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.)
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.)
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.
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!