Christmas Picture Book Favorites

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The Littlest Angel

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Children's Christmas Picture Book - "The Littlest Angel". Ideals Children's Books

This poignant classic by Charles Tazewell was first published in 1946. The 2004 edition has warm and beautiful paintings by Guy Porfirio to illustrate it. The story is simple and inspiring. A little boy, who has become the littlest angel in heaven, is unhappy and homesick. When the Understanding Angel responds to the littlest angel's request for the box of treasures he left at home, the littlest angel is happy. When he decides to give his box of treasures to the Christ Child, it is a great act of love. However, he fears that his gift is not good enough and experiences great sorrow until God tells him, “I find this small box pleases me most.”

The new illustrations by Guy Porfirio add to the poignancy of the story and create an emotional bond between the reader and the little boy struggling to adjust to his new role as "the littlest angel." Even if you already own another edition of The Littlest Angel, I highly recommend you take a look at this one. For more about the book, read my full review. (Ideals Children's Books, 2004. ISBN: 0824954734)

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Shall I Knit You a Hat? A Christmas Yarn

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Children's Christmas Picture Book: "Shall I Knit You a Hat? A Christmas Yarn". Henry Holt & Co.

Maybe it’s because that the author, Kate Klise, and the illustrator, M. Sarah Klise, are sisters that the text and artwork fit together so well in the children's Christmas picture book Shall I Knit You A Hat? A Christmas Yarn. This tale of love, giving, and friendship centers on Mother Rabbit and Little Rabbit.

While their cozy home is warm, a storm is coming, and Mother Rabbit asks, “Shall I knit you a hat?” Little Rabbit loves his new hat and convinces his mother to make hats, with his help, for his friends. Little Rabbit comes up with the design ideas and Mother Rabbit does the knitting. The two have a wonderful time working together. When Little Rabbit realizes he has been so busy that he has no present for his mother, she tells him, “…being with you is the best gift of all.”

Four things particularly impressed me about the book: the loving relationship between mother and son, their joy in preparing gifts for others, the delight of the recipients, and the clever acrylic illustrations. You’ll be astonished when you see how the animals look in their amazing hats, each one unique and perfect for the recipients: a horse, goose, deer, cat, and dog. (Square Fish, 2007 paperback edition. ISBN: 9780312371395) Compare prices.

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Finding Christmas

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Children's Christmas Picture Book - "Finding Christmas". Dutton Children’s Books, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group

The eerie atmosphere created by Wayne Anderson’s illustrations add a delightful tension to Helen Ward’s picture book Finding Christmas. The little girl in a bright red coat and bright green boots is the only bright note in the somber snow-clad town as she wanders at dusk from shop to shop. She is looking for “the perfect present to give to someone special.” Things look hopeless until she is drawn to the bright window of a toy shop filled with colorful toys.

However, the people in the shop are so busy loading toys in a sack for another customer (who could that man with a beard be?) that they have no time for her. When they do have time, there are no toys left. When the little girl walks out into the snow, she hears a bell and when she looks up, she sees the perfect present floating down, a stuffed bear for her baby brother’s first Christmas. (Dutton Children’s Books, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004. ISBN: 9780525473008)

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B is for Bethlehem

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Children's Christmas Book - "B is for Bethlehem". Dutton Children's Books, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group

While the picture book version of B is for Bethlehem was first published in 1990, the board book version of this charming book came out in 2004. The author, Isabel Wilner, uses rhyming couplets to tell the story of Jesus' birth. It’s no wonder Wilner refers to Elisa Kleven as the book’s “perfect illustrator.” Kleven's joyful mixed-media collages create a mood of celebration. The book is subtitled A Christmas Alphabet because the author highlights Christmas words in alphabetical order as she tells the Nativity story. (Dutton Children’s Books, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004. ISBN: 9780525473237)

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An Orange for Frankie

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Children's Christmas Book - "An Orange for Frankie" by Patricia Polacco. Philomel Books, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group

This heartwarming story about family love and giving is based on author and illustrator Patricia Polacco’s own family. This Christmas picture book is set in the Depression. Times are hard for Frankie’s family. He is one of nine children. Despite the fact that the family has little, Frankie’s parents always have something for the hoboes who ride the trains from town to town seeking food and shelter. Frankie also tries to help. Without telling his family, he gives a hobo who doesn’t have warm clothes for the cold winter weather the hand knit sweater his sister gave him the previous Christmas.

It’s a holiday tradition in Frankie’s family that Pa always provides nine oranges, one for each child, for Christmas. Pa has left to get the oranges and the children are worried that bad weather will keep him away. Thanks to the kindness of a railroad man, Pa gets home with the oranges, which the children are not to touch until Christmas. The heart of the story is how Frankie’s family responds when the boy accidentally loses his orange before they are even given out. This story is longer and more substantial than many Christmas books. I recommend it for eight- to twelve-year-olds. (Philomel Books, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004. ISBN: 9780399243028) Compare prices.

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Santa’s Stuck

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Children's Christmas Picture Book - "Santa's Stuck". Dutton Children’s Books, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group

Santa’s Stuck by Rhonda Gowler Greene is a laugh-out-loud delight. It’s impossible to read this Christmas picture book without succumbing to a case of the giggles. The story, written in rhyme, is simple.

Santa has eaten too many treats and when he tries to leave a home after enjoying a lot of milk and cookies, he gets stuck in the chimney. The reindeer on the roof try to pull him up, but Santa is stuck. His call for help awakens the dog, and he comes to help. The dog pushes Santa’s bottom, while the reindeer pull, but Santa is still stuck.

The cat and her kittens come to help and the house animals make a pyramid and push, but Santa is still stuck. It takes a mouse and a toy bulldozer to get the job done. Henry Cole’s humorous illustrations will tickle your funny bone.(Puffin, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006. ISBN: 9780142406861) Compare prices.

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Christmas in the Barn

Picture book cover of Christmas in the Barn
Children's Christmas Book - "Christmas in the Barn" by Margaret Wise Brown. HarperCollins

The simple rhythmic text by Margaret Wise Brown, coupled with the gentle watercolors of Caldecott Honor artist Diane Goode, make Christmas in the Barn a Nativity story well suited for very young children. While the heart of the story remains true to the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, details that might confuse a young child have been left out of both the text and the illustrations.

The artwork sets the story in what appear to be twentieth century rural America. The incorporation of phrases from well known hymns, such as “Away in a Manger” and “What Child is This” adds a note of familiarity to the story. This is a calm and soothing story, a good book to share at bedtime. (HarperCollins, 2007, paperback edition. ISBN: 9780060526368) Compare prices.

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Brown Paper Teddy Bear

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Children's Picture Book - "Brown Paper Teddy Bear". Scholastic

In the children's Christmas picture book Brown Paper Teddy Bear, a wish that almost every young child has comes true—toys come alive to play. The book by Catherine Allison so appealing is made more appealing by the fact that it is oversized (more than 12” by 12”), all of the pages are made out of sturdy brown paper, and the watercolors by artist Neil Reid beautifully illustrate the astonishing events that begin with a very special teddy bear.

It all starts one winter night when little Jessica is awakened by a bright light and finds, in a chest of drawers she’s never seen before, a package wrapped in brown paper with a red ribbon tied around it. Inside is a bear that comes to life when she unwraps it. The bear and Jessica fly through the air to a magical room filled with old-fashioned toys, all of which have come to life to play with her. They include a jack-in-the-box, toy soldiers, a stuffed monkey, a wooden dog, a toy train, dolls, and a clown. When Jessica wakes up the next morning, she finds out that her grandfather knows all about the best; it belongs to him. (Scholastic, 2004. ISBN: 9780439639002) Compare prices.

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Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town

cover - Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
Children's Christmas Picture Book - "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." illustrated by Steven Kellogg. HarperCollins

Artist Steven Kellogg’s exuberant interpretation of this popular Christmas song makes for a terrific read. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie is an infectious song, full of joy, and so too is this book. The story begins with a bear that comes to town after a trip to the North Pole to tell the children Santa’s plans. The illustrations of watercolor and ink help tell the story as the children are warned, “You better watch out, you better not pout [because] Santa Claus is comin’ to town.”

Your kids will love the double foldout page of Santa, his sleigh, and his reindeer. The illustrations are full of bright colors, including the classic, seasonal red and green. There is so much to see in each illustration that you will need to read the book again and again to catch all of the details. I defy anyone to get through this book without singing and smiling. (HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN: 0688149383)

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: Carols for Christmas

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"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: Carols for Christmas". Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is not technically a picture book. Instead, it is a book of Christmas carols, most of them familiar traditional English, French, German, and Welsh tunes. The music was arranged by Barrie Carson Turner. The eighteen Christmas carols in the book include: “Silent Night,” “Angels, from the Realms of Glory,” “Once in Royal David’s City,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Each carol is illustrated with a full page painting from the collections of The National Gallery in London. These magnificent paintings include details from Christ Glorified in Heaven by Fra Angelico, The Adoration of the Kings by Jan Brueghel the Elder, The Adoration of the Magi by Carlo Dolci, ‘Mystic Nativity’ by Sandro Botticelli, and A Winter Landscape by Caspar David Friedrich. At the end of the book, there are several pages of information about the paintings.

This is such a beautiful book that I regret that this new edition is in paperback rather than being hardbound. However, on the plus side, it is a good size (10.8” x 8.7”), the pages are of good quality paper, the artwork is beautiful, and the book is very reasonably priced. (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, originally published in Great Britain in 1993, this edition, 2004. ISBN: 9781845073053)