Gosh, where did November go?! I had really hoped to get another couple of blog posts published in the lead up to Christmas, but what with several bouts of illness in our house, and underestimating the time it would take to package 30 advent calendars, I've not managed it.
Children's books are one of my biggest passions. I began to collect favourites during my first term at University, believing that I was making a great investment in my future teaching career. During my many years in the classroom I prioritised a good half hour at the end of the school day for reading the children a story. It was, and still is, one of my favourite things to do. I am still collecting books. I don't think I will ever stop collecting books.
So, every Christmas I buy Bean books, and today I wanted to share with you some of our favourite Christmas books...
Winter by Gerda Muller
Bean had this book in her stocking when she was about 18 months old, and it is still a firm favourite. If you read my Autumn book recommendations, you will already know that we are big fans of the Gerda Muller season series. These are wordless board books, so suitable for the very youngest children, and the illustrations are divine. Although not exclusively about Christmas, the pictures depict an array of wintery scenes which will be familiar to young children, and offer lots of opportunities for encouraging early speech and language development. At 7, my daughter still enjoys looking at the pictures in these. Sometimes they inspire her to tell a story of her own, other times they will remind her of past experiences that she wants to reminisce together. These books make a lovely addition to your seasonal/nature table.
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Bean received this book as a gift from our family in America, and it has been such a wonderful introduction to the world of Jan Brett. We now have a few of her books and they are all gorgeous. This too is a board book, retelling a delightful and funny traditional story from the Ukraine. A little boy drops his mitten in the snow. One by one, various woodland animals discover it and crawl inside, stretching his mitten out of shape. At 2.5 years old, Bean had just started attending weekly forest school sessions, and this book really helped her to become familiar with the names of all the woodland animals.
Lucy and Tom at Christmas by Shirley Hughes
I couldn't write a post of book recommendations without including a Shirley Hughes. I grew up with these books, and it is such a pleasure to be reading them to my daughter. Lucy and Tom are excited about Christmas. Follow them as they prepare for a typical family Christmas, with beautifully observed illustrations and a timeless story line. This book is suitable for all ages, young and old, and is one that we never tire of in this house. The magic and excitement of the lead up to Christmas, and the celebration on the big day, radiate out of the pages. One of the reviewers on Amazon writes simply, 'You can't get better than Shirley Hughes'.
Mog's Christmas by Judith Kerr
Mog the cat is another familiar and lovable character from my own childhood, and Bean has been delighted by these stories too. Mog feels overwhelmed by all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations and escapes to the roof. The Thomas family are concerned about Mog and try to entice her down, but she ends up coming down the chimney. Suitable to read to children from around age 2-6 years. However, Judith Kerr wrote the Mog books to help her own children learn how to read. This Christmas, I'm hoping that Bean may begin to realise that she can read some of this book herself.
Belle and Boo and the Very Merry Christmas by Mandy Sutcliffe
Belle and Boo are based in Bristol, and Bean has been in love with these charming little characters since discovering them in a toy shop on Gloucester Road. When she was about 3 years old, her uncle Sam bought her a Belle and Boo melamine tea set, and it was just her favourite thing ever. She still gets it out every time her Granny visits so that they can play 'tea parties'. This book, like all the other Belle and Boo books, is absolutely gorgeous. Boo the bunny is most excited about the presents waiting for him under the tree, but with a little help from his friend Belle, he learns about the joy of kindness and sharing. Again, suitable to read to children from around age 2-6 years.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
This is an absolute classic and every child should have the opportunity to read it. A magical story, told entirely through pictures, of the night a snowman comes to life. Suitable for all ages, young and old. The animated version is also truly wonderful, although be prepared to weep when the snowman and the little boy take flight.
A word of warning when ordering... I made the mistake of purchasing a special edition copy in the past where the vast majority of the pictures had been replaced with text. Check carefully before placing your order.
The Newborn Child by Jackie Morris
So, if I were to have to choose just the one book from this list, this would be the one. We are a secular family. For us, Christmas is about celebrating our love for each other in the middle of the darkest part of the year. However, I want my daughter to understand the origin of the festival, in the same way that I teach her about Diwali and Eid, and many other religious festivals. This Nativity story doesn't dwell too much on 'God', but rather focuses on the thoughts and hopes of a new mother about to give birth. The illustrations are simply divine and the lyrical text both moving and beautiful.
'They found him in a stable. They found him in his mother's arms. They found real wealth, true treasure. Love'.
Jackie Morris, the author and illustrator, lives locally to where I grew up in Wales, and often exhibits her work in our local independent toy shop. She is becoming more widely recognised after illustrating Robert MacFarlane's 'The Lost Words' which I also highly recommend.
Grandpa Christmas by Michael Morpurgo
And last, but not least, this is the picture book that I have chosen for Bean for this coming Christmas. I'm yet to discover how this book will be received, but Bean has become increasingly concerned about our environment and how we can take care of it, and this story carries an important message about being thankful for what we have. Grandpa writes a letter to his granddaughter, in lieu of a Christmas card, sharing his hopes and dreams for her future. A story of hope and an invitation to take action.
I could, of course, recommend many more, but will leave it at that for today. Do you have any Christmas books to recommend? Please do share them in the comments so that everybody can see.
With love, Rowan and Bean x
A small note on affiliate links...
This blog post contains a few carefully selected affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library. Please do not feel obliged to use them.