Tag Archives: genre: holiday stories

Merry Christmas 2015!

merry_christmasMerry Christmas 2015!

This year, I have been thinking a lot about reading. ‘But Beth’, you’re thinking, ‘don’t you always think about reading?’ And to answer your question, yes, I am always thinking about reading in some form or another, but to be more specific, I was thinking about the stories that were read to me out loud as a child. I remember curling up in a parent or grandparent’s lap (or next to them, as I grew older) with a favorite book and listening to the story. There’s a certain magic to the words that doesn’t always come across when you are reading something to yourself. Plus, there’s a plethora of other really good reasons reading aloud can be awesome – especially for young children.

So here’s a list of some holiday favorites to read aloud with the family. Most of them are marketed as children’s books, but I find that these can be enjoyed at most any age. And wherever you are or whatever you do to celebrate the season, have fun, be safe, and have a wonderful holiday!

Eight Tales for Eight Nights: Stories for Chanukah by Peninnah Schram & Steven M. Rosman; 978-0876682340

The Tale of Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrated by Tim Jonke; 978-0745917436

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft; 978-1416925187

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; 0836247396

Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantschev; 978-1416950295

The Night Before Christmas: The Classic Edition by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Charles Santore; 978-1604332377

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus: The Classic Edition by Frances P. Church, illustrated by Joel Spector; 978-0762411207

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg; 978-0395389492

Corduroy by Don Freeman; 978-0140501735

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss; 978-0394800790

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert, photographs by Per Breiehagen; 978-0449816813

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett; 978-0698116528

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch; 978-0763678227

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney; 978-0803702998

Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin; 978-1442496736

Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh, illustrated by J. Otto Seibold; 978-0811818070

How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague; 978-0545416788

The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds; 978-0763679811


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When Santa Fell to Earth Review

when_santa_fell_to_earthWhen Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Paul Howard

Chicken House, 2006. 978-0439782043

Synopsis: Scared by a storm, Twinklestar, the least reliable reindeer, bolts–causing Santa and his sleigh to crash-land. And though Santa has dropped into a friendly neighborhood, he’s not safe: Jeremiah Goblynch, the ruthless new leader of the Council of Yuleland, is determind to put an end to children’s wishes and turn the holiday season into his own personal moneymaking scheme. As the last REAL St. Nick around, only Santa stands between Goblynch and his grinchlike plan. With the help and hope of kids Charlotte and Ben, Santa must face Goblynch and his Nutcracker goons to save Christmas! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I loved Funke’s Inkheart trilogy and I was excited to see that she had a Christmas story that had been published in America.

Why I finished it: I knew this was not going to be the average Christmas story, and I like Funke’s take on the Santa Claus legend. It reminded me a lot of The Santa Clause in that the Santa character has to overcome the idea that Christmas has changed, that he needs to find a way to make people believe again. There’s also the story of the children who are helping Santa after his caravan fell in the street: they both have to learn to trust each other and to have courage to face their fears. The caravan reminds me of the TARDIS in that it seems to have much more room on the inside, but in this case, it’s because of special Santa magic that allows the caravan to house the workshop. What I liked about the story is that the characters evolve so that by the end of the book, they have transformed into much stronger, more confident individuals than they were when the reader is first introduced. Ben is somewhat quiet and Charlotte is ‘mousy’, but both children seem to gain a sense of certainty by being with Niklas. Howard’s illustrations add another dimension to the story, helping the reader visualize the characters and the setting in much greater detail. The black-and-white drawings remind me of charcoal art, the way the lines are blurred to give the pictures an element of the fantastic. Overall, it’s a charming holiday story the encourages the reader to discover the real meaning behind Christmas and to remember the magic of this wonderful time of year.

Other related materials: When Santa Fell to Earth (movie); The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke; Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke; Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke; Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby; The Box of Delights by John Masefield, illustrated by Judith Masefield; The Naughty List by Michael Fry and Bradley Jackson; Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien; Winterfrost by Michelle Houts; Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Mary GranPré; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson; The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements; The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carson

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The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas Review

the_twenty-four_days_before_christmasThe Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeline L’Engle, illustrations by Jill Weber

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 978-0374380052

Synopsis: Vicky Austin’s family does one special thing each day of December to prepare for Christmas. This year, they’re also preparing for the birth of a new brother or sister, due after the New Year. Vicky is worried that the baby will come early―what kind of Christmas Eve would it be without Mother to help them hang up stockings and sing everyone to sleep with carols? – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: The title reminded me of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas“.

Why I finished it: L’Engle is quite prolific and her body of work has a wide age range, this novelette being no exception. The reader is treated to the holiday traditions of a picturesque little family that are deeply rooted in the Christian faith, and I enjoyed the different crafts and activities that the Austins did in the days leading up to Christmas. I can appreciate the anticipation and the anxiousness that Vicky experiences in worrying about her performance in the pageant and whether her mother will be home to celebrate the holiday with the family. She wants to prove that she isn’t too young to be the angel, and yet, she is child-like in her worry for her mother. But the Austins are a tightly knit group, and they look out for each other, desiring to make sure that everything will be as they hope it will be. Weber’s illustrations add a festive note to the narration, enlivening the margins with their own brand of holiday cheer. It’s a short book that can be read to oneself or out loud with others and enjoyed and shared year after year.

Other related materials: A Full House: An Austin Family Christmas by Madeline L’Engle; Meet the Austins by Madeline L’Engle; The Moon by Night by Madeline L’Engle; The Young Unicorns by Madeline L’Engle; A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle; Troubling a Star by Madeline L’Engle; Miracle on 10th Street and Other Christmas Writings by Madeline L’Engle; Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien; The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Brian Floca; A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams


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The Hanukkah Ghosts Review

hanukkah_ghostsThe Hanukkah Ghosts by Malka Penn

Holiday House, 1995. 978-0823411450

Synopsis: While her father is on a business trip, Susan is sent to England to spend Hanukkah with her great aunt Elizabeth. While she is exploring the castle and the surrounding moor, Susan begins to see things: there are horses in the stable that have not been there for years, a boy with a crutch who mistakes her for someone else, and there are these lights in the window of an unused room upstairs. Susan didn’t think she believed in ghosts, but she’s determined to figure out why she is seeing these past images of the castle’s inhabitants.

Why I picked it up: The title and the premise reminded me of A Christmas Carol.

Why I finished it: This was a short, but somewhat intriguing read. I wouldn’t say that it’s a story about Hanukkah, although the Jewish holiday does play a role in the story. Susan isn’t that in touch with her Jewish heritage since her mother has passed and her father doesn’t seem to be that invested in any tradition whatsoever. So when Susan is once again exposed to the tradition of lighting the menorah to remember the miracle of the oil, she not only finds herself becoming more immersed with the holiday but with her great-aunt as well. True to the gothic tradition, Penn uses the ghosts as a metaphor for the power of a miracle. The notion that Susan is trying to create a sense of peace for spirits more than fifty years old is a somewhat sentimental one, but as a plot device, it helps Susan grow into a more interesting character. She becomes much more sure of herself both as a person and in her ability to help others in need. The ending was somewhat romantic for my taste, but Penn doesn’t seem to pull any punches about what could or could have happened. It’s a quick read that can be enjoyed any time of the year, though I imagine it’s better enjoyed with a warm beverage curled up in a chair by the fire when the weather outside gets frightful.

Other related materials: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson; Penina Levine is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O’Connell, illustrated by Majella Lue Sue; The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, pictures by Garth Williams; The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Penina Levine is a Potato Pancake Review

penina_levine_is_a_potato_pancakePenina Levine is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O’Connell, illustrated by Majella Lue Sue

Roaring Brook Press, 2008. 978-1596432130

Synopsis: Penina should be excited about Hanukkah, but everything seems to be going wrong. Her presents aren’t ready, her four-year-old sister insists upon being the center of attention, her favorite teacher is leaving, and her best friend just told her that she’s going on vacation to Aruba for Christmas vacation. Plus, she’s gotten in the middle of an argument between her mother and grandmother. Will a blizzard, dozens of snowflakes, and a hearty helping of latkes really be enough to fix the holiday and spread some much needed cheer.

Why I picked it up: I was looking to give some other holidays besides Christmas some love.

Why I finished it: This book reminded me a lot of Danziger’s Amber Brown books: a spunky main character that finds herself fighting to right a somewhat sticky situation that she may or may not have helped create. Penina is caught somewhere between doing the right thing and being selfish. She wants to remember the real meaning behind Hanukkah, but a younger sister and the news of her teacher’s departure is making it hard for her to enjoy the holiday. It makes us remember our own struggles, those days when nothing seems to be going right. And while some of the situations get blown out of proportion, that’s part of growing up. O’Connell’s characters are supremely real and the fact that the reader can identify with them makes the story so much more enjoyable and worth reading. Sue’s illustrations give us a window into the characters lives and make them much more three-dimensional. The pictures have a free-flowing quality to them that highlights the fun and whimsical elements of the plot. It’s a fun holiday read that can be enjoyed by all readers – not just those of us that celebrate Hanukkah.

Other related materials: Penina Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg by Rebecca O’Connell, illustrated by Majella Lue Sue; Amber Brown books by Paula Danziger; Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald; Clementine by Sara Pennypacker; Cam Jansen books by David A. Alder; Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary; Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary; Rules by Cynthia Lord

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Merry Christmas 2014!

thMerry Christmas 2014!

Every year, after we are entirely too full of food to do anything but stare blankly at the wall, my family gathers around the television and watch “Miracle on 34th Street”. It seems a little contradictory to me now that we sit in front of a screen rather than continuing to talk about what is going on in our lives. But we are there, and we are together, and that’s part of what makes the holiday special.

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite holiday movies this year: some classics, some staples (the ones that are broadcast like clockwork every year), and some new favorites. And even if your holiday traditions don’t involve sitting in front of the television with people you may only see once a year, cherish the traditions and the time you have with the people you love.

Whatever you do and however you celebrate the season, be safe, be merry, and have a wonderful holiday!


Miracle on 34th Street starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood (1947)

It’s A Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed (1947)

A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott, Frank Finlay, and Anthony Walters (1984)

Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Marjorie Reynolds (1942)

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen (1954)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer starring Billie Mae Richards, Burl Ives, Paul Soles, Larry D. Mann, and Stan Francis (released in 2007)


Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Boris Karloff (rereleased in 2009)

A Charlie Brown Christmas starring Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, and Bill Melendez (2008)

Frosty the Snowman starring Jimmy Durante, Billy De Wolfe, Jackie Vernon, Paul Frees, and June Foray (1965)

Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town! starring Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, and Gary White (1970)

The Santa Clause starring Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, David Krumholtz, and Eric Lloyd (1994)

Jingle All The Way starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, and Jake Lloyd (1996)


Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, and Taylor Momsen (2000)

The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmore, and Frank Oz (1992)

Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Catherine O’Hara (1990)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Catherine O’Hara (1992)

Miracle on 34th Street starring Mara Wilson, Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, and Dylan McDermott (1994)

Prancer starring Sam Elliot, Cloris Leachman, Michael Constantine, and Johnny Galecki (1989)

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Merry Christmas 2013!

b-468565-Merry_Christmas_Merry Christmas 2013!

This year, I have compiled a list of books that celebrate the ‘symbols’ of the holiday season, namely the tree, Santa, and the nativity. All three have been around as holiday decoration staples for, well, years, but personally, I’ve never given much thought to the tradition of putting up a tree with decorations or the myth of a fat man breaking into houses to leave gifts. As a Christian, the symbolism of the nativity is near and dear to me and I’ve grown up knowing the who, what, where, and why of the child in the manger. I’ve also included a few of my own favorite Christmas/holiday stories to the list.

Whatever you celebrate and however you celebrate, have fun, be safe,  and have a wonderful holiday!

The Tree

The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Pat Matuszak, Rick Osborne, & Bill Dodge; 978-0310700432

The First Christmas Tree: A Legend from Long Ago by Helen Haidle, illustrated by David Haidle and Elizabeth Haidle; 978-0801043932

O Christmas Tree: Its History and Holiday Traditions by Jacqueline Farmer, illustrated by Joan Friar; 978-1580892391

The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Robert Mangus; 978-1606048948

Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Jane Manning; 978-0060290337

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard Schneider; 978-1426754869

The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubell, illustrated by Jim LaMarche; 978-0375869228

Santa/Saint Nicholas

The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Dandi Daley Mackall & Guy Porfirio; 978-0310713272

Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer, illustrated by Chris Ellison; 978-0758613417

The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Judith Brown; 978-1883937188

The Nativity

The Christmas Story: The Brick Bible for Kids by Brendan Powell Smith; 978-1620871737

Mary’s Son: A Tale of Christmas by Darryl Nyznyk; 0965651355

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft; 978-1416925187

The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier, illustrated by Francisco Ordaz; 978-0758606167

Other Holiday Symbols

The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Wendy Edelson; 978-0938497486

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus’ Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Deborah Chabrian; 978-0310713289

The Legend of the Poinsettia retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola; 978-0698115675

The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne and James Griffin, illustrated by Jim Griffin; 978-0310708988

Waiting for Christmas: A Story about the Advent Calendar by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Alexi Natchev; 978-0310710158

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg, illustrated by Richard Cordroy; 978-0310730125

The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans, illustrated by Jacob Collins; 978-1416950479

Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett; 978-0399234446

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner; 978-0803729957

Personal Favorites

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; 0836247396

The Tale of Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrated by Tim Jonke; 978-0745917436

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg; 978-0395389492

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss; 978-0394800790

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Boris Karloff (rereleased in 2009)

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, and Taylor Momsen (2000)

The Mitten by Jan Brett; 978-0399231094

The Nutcracker by E.T.A Hoffmann, adapted by Janet Schulmann, illustrated by Reneé Grad; 978-0060278144

The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmore, and Frank Oz (1992)

A Charlie Brown Christmas starring Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, and Bill Melendez (2008)

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