Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Favorite Christmas Books

My kids love Dec. 1, when they finally get to haul out the Christmas decorations. Every year, I plan to put up a little at a time, taking a week or more and savoring the process. And every year, their energy for Christmas decorating just keeps going until it's ALL up on Dec. 1.

One of our favorite boxes is the Christmas books. We have several less-known favorites:

Letters from Father Christmas, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien imagined up a funny North Pole world that includes the North Polar Bear, an elf named Ilbereth, and ferocious goblins. Each Christmas, Father Christmas would write the Tolkien children a letter describing the year's adventures. As the years in the book go on, the North Polar Bear gets his own language and alphabet, a huge goblin war is fought and won, and the bear and the elf start inserting their own marginal notes in the letters. Father Christmas frequently includes a watercolor painting, as well. Each night (more or less) in December, my husband reads the kids one letter—and they can often be found reading the book themselves the rest of the day. (Note: there seem to be several editions of this book, some longer and more complete than others.)

The Story of Holly and IvyThe Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden
This is a sweet Christmas story of a Christmas doll and an orphan girl who are meant for each other. Which makes it sound sicky-sweet and unbearable, but it's not.

Christmas Trolls and Trouble with Trolls, by Jan Brett
Saying that Jan Brett writes and illustrates picture books is like calling Tolkien a fantasy author—true, yes, but completely inadequate. My kids love her fractious trolls and the hedgehog with his own agenda in these lush, lavish books.

Huh. Turns out this list could be called "Books that we usually can't bear to put away after Christmas is over." What are your favorite Christmas books?
Lee Ann Setzer's blog about books, writing, and life in general.