Christmas is a time to celebrate love and goodwill, and hopefully have a little fun. Here are some of my favorite chapter books appropriate for children. These children’s chapter books offer young readers, and adults alike, a glimpse at Christmas from a few different perspectives, but all include something that can enthrall and capture the reader. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and one might just scare you; but all offer a touch of holiday spirit.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is a classic, at least as far as I am concerned. The Christmas season just is not complete for me if I do not read this book, watch the movie, and watch A Christmas Story. In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever we met the six Herdman children, who are considered the worst children in town, perhaps the world. They know nothing about the Christmas story, wise men, or the baby Jesus. However, they somehow end up storming Sunday School and taking charge of the annual Christmas pageant. This humorous tale is a quick read that shows that the true holiday spirit can be fostered by unexpected people, and in unexpected ways.
The Dog Who Thought He was Santa by Bill Wallace takes place in 1957. Don Franklin’s family is struggling, and it does not look good for Christmas. They live in an Oklahoma coal town, where his father works in the mines. Money is tight, Don realizes just how dangerous his father’s job can be, and six-year-old Susan refuses to tell anyone but Santa what she wants for Christmas. The family’s bloodhound Frank can smell that there is something troubling the family, and will do anything he can to make Christmas good for Don and Susan. But, it is the season for miracles, and this boy and his dog just might get their wishes. The story is touching, and told in both human and canine perspectives.
On Christmas Eve by Ann M. Martin is the story of eight-year-old Tess in 1958. Tess believes that if she stays aware of the magic in the world around her, she will be able to meet Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. She wants to thanks him for his gifts, and to ask him to use his magic for a special purpose. Her very special wish is not for herself, but for a friend whose father has cancer. Her faith and generous heart leads to a wonderful Christmas Eve. The story itself is sweet and touching, but I will warn that it is more than a little sad by the end.
The Bells of Christmas by Virginia Hamilton is the story of twelve year old Jason in 1890. His family is celebrating Christmas at their home in Springfield Ohio, near the National Road. As they await for more relatives to join them Jason watches the road, and witnesses the natural and technical wonders of the day. The extensive research by the illustrator, Lambert Davis, is evident in the details, and the family is portrayed warmly to match the tone of the poetic text.
The Christmas Genie by Dan Gutman is a light hearted and silly addition to the list. In this tale a meteorite crashes into a classroom at Lincoln School in Oak Park Illinois. A genie from inside the meteorite offers Mrs. Walter’s fifth grade students a collective Christmas wish, but only if they can all agree on a wish within the hour. The students work to decide, in discussion that ranges from democratic to audacious. There are lessons of ethics, science, and history mixed in with the fun of this well-paced Christmas fantasy.
Coyote’s Christmas: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson offers a modern take on a traditional character in Native American cultures. The trickster Coyote is out on Christmas Eve and approaches a house in hopes of tricking the family inside out of a meal. Knowing that no one would refuse to let Santa Claus into their homes on Christmas Eve, Coyote disguises himself. However, Sister Raven plays her own trick and Coyote is foiled in the end. Coyote and his antic are told and illustrated beautifully by Nelson.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is another classic holiday tale which I revisit every year. The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his miserly heart being visited by ghostly visitors intent on getting him to change his ways and melt his heart. The story offers readers a few good scares, as well as heart-wrenching scenes of Scrooges pas, a sad future, and less than stellar present. This timeless tale is one of goodwill, love, and ultimately redemption.
Other suggestions for getting into the holiday spirit include How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, Christmas on K Street by Nancy Gilson Olivas, The Cricket on the Hearth: and Other Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens, Christmas Oranges by Linda Bethers, A Memory of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg and Warren Hanson and The Christmas Village by Ms Melissa Ann Goodwin.