Advent and Christmas Stories

"The Shop of Ghosts"

Book cover: '"The Shop of Ghosts"'
Author(s): 
G.K. Chesterton
Copyright: 
1906
Review: 

Found on pages 82-86 of G.K. Chesterton Collected Works Volume XIV, 1993, Ignatius Press, 802 pages, softcover, Catholic perspective

This is a charming and humorous story about the spirit of Christmas through the ages. Good for a chuckle and a little perspective.

The volume in which this story can be found is available from Ignatius Press
You can also read this story online by clicking here

Review Date: 
12-5-05
Reviewed by: 

Christmas Turtles

Author(s): 
Sara Ann Denson
Copyright: 
2006
Publisher: 
Purple Sky Publishing
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a simple, charming and true story, from the author's own childhood, of a grandmother and her four grandchildren, for whom she makes Christmas Turtles each year with the pecans from her own yard.

The children discover the real "magic" that goes into making these favorite treats and how very much their grandmother really loves them. A recipe for the turtles is included in the back!

The layout of the pages is unusual. The typeface is quite large and the illustrations look like they were drawn by the narrator, the author as a young girl. My son complained about the faces at first, but once I read it aloud to all of my "middles" (ages 4-11), they all REALLY loved it and especially can't wait to make some turtles themselves.

The book came into our lives at a perfect time, when we're trying to move toward more homemade gifts for Christmas and for making more time during the busy holidays to do things like baking with the children.

Available from your local bookstore.

Review Date: 
11-30-06
Reviewed by: 

On That First Christmas Eve

Book cover: 'On That First Christmas Eve'
Author(s): 
Carol and Robert Dowgiallo
Illustrator(s): 
Dorothy Perez
ISBN: 
1 592 761 836
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
48 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is one of those delightful children's books that I wish was hard-covered instead of paperback! This book is a simple idea: a 40-some page poem that details the first Christmas Eve. Sounds pretty traditional and common, yes? The unique thing about this book, though, is that the authors link that first Christmas Eve to Jesus' baptism and death on the Cross and then come back full circle to the first night, but now with children of the world surrounding the manger. It's a beautifully done explanation for WHY Christ was born. In simple rhythm poetry and simple pictures, children are shown that Jesus was born in a manger two thousand years ago, but his birth and resurrection are just as much for the children of today as for the shepherd children in that long ago field.

The illustrations by Dorothy Perez add to the innocence and beauty of the book. The pictures are lightly drawn colored-pencil sketches, a new sketch on every two-page spread. A simple, lovely book for children to read throughout the Christmas season.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
12-1-05
Reviewed by: 

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Book cover: 'The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey'
Author(s): 
Susan Wojciechowski
Copyright: 
1995
Publisher: 
Candlewick Press
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a lovely story about a gruff woodcarver who is commissioned to make a Nativity Set for a young boy and his mother. The story is beautifully written and lovingly illustrated. This is such a favorite for my children that we keep it out year-round and it has been read over and over and over again. This is simply a can't-miss book - at least check it out from your library. When you buy a copy, I certainly recommend the hardcover for durability. There are many copies available used online - at Amazon.com there were over 50 used copies available - most for well under $10.

Additional notes: 

Newer editions have a different cover, but interior artwork and content appear to be unchanged.

Review Date: 
11-29-05
Reviewed by: 

The First Noel

Author(s): 
Maite Roche
Translator(s): 
Marianne Lorraine Trouve, FSP
ISBN: 
819 826 871
Copyright: 
2009
Publisher: 
Pauline Books & Media
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

There is nothing like a nice new book for children about... Christmas! This new Pauline Books & Media volume is a translation of an original French book. I had my 8 year old read it aloud to me, and she loved the illustrations that bring together the human and the supernatural very well. She loved the sweet, cute angels and all of the animals at the familiar stable! Biblical details are all present here: the story follows Mary and Joseph from before the Annunciation, their wedding and the trip to Bethlehem through the Magi at Herod's court, the slaughter of the innocents and the Holy Family's tenure in Egypt. Mary is shown round and pregnant in the beginning, and breastfeeding our Savior baby in Egypt, all in a very natural, warm and cute way.

Click here to view a promotional video of this book on YouTube.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
11-22-2009
Reviewed by: 

The Friendly Beasts

An Old English Christmas Carol
Book cover: 'The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol'
Illustrator(s): 
Tomie de Paola
Copyright: 
1981
Publisher: 
Putnam Juvenile
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

"The Friendly Beasts" is a lovely old English Christmas carol (the words and music are included in their entirety on the last page). Tomie de Paola has drawn beautiful pictures, in his signature style, to accompany the words to this song. (We didn't know the song before we came across the book. Now we tend to sing it, rather than read it, to the children.) It has been a favorite in our family partly because of it's beautiful simplicity and is frequently requested (even when it's nowhere near Christmastime) by our younger children. The artwork is to be enjoyed and cherished over and over again. I especially like a little drawing of the Annunciation that just shows up on the front cover.

Here is the first verse of the song to give you the idea:

Jesus our brother, strong and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude.
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus our brother, strong and good.

Review Date: 
12-1-05
Reviewed by: 

The Fussy Angel

Book cover: 'The Fussy Angel'
Author(s): 
Mary Arnold
Copyright: 
1995
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

A humorous rendition of Baby Jesus' birthday told from the point of view of "the fussy angel" who wanted things to be just right for the newborn king. The angel complains about the dirty animals, argues with the wise men and tries to make the angelic choirs sing a little quieter. The story has greater depth than what is perceived at first glance. It is about the great and glorious God who loved mankind so much that he was willing to come down to earth and put up with all of our silliness and imperfections. This will be a favorite among the preschoolers in your home, but Moms will love it too.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

The Jesse Tree

Book cover: 'The Jesse Tree'
Author(s): 
Geraldine McCaughrean
Illustrator(s): 
Bee Willey
ISBN: 
802 852 882
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
93 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Take a grumpy old man working in a Church, add an inquisitive little boy, assorted other characters and mix in the greatest story ever told and you have the book, The Jesse Tree, written by British author, Geraldine McCaughrean. This is sure to be an Advent classic!

Set in the present day, an old woodcarver (who tends to grumpiness) is carving a wooden Jesse Tree for a church. Jesse Trees are an ancient traditional way of showing Jesus' lineage - from the start of the world, through Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, David, Jonah, John the Baptist and finally to Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem. The old man is lovingly carving the figures and symbols representing each of 24 stories for the carved tree. The book opens just as he starts to carve the earth and moon, to represent God's creation. An inquisitive boy stops in the church and asks the ubiquitous question, "why"?

Through a series of 24 stories, the man slowly details the story of mankind - from the creation through the fall and right up to Jesus' birth. Each story has a different symbol and link to the Bible.

This book is beautifully told. The pictures are not spectacular, but at the head of each story, a small inset shows the symbol for the story. This makes it very easy to use this book as an Advent Calendar. That's what we're doing this year. In November, my younger children and I crafted the same 24 symbols, but we used oven-bake clay. We then made a cloth tree wall-hanging with 24 strings to attach these symbols. Starting December 1st, we read one story each night, attaching the appropriate symbol. On Christmas Eve we will attach the 24th symbol - the brightest star ever seen - heralding Jesus' birth.

This book, and our homemade Jesse Tree, will be a family tradition for years to come - a tradition that links the Old Testament to the New Testament - that links the first Adam and Eve to the new Adam (Jesus) and new Eve (Blessed Virgin Mary).

Review Date: 
12-6-05
Reviewed by: 

The Legend of the Poinsettia

Book cover: 'The Legend of the Poinsettia'
Author(s): 
Tomie de Paola
Illustrator(s): 
Tomie de Paola
Copyright: 
1994
Publisher: 
Paperstar Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This lovely retelling of an old Mexican legend transports us to the mountains of Mexico, where a young girl, Lucida, prepares for Christmas with her family. Her mother is a fine weaver, and the Padre asks her to make a new blanket for the Baby Jesus. When her mother falls ill, she longs to help finish the blanket, but only seems to make a mess of things. With no gift for the Baby Jesus, Lucida hides and watches the procession from afar. An old woman assures her that "any gift is beautiful because it is given" and that "Whatever you give, the Baby Jesus will love, because it comes from you."

Feeling more courageous, Lucida picks a bundle of weeds and brings them to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene at church, where they are beautifully transformed.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
11-29-06
Reviewed by: 

The Miracle of St. Nicholas

Book cover: 'The Miracle of St. Nicholas'
Author(s): 
Gloria Whelan
Copyright: 
1997
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

It was the day before Christmas in a modern-day Russian village which has lived through the closing of their church, St. Nicholas. When the church was first closed, everything inside the church mysteriously disappeared and the priest was gone. Now, even though the soldiers were gone, there seemed to be no way to celebrate Mass on Christmas day. Young Alexi questions his babushka about this, but all seems hopeless. Still, she explains that "A miracle happens when God enters into your dream. But first you must have the dream."...

The text is fully illustrated using the traditional icon technique and style. It makes for a charming, but slightly haunting look... a subtle reminder of past sorrows in the face of a hopeful future. The book is a delightful Christmas story for the whole family; full of faith, hope and the beauty of tradition.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

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