105 Ways to Give a Book

Christmas Books Lite

Today is another repost, but a good one. The focus is Christmas books that aren’t so very heavy on the Christmas — a trait I’ve found useful for classroom readings and library storytimes. In fact, the titles form the core of my holiday library program, “It’s a Gift,” where I throw in a fingerplay about Five Little Presents and whatever new adapted storytime song I can find on the Internet.

My area is culturally diverse and politically correct. Our library system and school system are both very, very careful about anything that might be taken the wrong way. The administrators must see post-Thanksgiving as a minefield of possible cultural insensitivities. I respect the intentions of both the schools and the libraries, but it can make the storytimes a little difficult. Based on my years of reading to kids in both settings, I have a couple of strategies and favorites.

Sometimes I’ve picked books that focus more on the gift-giving aspect of Christmas rather then Santa or — I can’t even imagine presenting this in this area — the Nativity. These are some books about giving, that happen to be at Christmas but aren’t so much about Christmas. Oh, and I like them.

Merry Christmas, Matty MouseMerry Christmas, Matty Mouse, by Nancy Walker-Guye
A little mouse is heading home from school with six Christmas cookies for his mom. On his way home he runs into some hungry friends and, one by one, gives all but one cookie away. In the end, mom and little mouse share that cookie, and then realize that they have the recipe to make more cookies. They make more and invite all the forest friends. Very sweet book about sharing and being kind.

Okie-Dokie, Artichokie!Okie-Dokie, Artichokie! by Grace Lin
A monkey gets a new neighbor, who lives below him. The neighbor, who is a giraffe, is getting on the monkey’s nerves banging on the floor all day. Monkey tries to keep quiet in his apartment, but the banging goes on. He is so mad at the giraffe that he stops talking to him. One day, near Christmas, he gets a package meant for the giraffe. He’s about to throw it away, but then realizes how mean that is. He delivers it to Artichoke and finds out that they are ceiling pillows. Artichoke hasn’t been banging the ceiling on purpose, he’s just too tall! A book about gifts and misunderstandings, with a little bit of Christmas thrown in.

The Perfect PresentThe Perfect Present, by Michael Hague
A bunny buys a toy for his sweetie, but it takes off without him. He chases it down the streets and around the town (letting kids look for it in the highly detailed pictures) and then it rolls in a snowball right to his sweeties house. There are Christmas colors and some decorations in the background, but actually only a couple of mentions of Christmas at all. Hague’s illustrations are, as could be expected, amazing.

Shall I Knit You a Hat?Shall I Knit You a Hat? by Kate Klise
A mother rabbit knits a special hat for little rabbit, and together they decide to make some very creative hats for all of their friends. Mentions Christmas, but not a lot. It’s a very cute book.

My Penguin OsbertMy Penguin Osbert, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Joe gets a penguin for Christmas from Santa after years of misunderstandings, but having a penguin turns out to be a lot of work. This is one of my favorite books for the “be careful what you wish for” message, but it is handled with humor and grace.

Jingle BellsJingle Bells, by Nick Butterworth
Two mice are threatened by The Cat. They make Christmas stockings out of glove fingers, but the Cat puts up a note at Christmas saying they went away. They decide to teach cat a lesson, that involves a noisy jingle bell as a present. A twist on the idea of the present, where the present they give the cat is actually much better for the mice.

The Christmas CrocodileThe Christmas Crocodile, by Bonny Becker
A crocodile is left under the tree at Christmas and he wreaks havoc on the family. There’s a lot more text to this one than many of the other picture books, making it a good choice for classroom reading. Illustrated by David Small and very funny.

The Gift of NothingThe Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell
Not a Christmas book at all, but a story from the Mutts comic strip about how friendship is really the greatest gift of all. Simple, sweet, and refreshing.


teacherninja said...

This reminds me that my favorite Christmas movies are Die Hard and Lethal Weapon--both take place during that holiday, but somehow--I can't figure out why--that part of these movies is often forgotten.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

Love Osbert! Thanks for the suggestions. I have a 4.917 year old so this helps!

Christine said...

Thanks for the great suggestions! My kids have a holiday book swap at their public school and it's always tricky finding all inclusive holiday reading!

Bill said...

Yes, Teacherninja! I keep trying to convince Pam (and, well, anyone else who will listen) that Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Thankfully, our nine-year-old (despite never having seen the film) takes my side in this one (though she does so more for the amusement such a proclamation brings).

Marni said...

Another giving book suggestion - "Too Many Toys: a Christmas Story" by Betty Clark.

Jenners said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm always looking for some new ones. My son has really taken to is "Who Will Guide My Sleigh Tonight?" by Jerry Pallotta with illustrations by David Biedrysnski. The illustrations are just amazing and the story is hilarious.

Charlotte said...

I have never heard of Matty Mouse, but I will go out and look for it for my own little Mattie, who often chooses to be a mouse (for a while he was a squirrel, but he's been a mouse for the past two weeks...)

ElsKushner said...

Thanks for this list, Pam! I wish our area were (was?) as sensitive and "p.c." as yours. My daughter is the only Jewish kid in her school, and has a hard time every year with the huge emphasis on Santa and with singing Nativity-based carols in the school-sponsored choir. (Of course, she has the option to not be in the choir. But since she loves to sing, that's a tough one.)

Sorry-- didn't mean to go o/t with a rant; it's just that I know it makes storytimes tough, but, but I bet lots of people appreciate your and the district's care and sensitivity. So thanks, on behalf of non-Christmas-celebrating minorities all over!

Peaceful Reader said...

This is a great holiday list! I have been sticking to books with a snowy theme this year such as the classic Lois Ehlert's Snowballs and The first day of Winter by Denise Fleming. Your titles will be added to my order this year so I will be ready for next season.

ElsKushner said...

Hey, I think I found you a Diwali book! It's called Lights for Gita. By Rachna Gilmore, illus. by Alice Priestley. Second Story Press (Canada). c. 1994, so no idea if it's still in print, though.

There's also a chapter book by Rumer Godden, called Premlata and the Festival of Lights.