Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Tradition in the Making: 24(ish) Nights of Christmas Reading

As we enter the first Christmas season that Toddler X will really understand (though probably not remember), I've been looking for special traditions that we can create as family and maintain as he grows up. When I came across this post from Harvard Homemaker the other day, I knew I had a winner.

Over the past few years, we've picked up a few Christmas or winter-themed books, and I've had my eye on a few others (we don't own The Polar Express yet -- how is that possible?!), but this post gave me a great motivation to seek out some more as we begin our family tradition.

Rather than an Advent calendar, our family will have an Advent bookshelf. I'll wrap 24 books and place them on the shelf; each night, from December 1st - 24th, we'll select one, open it, and read it as a family, with hot chocolate and marshmallows as an accompaniment (okay, maybe only for the weekend readings -- otherwise my new tradition will be gaining 10 pounds!). It will be calm, quiet, together time in a hectic and busy holiday season. And each year, we'll save The Night Before Christmas for last.

Like I said, we have several Christmas or winter-themed books already, and I'm willing to wrap them up this year to start off our tradition (who cares that we've already read them?). But we are far from the 24 we need, so I'm seeking your advice. Please share any Christmas/holiday/winter-themed books you know and enjoy, for the benefit of our family and any of my readers who feel like this might be a great tradition for their children as well.

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[Edit 12/4/14: Hmm...four days into December and I haven't wrapped a single book yet. For this first year, I think we'll do Friday/Saturday/Sunday books only, then add to our collection (and plan ahead!) for next year so that we'll be able to do all 24 days. If buying/wrapping 24 books sounds overwhelming, that may be a better way to start!]

Here are the ones we already have to start our collection:
Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear. I'm listing this one first because I absolutely love it. It's a follow-up to The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear -- one of our favorite read-aloud books ever -- and includes the same narration style (talking to the little mouse) and the same darling illustrations, but with a very sweet, generous Christmas twist. Check out the final page for a few hidden references to the original book -- I just discovered them last night, after having read this story at least 20 times, and they definitely made me smile.

A Christmas Wish for Corduroy. Those who have read my post about building a great toddler library know that the Corduroy books are some of my childhood favorites, so when I saw A Christmas Wish for Corduroy, I couldn't help but pick it up. As I read about some unnamed brown bear traipsing around a store, I began to get mad -- they were messing with my book! How did Corduroy get back to the store? Where was Lisa? What on earth was going on here?? (It's the same feeling you get when you see a favorite book turned into a movie, and they've taken liberties with the story line -- it all feels like a lie!) So at the end, when suddenly everything was tied together -- well, I have to admit that tears came to my eyes. What relief! I bought the book on the spot, and Toddler X and I have been reading it every night since. It's definitely going on our Advent bookshelf. (Note that Don Freeman, the original Corduroy author, is no longer with us, so this book has been written in his style, and I think they got it almost just right.)

Merry Christmas, Ollie. The Gossie and Friends books are some of our recent finds (and favorites!), thanks to an SV Toddler reader who suggested them to us a few months ago. The first book we purchased from the series was Ollie, and Toddler X immediately fell in love -- it is a hilariously simple book that he was able to memorize in four or five readings, and now loves to "read" to anyone who will listen. When I saw Merry Christmas, Ollie in the store, I couldn't help but grab it. It, too, is ridiculously simple, and it, too, was an immediate Toddler X favorite. The drawings are cute as can be, and your toddler will love it.

Five Christmas Penguins. We've actually had this book for a year now, and though it's obviously a seasonal one, it's stayed on the book shelf because Toddler X really enjoys it. It's a simple, fun counting book, as one penguin after another performs festive Christmas tasks. The illustrations are cute, and Toddler X loves asking questions about what the penguins are doing and, of course, why? (Why? Why? Why???) The foil accents throughout add to the fun.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas.Who doesn't love this book? Our copy of the Grinch resides in the midst of a big book of Seuss classics, and it's definitely my favorite to read (that and Horton Hatches the Egg -- great book!). This is a no-brainer for any Christmas reading list.

Merry Christmas, Stinky Face. I grabbed this book the moment I saw it because we are huge I Love You, Stinky Face fans, and I had no doubt I would love the holiday version just as much. But, sadly, though the illustrations are just as creative and adorable as in the original, the words themselves don't have the same ring -- the back and forth between mom and son isn't as balanced, and the cadence just isn't right. It's a cute book and I've read it many, many times already, but don't expect anything as good as the first one.

And here are the books on my to-get list:

The Night Before Christmas. As I mentioned above, this book will be our Christmas Eve tradition -- I can't imagine a more fitting one. I looked into various versions, and this one has fantastic reviews. I'll add mine once it arrives.

Corduroy's Christmas. When I mentioned to my friend (a fellow Corduroy fan) that I'd found a Corduroy Christmas book, she thought I was referring to this one. When she realized I wasn't, she suggested that I add it to my list -- it's apparently a very sweet, lift-the-flap book that's great for younger toddlers. While there's not much of a storyline, we love the character enough that I'm guessing we'll enjoy the book. It hasn't arrived yet, but when it does, I'll update this with a review.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree. This is a story I had never heard of before it came up in a search of "Best Christmas Books". The reviews on Amazon are outstanding, and it seems to be a lovely tale of Christmas giving. Can't wait to check it out!

The Polar Express. We don't yet have this classic story in the X Family library yet. This is the year that will change.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas. Everyone loves the Bear books, and the reviews for this one are excellent. Can't wait for the night we open Bear Stays Up.

And that brings us to a grand total of...11 books. Looks like I need another two weeks' worth of suggestions to get to 24. Please help me out with ideas for great holiday or winter-themed books, either here or at my Facebook page.

We'd love to have you join us with this fun tradition! Happy holiday toddling!

Update: Here are the suggestions I've received from readers or friends since I first wrote this post. I haven't read them yet (or, in the case of the first two, haven't read them in 30 years), so I can't offer reviews, but they all look great and several are going on our shelf. I'll continue to update these as suggestions come in.




  1. For wintery classics, how about The Mitten and Snowy Day?

  2. The Night Tree is a good one too.


Hmm...what to do today?