Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Books

I love a well written children’s book. A really good one can hold not only a child’s attention but also an adult’s. They can be read over and over, tasted, savored, swallowed to leave you satisfied, yet ready for more if the reader’s voice can last that long.

Here are three of my favorite picture books to add to your Christmas books.

Christmas Books

Let’s start with Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed. Yes, he’s the same guy for the Opus cartoons. He said he simply put pictures onto paper the story his dad told him every Christmas eve. Uh huh. That really isn’t the point of this book. A sour-puss boy with a Christmas wish crosses paths with an old man looking peculiarly like Santa. That’s right. I said Santa. That’s not the point of this book, though. It even has a little elvery, magic and lying in it. That’s right. I said lying. That’s not the point of this book, though. It’s a wonderful story that had my 9 year old scanning every picture, my uninterested 6 year old quiet from playing with his hot wheel cars, and my 13 year old… well, my 13 year old that evening didn’t want to enjoy it then. She’ll come around, though.

I first heard The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski one Sunday morning read to Audrey and her class by her teacher, Tori Haverkamp. It was beautiful and haunted my memory until I got it for myself. A little boy and his mother have just moved into a new town. They ask a very grumpy woodcarver, Jonathan Toomey, to carve for them a new nativity scene because theirs was lost. And now I can’t go on because I will start crying. It’s a tear-jerker, for certain, but a beautiful tear-jerker. You will want to have some tissues handy and also your 13 year old so she can finish reading it for you.

I think a big fear many people have about the previous two books and books like them is that if you read them only fiction, they will never know the truth and here the subject being the truth of Christmas- the birth of Christ. We don’t condone lying in our house (but remember, that wasn’t the point). We don’t teach that Santa is real. But a good story is one that masterfully weaves truths into a delightful scene so that if you look for them, you will find them and then the savoring will be all that much sweeter. And so I’m going to take a stab at a sore point- many Christian books fail. Oh, they’ve got truth all right, but it’s so numbed, it leaves little room for imagination. For a child (or adult) to enter into the story and see themselves as a character and how they could respond to such situations, that is the real power of good story-telling.

All that being said, I believe One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham hits the telling of the Christmas story right on. It starts with a boy getting lost in a snow storm, only to find shelter in a warm cabin which an old family friend lives in. She takes the opportunity to share the Christmas story with him while the storm passes. But she doesn’t just start with an angel appearing before Mary and Joseph. No, she takes it back to the beginning- creation- and from there she shares with him many key stories to show him why, not just how, the birth of Christ came to be. But the story isn’t over at the manger scene; the woman completes it. If you think the point of Christmas is Jesus being born, just to remain a babe, then you must read the end of this book. This book will take you several nights to finish reading but I don’t think you’ll mind. The illustrations alone are memorable. If you were going to add one to your library this year, I’d pick this one first.

I know my opinion here on books is very strong. You can think differently. After all, it is my opinion, not the gospel truth.   

Happy Christmas reading, friends!


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