IVP - Behind the Books - Three great recent Christmas books

December 17, 2012

Three great recent Christmas books

’Tis the season for Christmas readings. For the moment, let's leave aside justly revered classics like A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, or A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas. Here are three more recent Christmas books that have captured my heart because they capture the beauty of Christmas.

Here's my (very) short list of new Christmas classics. (None of these is from IVP, by the way, though I do like our new Gospel of Christmas for grown-ups, too. I'm just raving about these others because I'm in the Christmas spirit.)

1. Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, illus. Bagram Ibatoulline

Great Joy

We've been reading this in our family for five years or so, and I can hardly read it aloud without choking up (which is always a good sign). As in the 1965 video, A Charlie Brown Christmas, the pay-off lines in DiCamillo's book are straight out of the Bible, but they're not a glib bumper sticker of "the reason for the season." As with Linus Van Pelt, little Frances delivers Scripture on stage for a Christmas pageant, but only after establishing a context that proves its power. (I'm choking up again right now, just writing about it.)

2. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illus. P. J. Lynch

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

I guess this one is nearly 20 years old now, but may I still include it among my "recent" favorites? A little boy wants not only a crèche to replace a lost family heirloom, but he longs for lessons from the best woodcarver in the valley. The title character is a different kind of Scrooge, and Jonathan Toomey's deliverance from Christmas skepticism relies less on dei ex machina than Scrooge's — and is therefore perhaps even more meaningful. (Not knocking Dickens, though.)

By the way, has anyone seen the movie of this? I haven't. Even if they did a great job, you're going to want to read the book.

3. Christmas Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. Jane Dyer

Christmas Cookies

My third recommendation is way less serious than the others, but I love it (and it fits here at "Behind the Books") because it's all about vocabulary. Yes, there's a narrative about cookie-baking woven throughout, but each page also takes a "big word" — like tradition or disappointed — and sets it in terms of the unfolding story so kids can understand it better. This book has helped our girls grow in love not only for Christmas cookie traditions, but also for Christmas books and language.

And that's one very important role for Christmas books to play. As we welcome great books into the days of Advent, they bring us tidings of great joy!

Posted by Jon Boyd at December 17, 2012 8:03 AM Bookmark and Share


Thanks for this, friends. Kind of you to celebrate other publisher's work. Yay.

We knew Susan W back when she lived near us, and had the great privilege of hosting one of her first book readings. We had a sheet tacked up so she could show slides of the artwork -- and told us very moving stories of how the collaboration with the legendary Irish illustrator came about. Just lovely stuff, so well done.

Comment by: Byron Borger at December 17, 2012 12:43 PM

That's cool, Byron! Isn't it a beautiful book, both words and paintings? It's remarkable how the watercolors do such a good job conveying the very different art form of woodcarving they portray. Thanks for sharing the story!

Comment by: Jon at December 17, 2012 1:21 PM

I really get choked up by Truman Capote's A Chrisrmas Story. Two misfit characters, a little boy and a not=all-there older relative are thrown together away from home at Christmas time and become friends by default. They literally cook up a scheme to bake traditional fruitcakes to send out as Christmas gifts. They scrounge the ingredients and manage to achieve their goal, all the while realizing that their futures are in question. The juxtaposition of their self-awareness with their carefree, fun-filled time together is poignant, universal in nature and gets to my heart every time.

Comment by: vicki nowicki at December 18, 2012 12:46 PM

Thanks for the Truman Capote recommendation, Vicki! I've never read that, but I'm tracking it down. I believe the title is "A Christmas Memory," by the way; does that sound right?

Comment by: Jon at December 18, 2012 3:36 PM

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