Happy First of Advent, everyone! The first candle on the Advent wreath is lit, we have some festive music playing, and this afternoon we’re planning to bake our first Christmas cookies of the season. However, since Advent starts so early this year, there are a few more days left before the 1st December to get those Advent calendars in order! The other day, I shared a post for a DIY Advent calendar, which you can fill with sweeties or small gifts, but if you are looking for an alternative, why not consider an Advent Book Calendar?
One of my favourite things about the run up to Christmas, is getting all those Christmas books off the top shelf, where they sit the rest of the year. Partly, because I really don’t want to be reading Christmas books at bedtime in August, and partly because I like the anticipation and that it makes them feel extra special. This year, I’ve decided to up the specialness factor a little. We already had quite an impressive selection of Christmas books, but I bought a couple more titles to bring up the numbers, so that we now have enough to take us all the way through December. I’ve wrapped them all up in simple brown paper, and numbered them with some cute stickers I picked up at a stationery store. The idea is, that each day at bedtime, starting on 1st December, the kids will get to pick out the book with the number for that day and that will be our bedtime read. These are the books we will be reading:
- How Many Sleep till Christmas, by Mark Sperring (author) and Sebastien Braun (illustrator). A question that’s probably asked by kids around the world a million times in the run up to Christmas. How will Daddy Grizzle and Little Pip cope with all the questions, and all the waiting?!
- Tales from Christmas Wood, by Suzy Senior (author) and James Newman Gray (illustrator). This festive book, with really cute illustrations, is actually a collection of five short stories. Some of the other books in the calendar are maybe a bit long for our 2 year old, so I thought we could spread out the stories from this one on those days for him instead.
- The Christmas Eve Tree, by Delia Huddy (author) and Emily Sutton (illustrator). A moving story about an ugly little fir tree that nobody wants, and a homeless boy who makes it feel magical. Beautifully illustrated.
- The Jolly Christmas Postman, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. This Christmas edition of the Ahlberg’s famous postman is a favourite in our house. The interactive book lets you take out and read and the letters and cards that the postman delivers to various fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters.
- Elmer’s Christmas, by David McKee. It’s perhaps not the strongest storyline in the series, but if you love Elmer you’ll love the story of how Papa Red comes to visit the elephants. One for the little ones.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. I don’t know how anyone can hate Christmas, but the story of the Grinch who hatches an evil plan to steal Christmas just had to be included here.
- Olivia Helps With Christmas, by Ian Falconer. Another new edition to our collection this year. Olivia the pig is getting in to the Christmas spirit and just wants to help. But mischief and mayhem are not far off.
- Weihnachten in Bullerbü, by Astrid Lindgren. The vast number of children’s books by Astrid Lindgreen seem to be more widely translated in to German than English, but this one is available in English under the title ‘Christmas in Noisy Village‘. The story of three families living in rural Sweden was a childhood favourite of mine – as you can see by the tape in the picture above, holding it together!
- The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Jane Ray. This version of the famous Christmas Carol is beautifully illustrated, and will have you all singing along!
- Die kleine Hexe feiert Weihnachten, by Lieve Baeten. We have the German translation of this book by later Belgium author Lieve Baeten, from her Little Witch series. It’s also available in English under the title Merry Christmas, Little Witch! Will Lizzy the Little Witch manage to get everything ready in time?
- Father Christmas, by Raymond Briggs. Everybody knows ‘The Snowman’, but we are also big fans of Briggs’ Father Christmas books. Our kids love the comic book format, and unlike the Snowman it does come with some words.
- The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Everyone knows it these days as a ‘must see’ Christmas movie, but the beautifully illustrated book that preceded it, is worth a read too. One for our little train fan!
- Bear Stays Up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson (author) and Jane Chapman (illustrator). Bears are known for hibernating throughout winter, but in this festive story, Bear’s friends are determined to keep him awake for Christmas. The Bear stories are a favourite with our two year old.
- Christmas For Greta and Gracie, by Yasmeen Ismail. This is one of the new ones I got for this year. A Christmas story about two sisters, one very chatty and a bit bossy, the other more quiet and held back, mostly because she can’t get a word in edgeways. On Christmas Day, something finally leaves Greta lost for words!
- Mog’s Christmas, by Judith Kerr. Dear old Mog. I was so sad to read there’s a final book in the series, where Mog dies. But in this Christmas story she’s alive and well, and as loveable as ever.
- The Empty Stocking, by Richard Curtis (author) and Rebecca Cobb (illustrator). In this funny and heartwarming story, twins Charlie and Sam worry about whether they’ve been good enough to get any presents in their stocking.
- Christmas Farm, by Mary Lyn Ray (author) and Barry Root (illustrator). Where do our Christmas trees come from? In this sweet story, Wilma and her five year old neighbour Peter build up a Christmas Tree farm together. A lovely message about helping each other, with a behind-the-scenes look at the secret lives of Christmas trees.
- The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas, by Ronda and David Armitage. I got this book as we have a couple of others from the Lighthouse Keeper series and really love them. It’s not the strongest story of the series, but makes a nice festive addition to our collection anyway.
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski (author) and P.J. Lynch (illustrator). This moving story about a woodcarver, a widow and her son is one of those stories that beautifully captures the true meaning of Christmas.
- Maisie’s Merry Christmas, by Aileen Paterson. In this story, everybody’s favourite cat from Edinburgh goes to see one of the great British Christmas traditions – a pantomine! Anyone familiar with the city will love spotting familiar sites, but even if you’ve never been, you can’t fail to love Maisie!
- The Story of Holly & Ivy, by Rumer Godden. This heartwarming story of an orphan girl, a doll, and Christmas wishes that come true. One of my favourite books as a little girl. It’s been republished, with new modern illustrations but try and get hold of an old copy with the illustrations by Barbara Cooney. No disrespect to the new illustrator, but it’s Ms Cooney’s illustrations that make up part of the charm for me.
- The Church Mice at Christmas, by Graham Oakley. In this fun Christmas edition of Oakley’s Church Mice series, the mice try to raise money for a Christmas party, and capture a burglar in the process.
- Christmas on Exeter Street, by Diana Hendry (author) and John Lawrence (illustrator). It’s Christmas Eve, and more and more guests keep arriving at the house on Exeter Street. Where will they all sleep? A hilarious festive tale that quickly became a favourite in our house.
- The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore. There are many, many printed versions of Moore’s famous Christmas poem. This one, illustrated by Eric Puyaret, is particularly beautiful!
(Please note, these links are all Amazon Affiliate links, which means that if you buy any books via these links I get a small percentage of the profits, which helps to keep this blog running).
So, those are the books we will be reading throughout December. Whether you want to do this in addition to a traditional Advent calendar, or instead of one, you still have a few days left before the 1st December to hit the shops! Don’t forget to check out second hand book shops – or maybe even borrow some books from the library. As long as you make it clear to your kids that they are just borrowed, and remember to include any library books early on in the calendar so that you can read them before you have to return them! I chose to wrap the books in simple brown paper, without any ribbons etc – since wrapping them is just to make it more exciting than just having all books out at once, and because most of them we already owned so wrapping them up as gifts seemed a bit odd. But you can of course do it however you please. I’ve arranged them in a basket in the living room, and the plan is to sit there with the Christmas lights on in the evening, and pick a book from the basket at bedtime.