here, but I think, in the end, I’m going to put the one that I picked up this year. It’s not the best book, per se, (it’s cheesy and I think it’s one of those mass-produced ones that change depending on where you live) but it’s fun, and the kids like it.

10. Santa is Coming to Kansas, by Steve Smallman, illustrated by Robert Dunn and Stefano Azzalin

There are mine. What are your favorite Christmas books?

Oh! And if you’re curious, here are my past posts:
2012: Advent Calendar
2011: American Girl Dolls
2010: Christmas Tree
2009: Christmas Top 10
2008: Merry Christmas Interview
2007: Story Night

I have the best bookgroups

And both did a holiday swap this year. First up, from my YAckers group:

My swapee (swaper? Am I the swapee?) was Holly from Book Harbinger sent this… the candy was cake balls. YUM. And the books were these:

I literally did a happy dance. As soon as the Cybils are over, I’m digging into them! *happy*

And for my long-time Nook friends, I was (at least) quite grateful that one of our members threw together a swap at the last minute, because I got Kellie as my gift giver. (I’ve wanted her to give to me for years, because she gives such lovely, thoughtful presents.) And she didn’t disappoint.

So cute. I’m keeping the tags. And inside?

 We have the game already (it’s one of our favorites), but M has been threatening to take it, so now she has her own copy!

As for the slippers, I stuck them on.

And haven’t taken them off!

Hope you had a happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew… [A]nd it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alife possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

2012 Advent Tour: My Advent Calendar

Welcome to day 3 of the  Virtual Advent Tour (stop here for all the posts). As I sat thinking about what on earth I can write about this year, I thought of all the people who are so Scrooge-ish with the holiday season. “There is just too much to do!” they cry. “How can I possibly deal with EVERYTHING that is coming my way?!?”

This, my friends, is my personal answer to that question. It’s a tradition that started when I was a kid, and I’ve kept it up. And — I’m here to testify (can I get an “AMEN”?) — we’ve found that this works to not only keep the Christmas season more manageable, but makes the time pass in such at way that Christmas is enjoyed by all. At least for our family.

First you get yourselves one of these:

 My mother-in-law gave us this many, many years ago. The one I grew up with was a Christmas tree with ornaments, which my mother had made.

Then, you organize your month, one activity on each day, like so (click to embiggen, if you really want to know):

Some of the events are permanent (like A’s birthday is ALWAYS on the 5th), some events we have to work around (like choir or band concerts), and some events can be moved around (like charades or story night). But generally, sometime around Thanksgiving, Hubby and I sit down and work out what has to be done and what we want to be done, tradition-wise, for this year’s Christmas season.

Then, every morning, I write down that day’s event on a little slip of paper, and stick it in the pocket.

We rotate girls (keeping track of who ended — baby Jesus is the one everyone wants; why don’t they clamor for a cow?), and they put up a character and read the note.

By the end, it looks like this, and it’s Christmas.

While we don’t have a traditional advent calendar, we also have a candle that we burn each night:

But we often seem to either forget, or burn down more than one number, so it’s kind of a haphazard way to count down the season.

How do you handle the stress of December?

Don’t forget to visit the other advent stops today!

Ana @ things mean a lot
Michelle @ The True Book Addict

Thank You!

One of my favorite things about this time of years is the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. I love getting/meeting new bloggers to give to, and seeing who gets me. This year, I got a delightful surprise in that my give-ee was Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. (*squee*!!) And he did not disappoint…

When I opened the box, there was a clever card (love it!) and four beautiful prints. I don’t know what to do with them, yet, but I’m going to think of something worthwhile. They’re gorgeous.

I waited to open the presents until today (yes, presents are for Christmas, not for opening when they come), and we got a double squee….

Charles de Lint, whom I’ve never read but have been curious about for a while. And Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The bonus about that is that I gave away our copy of the ARC for my blogger gift. What goes around comes around? At any rate, THANK YOU!

The other swap is from my lovely on-line book group. This year I got one of the crafty people, and she made me this:

The cards say: “Q: What is black and white and red all over? A: A reading pillow!!” With bonus Mt. Shasta chocolate. I’ve never had a reading pillow before — especially not one made this nice! — and I’m not sure what all the loops and ribbons and such are for. I’m sure I’ll figure it out. At any rate, it’s gorgeous, and I’m sure I’ll spend many enjoyable (and comfortable) hours with it.

And lastly, my daughters know me well:

It’s the storytellers shirt from Threadless. My only question is can I wear it to work?

Thank you all!

From My Blog to Yours

From the New York Sun, September 21, 1897:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas, how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!… There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished… You tear apart a baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Gift Tradition: American Girl Dolls

Over the years that I’ve participated in the Virtual Advent, I’ve talked about lots of things: books, the tree, music… but never toys. I’m changing that this year. 

When I was younger, my mother gave to me a couple porcelain dolls that she’d had when she was a child. I loved those dolls, played with them, and cherished them. (Granted, this is all in retrospect; maybe I didn’t.) They, somehow, managed to survive me as a child, and I saved them to pass down to my daughter.

And then I had four girls.

There was no way I could pass down two dolls to four girls (well, there was only three at the time I made the initial decision), and I wanted them to have the same sort of experience with dolls that I had as a child. The Christmas M was in second grade, we were searching for gift ideas for her, and I hit upon the perfect solution: American Girl Dolls.

I feel a need to justify this a bit: they are expensive, somewhat extravagant, and definitely over-commercialized. There is a part of me that dreads getting the catalog whenever it shows up, because there’s always more in there that the girls want then we can get.


The dolls are well-made, the clothes are well-made, they’re not Barbies (a big plus in my book!), and they are made to be played with and yet will last to be handed down. And there’s enough stuff to last through birthdays and Christmas presents for a few years.

Additionally, the historical ones — which are the ones that I require they choose from — are fascinating in their detail (which is hopefully accurate), and they make history accessible and fun to the girls. But best of all, they come with books. Possibly not the best-written books, but ones that a second-grader can read on her own, ones that help make the doll that much more interesting.

Thankfully, M (who picked the now-retired Samantha) and C (who picked Kit), and now A (who has picked Molly) were able to find dolls that fit their personality, whose stories they were interested in, and ones they loved to pieces. M no longer plays with her doll, having put it in storage for the time when she (hopefully) has a daughter she can pass the doll and books down to.  C still keeps hers around, playing with her on occasion, but mostly keeping her because she likes to have her things around her. A is over the moon with anticipation of getting her doll this Christmas. And K has already spent hours with the catalog, looking at the dolls, trying to decide which one she will like in a couple of years.

It may be extravagant, but it’s a tradition I’m glad to have started with the girls.

I’m not the only one posting today. Check out these other posts:

Martina Kunz @ Book Drunkard