A selection of books, available at the library, to help families explore the holidays:
"Together at Christmas" by Eileen Spinelli: Ten little mice, huddled together in Christmas snow, go off one by one to find warm places to sleep, but soon decide they would rather be together celebrating the special night. Ages 4-7
"Just Right for Christmas" by Birdie Black: One snowy Christmas Eve, a king buys some soft, red cloth to make the perfect Christmas gift for his daughter. Little does he know that the left-over cloth will make presents for many more of the kingdom's inhabitants, right down to a scarf just right for a mouse. Ages 3-up
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"Santa from Cincinnati" by Judi Barrett: A baby in Cincinnati whose first words are "ho, ho, ho!" grows up to become Santa Claus in this appealing "memoir," complete with family "photos." Ages 4-8
"The Spider's Gift A Ukrainian Christmas Story" by Eric A. Kimmel: Katrusya's family cannot afford Christmas, but they cut a small pine tree in the forest and decorate it with buttons. When baby spiders hatch in its branches their enjoyment of the silvery webs turns to grateful astonishment. The webs really are made of silver. Ages 4-8
"The 12 Days of Christmas:" On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ... Brilliant illustrators keep turning this song into picture books. Take your choice. There's something fun in every one.
"Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve" by Janet Morgan Stoeke: That silly, beloved hen, Minerva Louise, who never understands anything, follows a "farmer in a red hat" from a snowy rooftop, down a "well," and into the house where she finds a tree decorated with sparkling "eggs." Ages 2 - 6
"The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll" by Pat McKissack: It's Christmas in the Depression-era south and Nella and her sisters have been given a beautiful Baby Betty doll. Nella grabs the doll for herself but it isn't long before she discovers that the doll isn't nearly as fun as her sisters. Ages 4-8.
"A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas: The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas recalls the celebration of Christmas with his family and the feelings it evoked in him as a child. Ages 8 - adult. Younger, for reading aloud.
Beginning to Read
"The Santa Secret" by Carol Wallace: Kari has such faith in Santa she won't tell her family what she wants for Christmas. They try hard to get her to reveal her wish but never find out what it is until Christmas, when it's mysteriously granted. (It's a kitten.) Ages 5 - 7
"Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas" by Cynthia Rylant: At Christmastime Henry and his dog Mudge enjoy baked treats, visits from relatives, lots of presents, and each other. Ages 5 - 7
"The True Gift A Christmas Story" by Patricia MacLachlan: While spending Christmas at their grandparents' farm, Lily and her younger brother Liam become convinced that White Cow is lonely. They pool their money, sell Liam's books and solicit donations to buy White Cow a calf for company. Ages 7 up
"Peiling and the Chicken-fried Christmas" by Pauline Chen: Fifth-grader Peiling Wang wants to celebrate "a real American Christmas," much to the displeasure of her traditional, Taiwanese-born father. When he reluctantly grants her wish, it's a complete disaster - until it isn't. Ages 9 - 12
"The Last Holiday Concert" by Andrew Clements: Popular sixth-grader Hart Evans's music teacher puts him in charge of the holiday concert after Hart shoots him with a rubber band. Hart never cared about chorus, but now he finds himself fighting to unite the other students and make this concert great. Ages 9 - 12
"A Christmas Sonata" by Gary Paulsen: As Christmas 1943 approaches, a boy's cousin is dying. While the two boys try to enjoy the season as best they can, the adults champion the idea that believing can work miracles. Ages 9 - 12
Family Read-Aloud Collections
"Children of Christmas Stories for the Season" by Cynthia Rylant: Six short stories evoke the emotional nuances of Christmas in quiet, telling ways. Ages 9 - 12
"The Family Read-aloud Christmas Treasury" by Alice Low: There's something for everyone in this rich compilation of Christmas read-aloud material. Poems, songs, carols, and favorite stories.
"The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories:" This collection of 14 stories includes a balance of well-known classics with lesser-known tales, such as William Dean Howells's 1892 "Christmas Every Day."
"An Oxford Book of Christmas Stories:" A treasury of 30 seasonal tales, 10 of which were specially commissioned for this collection.
History and Traditions of the Holiday
"O Christmas Tree; It's History and Holiday Traditions" by Jacqueline Farmer: Uses cheerful gouache paintings to recount the traditions and folklore surrounding the Christmas tree, including what happens on a Christmas tree farm. Grades 2 - 5
"The Nutcracker" by Susan Jeffers: For ballet lovers, here's an abridged version of the story of a little girl who helps break the spell on her toy nutcracker and watches him change into a handsome prince. Ages 3 - 8
The Nativity Story
"One Starry Night" by Lauren Thompson: One starry night, as all sorts of animals watch over their young, Mary and Joseph tenderly watch their baby in Bethlehem. Ages 1 - 6
"Christmas Is Here Words from the King James Bible:" Snowflakes fall on a young family watching a live nativity scene in their city neighborhood. As the boy peers into the manger, the story shifts to an ancient field and a brilliant star's guiding light on the holy night. Ages 3-7
"Hurry! Hurry! Have You Heard?" by Laura Krauss Melmed: A small bird, her heart filled with love, hurries from her perch above the manger to spread the news to creatures of the field and forest that a child has been born. Ages 4 - 6
"This Is the Stable" by Cynthia Cotton: Recalls the Nativity story in rhyming text and illustrations, from the brown and dusty stable to the star shining brightly above. Ages 4 - 8
"The Birds of Bethlehem" by Tomie DePaola: On the morning of the first Christmas, the colorful birds of Bethlehem gather to talk about the exciting events they have witnessed, from the long line of people approaching the town to the stable where a newborn baby lies. Ages 5-8
"Look-alikes Christmas" by Joan Steiner: Joan Steiner has constructed and photographed nine astonishing Christmas scenes using everyday objects to stand in for the real things. This book includes an interview with the artist and instructions for making "LookAlike" Christmas decorations.
"Christmas Crafts" by Fay Robinson: The origin and customs of Christmas, ideas for celebrating this holiday, and directions for making such crafts as a stained-glass window, jiggling elves, and fuzzy candy canes. Ages 7 - 10
"Make your Own Christmas Ornaments" by Ginger Johnson: Here are instructions for making twenty-five ornaments, including a beaded dragonfly, a quilled snowflake, a Swedish woven heart basket, and clothespin dolls. Grades 3 - 5
"The Winter Solstice" by Ellen B. Jackson: Presents facts and folklore about the shortest day of the year, a day that has been filled with magic since ancient times. Ages 8 - 10
"The Shortest Day Celebrating the Winter Solstice" by Wendy Pfeffer: Describes how and why daylight grows shorter as winter approaches, the effect of shorter days on animals and people, and how the winter solstice has been celebrated throughout history. Includes activities. Ages 5 - 10
"Special Gifts" by Cynthia Rylant: Nine-year-old cousins Rosie, Lily, and Tess spend their winter vacation learning to sew with their neighbor Mrs. White and preparing for a special winter solstice dinner with Aunt Lucy and her boyfriend Michael. Ages 7 - 10
Catherine Sarette is the children's services coordinator at the Whatcom County Library System.