I love Christmas. I think it’s a wonderful time of sharing, caring, and hope. Fittingly, there are loads and loads of books written about this holiday and its various aspects. My family and I enjoy many of them–books about Santa, presents, reindeer and other animals, food, and traditions. It’s important to my family that we focus on the birth of Jesus, in addition to enjoying the more secular aspects of the celebrations. Here are books on the Nativity that we read or share at Christmas.
Baby’s First Nativity written by Muff Singer and illustrated by Peter Stevenson (Reader’s Digest Children’s Books Publishing)
Using simple rhymes that will keep young children (ages 1-3) interested, this board book has cut-outs on the first few pages that create a peeking window. The book includes activities on each of its spreads. Shepherds in the Fields: On hills above Bethlehem, shepherds and sheep suddenly awoke from their peaceful night’s sleep. The sky was filled with angels who started to sing, “Born in a stable is Jesus, your king.” [Pretend you are a shepherd. Stretch and yawn like you are waking up.] The colors are vibrant and the illustrations are adorable.
On This Special Night written by Claire Freedman and illustrated by Simon Mendez (Scholastic)
This is a paperback book for ages 4-8. Little Kitten is snuggled warm next to Mother Cat in a barn when a thirsty donkey arrives. Soon, a lamb, mice and calf join them. All are very tired from their journeys. Little Kitten wonders why the stars are shining so brightly. The other animals know. Calf smiled, his big, brown eyes shining. “Tonight is a very special night,” he said. “Something amazing is going to happen.” “Come with us–and you’ll see it, too!” squeaked the mice. Little Kitten and Mother Cat follow the animals to see a very special baby. The illustrations are very realistic and luminous in their colors.
Silent Night, Holy Night: Book and Advent Calendar illustrated by Maja Dusíková (NorthSouth)
I adore this book. The cover is an Advent calendar, so we look at it every day. The illustrations are simply beautiful, and are representations of the carol’s lyrics. For instance, Silent night, holy night features a winter wonderland scene complete with snow-covered pine trees and houses with rabbits huddling under a full moon. My favorite scene is All is calm, which shows a closer view of the houses with their trees, wreaths and candles and the back of a cat sitting on a roof enjoying the serenity. The history of the carol, which was written by Father Josef Mohr and set to music by church organist Franz Gruber in 1818, is included, as is the musical arrangement with lyrics.
Stable in Bethlehem: A Christmas Counting Book by Joy N. Hulme and illustrated by Dan Andreasen (Sterling)
The countdown to the Nativity is told in this book for 3-5 year olds. Bethlehem awaits the birth of Jesus, and the animals are no different. Seven soft sheep are still awake and see the stars grow bright. Guarding the fold, six faithful dogs are ever alert nearby…From eastern lands, four camels come with humps and shaggy fur. The illustrations are luminous in their golden hues.
The Christmas Baby written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Richard Cowdrey (Simon & Schuster)
The birth of Jesus is celebrated by the beasts in the stable and by the angels in the heavens. When the baby was born, the beasts shouted with joy. “Have you heard?” they whinnied and brayed and mooed and barked and bleated. “He is come!” This book is for ages 2-5, and features cherub-like angels and sweet animal faces. It is also suitable as a gift for new parents, as the end of the book features a question for today’s newborns: And you–when that dear little baby was you–do you know what you did? … You smiled back at us all with God’s own smile!
The Christmas Story (A Mini Magic Color Book) written by Janet Sacks and illustrated by Luana Rinaldo (Sterling/Pinwheel Books)
A board book perfect for ages 1-3, who will learn colors along with the Nativity story. Each of the five spreads includes a pull-out tab that changes the character’s color. Baby Jesus is born in Bethlehem. He sleeps in a manger. Here is baby Jesus. What color is the manger with baby Jesus? [Pull the tab.] The manger is brown. Using age-appropriate language, the book is colorfully illustrated with cartoon-like images.
The First Christmas: A Pop-up Nativity Book written by Justine Swain-Smith and Marie Greenwood, illustrated by Ingela Peterson, and paper engineered by Allison Gardner (Discovery Kids Books)
This book is a treasure, and is possibly my youngest child’s favorite Christmas book. It is an interactive, pop-up book that comes complete with a pull-out Nativity scene and Advent calendar. The text is for older children (ages 6-10). Mary and Joseph were very happy to have found a place to rest at last. That night in the stable, Mary gave birth to her baby son. She wrapped him baby Jesus in strips of cloth to keep him warm. However, younger children will find the book enjoyable and accessible for its images and pop-ups.
The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats (Penguin Putnam)
This paperback book for ages 3-6 is a representation of the carol. The little drummer boy spots the procession of the Three Kings and joins in.
Baby Jesus (pa-rum-pum-pum-pum) / I am a poor boy, too (pa-rum-pum-pum-pum) / I have no gift to bring pa-rum-pum-pum-pum) / That’s fit to give a king (pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum) / Shall I play for you (pa-rum-pum-pum-pum) / On my drum?
The artwork, while in muted colors, is vivid and almost other-worldly and includes patterns. The carol’s words and musical arrangement by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone are also included.
The Story of Christmas written by Patricia A. Pingry and illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh (Candy Cane Press)
A wonderful way to introduce the Christmas story to children ages 2-5, this board book presents simple language that helps connect the biblical story to today’s celebrations. For example, Do you know why we give gifts at Christmas? We give presents because it is Jesus’ birthday. They [the Wise Men] brought presents because they loved Him. We give gifts at Christmas to show our love. The text’s font and multiple colors engage the young readers, and the illustrations are lovely.
Merry Christmas, and happy reading!