Ever since my two boys were tiny, about two weeks before Christmas we get out all the Christmas books and read them together before bedtime. They’re mostly picture books and it’s a lovely opportunity to revisit books the boys enjoyed when they were much younger. We usually get a new book every year so there’s always something new to enjoy along with the old favourites. These books have become an important part of our Christmas.
The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
This is a real Christmas classic and rightly so. The Jolly Postman rides out on his bicycle on Christmas Eve to deliver the post to familiar characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes. On his rounds he visits Red Riding Hood who receives a present from the Wolf, Humpty Dumpty in hospital, the Wolf and the Three Little Pigs’s Christmas party and even Father Christmas himself. It’s wonderfully interactive – on each page there’s an envelope to open with a letter and sometimes a present.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore (illustrated by Eric Puybaret)
I love this edition of Moore’s famous poem – quite the best way to learn the names of all Santa’s reindeer. The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning: reindeers wearing cloaks and bowler hats and a very red-nosed Father Christmas. The book includes a CD by Peter, Paul and Mary, famous for ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’, the book of which Puybaret has also illustrated.
The Christmas Bear by Henrietta Stickland (illustrated by Paul Stickland)
This is one of my favourite Christmas stories. A little polar bear in the North Pole falls down a hole and finds himself in Father Christmas’s workshop. Father Christmas needs his help and takes him on a tour of all the last minute Christmas preparations. The wonderful, detailed illustrations mean you can spend ages looking at all the tiny details in the workshop and there’s a Naughty Penguin to spot on every page.
Usborne Sparkly Touchy-Feely Father Christmas by Fiona Watt (illustrated by Rebecca Finn)
This was one of the first Christmas books the boys ever had and it’s so special to be able to get it out every year and share it with them again as we follow Father Christmas as he sets off on his sleigh on Christmas Eve.
The bright, colourful illustrations appeal to the very young but my two still can’t resist feeling all the different textures on each page: the fur on Father Christmas’s hat and gloves, the fabric stockings and the foil on the presents.
Richard Scarry’s The Night Before The Night Before Christmas
Seeing Richard Scarry’s illustrations of his wonderful animal characters transports me right back to my own childhood. In this delightful book, Mr Frumble the pig likes to help people but he’s very clumsy so he usually ends up being more of a nuisance than a help. Feeling unappreciated in Busytown, he heads off to the North Pole in his specially reconditioned pickle car to become Santa’s Helper. It’s funny, it’s silly and it’s a real favourite in our house.
A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith
This story of the Nativity is full of charm and beautiful illustrations. It follows the story of a girl called Rebecca who has been asked to look after Mary and Joseph’s little donkey while they go on a journey with the donkey’s mother. But the little donkey pines for its mother so Rebecca sets off with it to find Mary and Joseph. Beautifully told and gorgeous to look at, with lots of gold in the illustrations.
My Magical Book of Christmas Tales (illustrated by Susanna Lockheart)
The Nutcracker and The Night Before Christmas are such quintessential Christmas stories and this is a really special edition with beautiful illustrations and pull out pictures on each page. We particularly love reading The Nutcracker in this book as the pictures really capture a Victorian Christmas scene, an exciting battle between the mice and the soldiers and the magical Kingdom of Sweets with gingerbread men, a fairy orchestra and a sleigh of spun sugar.
Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R.Tolkien
This was the book we added to our collection last year and it’s absolutely brilliant. A collection of the letters Father Christmas wrote every year to Tolkien’s children in which he describes his life at the North Pole in beautiful, spidery handwriting and gorgeous drawings. There’s so much detail here. He talks about the wars with the troublesome goblins who live in the caves beneath the house and tells us all about the elves and the mishaps of the naughty but lovable Polar Bear who sometimes adds his own cheeky comments to the letters.
It’s utterly delightful and already a firm favourite in our family. It certainly shamed Father Christmas into writing a much more detailed and interesting letter to our two rather than the usual short note thanking them for the mince pies.
On our wish list this year is Refuge by Anne Booth and Sam Usher, a picture book that tells a version of the nativity story by highlighting the current refugee crisis (£5 from the sale of each book will go to the charity War Child). The story is told through the eyes of a donkey carrying a man and a woman to Bethlehem. At the end of the book, the refugees share a good dinner with their hosts.
We also want to read A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig, about a boy called Nikolas who was born on Christmas Day in Finland. The boy’s mother was eaten by a bear and he’s only ever had a couple of Christmas presents. Nikolas sets off with a hunter to find Elfhelm, home of the elves.
COMING UP NEXT: A Visit to Hampton Court