I love the holidays. I love the scent of pine, the cold air, the way the houses look when we drive around at night. But maybe most of all, I love the books.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve amassed quite the collection of holiday stories. Most of the year, they live in a box in the basement, but on December 1st, I start bringing them up, just a few each day. And almost every night (except on those rare occasions when one of the under-four-foot members of the family are wretched enough to need extra sleep) we curl up on the couch and read one (or two) by the light of the Christmas tree.
Here are our favorites in no particular order. Any of them would make a wonderful gift:
A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown. Given to us by friends who knew my daughter’s cat-mad ways, this simple story has beautiful language and illustrations. It would make a lovely gift paired with a stuffed animal.
The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle van Olfers. An old-fashioned tale with charming pictures. Put it in a gift bag with a pair of cherry-red mittens and a promise to play outside in the first snow.
Baby’s Christmas Treasury by Kay Chorao. Donated by a family member whose kids had outgrown it, this contains everything from The Velveteen Rabbit to little tree by e.e. cummings (one of my favorite poems ever).
Emma’s Christmas by Irene Trivas . I have a soft spot for this book because of the main character’s name. It tells the tale of how a farm girl turns down a prince’s proposal, and how he seeks to woo her with an ever-increasingly eccentric display of gifts. The ending is great fun.
My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. You know that holiday gift you always wanted as a kid, but were told it was too impractical? The little boy in this story gets it, with hilarious results. A stuffed penguin or a snow globe would make a nice finishing touch.
The Secret Life of Santa Claus. We found this book years ago on a layover between flights and before kids. Every year, my husband and I take turns reading a few pages to each other at night. The wry, sardonic humor is a little too much for those under 10, so of course my daughter has been sneaking into our room and reading it since she was seven.
And of course, The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. My copy, from the 1960s, has an inscription written by my grandparents in gold ink, and illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa.
This year I’ll be adding a lovely small hardcover I’ve been eyeing at my local bookstore. It has the simple story of the first Christmas, with black, red, and gold illustrations. I think my family will love it.
What’s on your holiday must-read list?