The holiday season is upon us. The days are getting shorter, the lines at every store are getting longer. Visions of sugar plums dance through our heads. OK, I can honestly say that I have never had one of these Sugar Plum visions, but maybe you have. And the excitement of the season is building.
Remember when the holidays seemed as if they would never arrive? Baking cookies, making crafts, watching holiday specials, and going to Grandma's on Christmas Eve were all traditions that I loved as a child. Remember when watching "Rudolph" and "The Grinch" were events that you waited for patiently? Now they can be played all year long!
In this busy, wonderful time of year, I encourage you to make reading holiday books with your children a family tradition. There are so very many fabulous children's books that it is hard to narrow it down to a few. No matter what your beliefs or how you celebrate these holidays, I'm sure you will find something that your children will love, and you will be creating a tradition that I hope your family will love.
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"Great Joy" by Kate DiCamillo
This book has very quickly become one of my favorites because of the sweet way it speaks of the meaning of Christmas. Frances is a young girl who sees an organ grinder and his monkey outside her window on a busy street corner. She notices that they never seem to leave and worries where they sleep during the cold, snowy December nights. Frances invites them to hear her at her church's Christmas pageant. She may only have one line, but it is the perfect message for everyone on this special night. The illustrations are done by Bagram Ibatoulline and are simply magical. This is DiCamillo's first picture book.
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"Sharing Christmas" by Kate Westerlund
This book tells the story of a group of forest animals at Christmas. The winter has been snowy and times are hard so the animals worry that there won't be much Christmas this year. Thanks to some kind friends and the realization that "Sharing is giving, and giving is what Christmas is all about!", the animals have the best Christmas ever.
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"Lots of Latkes: A Hanukkah Story" by Sandy Lanton
This book tells the story of Rivka Leah's Hanukkah celebration. Rivka Lea invites all of her neighbors to bring their menorah and something to share with latkes. Everyone plans to bring something to share that shows off their special talent, but things don't always go according to plan. Of course, that doesn't mean that things won't turn out just right. This is such a fun story that puts in perspective that the holidays aren't about things but instead they are about making memories with those we care about the most.
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"Runaway Dreidel" by Leslea Newman
"Runaway Drediel" is a fast-paced rhyming book that tells what happened when a shiny new dreidel takes off through the town. The story takes the traditional story, "The Night Before Christmas," and puts a new "spin" on it.
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"The Night Before Christmas" by Clement Moore with illustrations by Tom Browning
Last year I searched high and low for a beautiful copy of "The Night Before Christmas."
I wanted something that looked traditional, a copy that a family could cherish for years to come that was also colorful with big, beautiful pictures that would allow the book to be seen in a story time setting.
This book fit the bill. The illustrations are classic, Santa Claus is beautiful, and the pictures are large and colorful enough to be enjoyed by all.
No matter how you celebrate this beautiful season, I hope that you will choose a book or two and add them to your family traditions.
- Lee Ann Cleary is the children's program director at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling.