Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Working at the library has exposed us to many wonderful Christmas books over the years. We asked the library staff to recommend their favorites.


Eloise, Cindy, Diane M., April, Tammra and Yara

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey has been a favorite at Pleasant Grove Library for years. It is a simple and heartwarming story. Jonathan is lonely man mourning the loss of his wife and child. The pain of this loss makes it difficult for Jonathan to open up to others. Though many respect his talent as a wood carver, he is mistakenly judged as a miserable and mean spirited person. His life begins to change when a local widow orders a new manger scene and requests that her son watch Jonathan at work since the child hopes to be a woodcarver one day. The boy's simple goodness as well as the magic of the Christmas story begin to have an effect on Jonathan and he is eventually able to accept the love that the mother and her son wish to offer him. 

Diane M., Valerie, Tammra and Yara

This book was written by Linda Bethers, one of our own librarians. It retells the classic story of the "Christmas Oranges," in which a young orphan girl named Rose discovers the spirit of generosity that lies at the heart of the holiday. When Rose is eight years old, an epidemic forces the closing of her beloved Greenwoods Orphanage, and she is shipped to Irongates, an austere, loveless institution run with Dickensian cruelty. Headmaster Crampton punishes Rose severely for a tiny infraction, decreeing that she miss the special treat of an orange on Christmas morning. How the other children circumvent his instructions to safeguard a glorious Christmas for Rose is the sweet message of this story, which is beautifully illustrated by Ben Sowards.

April, Kim, Yara and Tammra

Three trees growing on a hilltop dream of grand futures, but when they're claimed by woodcutters, other things happen. One becomes a manger that holds the Christ child, another a humble fishing boat that carries Jesus and his followers, and the third is cut into stout timbers that become Jesus' cross. A traditional folktale about the power of God's love to transform and renew.

Tammra recommends:

On a wintry night two children and an adult walk outdoors and reflect on the contrast between the snowy scene that greets them and the balmy serenity in Jerusalem when Jesus was born: "There was no snow on Christmas Eve . . . no snow on Christmas Day. Instead a desert zephyr blew and palm fronds sang a rustling tune to welcome the awaited birth." 

    Linda Bethers recommends:

This is a sweet story about a family's Christmas tradition. Every year, they troop out into the forest to decorate their night tree, a living pine Christmas tree. The night tree is festooned with edible decorations. After the family enjoys the magic of the decorated tree, they depart, knowing that the friendly critters who inhabit the woods will enjoy the decorations as a Christmas time snack.

Tammra recommends:

This book tells the story of a little tree that wants to be chosen by the Queen. The tree wants more than anything to grow up to be perfect and tall and straight so that when the Queen's soldiers choose a Christmas tree, it can stand in the castle. Over the years the tree sacrifices itself to provide shelter for animals and as it does, it becomes a little less perfect looking. In the end, the Queen sees the true beauty of the tree that has given itself to others. The story is beautifully told and the pictures are exquisite.

Tammra recommends:

This is such a fun classic to be read over and over again.

April recommends:

It’s not just the Grinch who gets grumpy around Christmastime. Sometimes even the man in the red suit gets out of bed on the wrong side. In this light-hearted tale of woe, Santa stubs his toe on a bowling ball, has to wear his itchy wool suit when the elves shrink his other one in the dryer, and gets stuck in the first chimney he tries. That "bowl full of jelly" belly has apparently gotten out of hand (as a blue-eyeshadowed Mrs. Claus tries to tell him at breakfast). Of course, when you consider that even the Grinch has a change of heart eventually, you just know Santa will come through this crabby mood at some point. 

Tammra recommends:

During the seven days before Christmas, Ann Estelle engages in fun activities like baking cookies and going ice-skating. Most importantly, she continues to add items to the wish list that she has been keeping since last year. On Christmas day, she finally realizes that it's the fun she has had with family and friends, and not the presents, that is the most important part of the holiday.

Carolyn recommends:

It tells of a small angel who simply can't get with the program no matter how hard he tries until an understanding elder realizes that he is homesick and is able to retrieve a box of his most treasured possessions from "back home." When it comes time for Jesus to be born on Earth, the Littlest Angel gives his precious box to the Baby, but he is worried that God will think his gift too humble. However, God is pleased indeed, and transforms the box into the Star of Bethlehem.

Tammra recommends:

Pearl S. Buck has captured the spirit of Christmas in this elegant, heartwarming story about a boy's gift of love.

Katelyn recommends:

Late one Christmas Eve after the town has gone to sleep, the boy boards the mysterious train that waits for him: The Polar Express bound for the North Pole. When he arrives, Santa offers the boy any gift he desires. The boy modestly asks for one bell from the harness of a reindeer. The gift is granted. On the way home the bell is lost. On Christmas morning the boy finds the bell under the tree. The mother of the boy admires the bell, but laments that it is broken for you see, only believers can hear the sound of the bell.

Tammra recommends:

Amy Krouse Rosenthal's timeless morsels of wisdom paired with Jane Dyer's cozy illustrations are as irresistible as the aroma of cookies fresh from the oven. Go ahead, take another bite!

  Katelyn recommends:

This sentimental classic--perfect for any child who's ever thought that maybe, just maybe, his or her toys have feelings--has been charming children since its first publication in 1922. 

Diane W. recommends:

When Mr. and Mrs. Bear find that their extra-big Christmas tree won't fit in their house, they cut off the top half and share it with Mr. Fox and his son saying, "We took our tree and made it two. One half for us, one half for you." The Foxes love their new tree, but then they remember Old Rabbit, who lives alone. So the Foxes give half of their tree to Old Rabbit. And in turn, Old Rabbit gives part of his tree to a mouse family.

Diane K. recommends:

Diane remembers reading this story in a magazine when she was younger. She instantly memorized it and would recite it to entertain her brothers and sisters. It has remained a favorite over the years.

Valerie recommends:

Penny Paisley and her family have a special Christmas tradition. All year long they collect their loose change and drop it in a glass jar on the kitchen counter. Then, each December, Penny and her family make their most exciting decision of the year: Who will receive the Paisley Family Christmas Jar? This year, Penny gets to choose what to do with the jar, and she has something special in mind. Instead of just giving our jar to only one person or one family, what if we gave it to the entire neighborhood? said Penny. We could use the Christmas jar money to have the biggest and best party anyone has ever been to. No one will ever forget it! To earn money for the Christmas Jar, Penny sets up a hot chocolate stand in front of her house. Mr. Charlie, the kind elderly man across the street, is her best customer. He even helps her make invitations for the party. But when Mr. Charlie becomes ill, Penny sets a new plan in motion and gets the whole neighborhood involved. Yes, this will be a Christmas and a party that no one will ever forget! Children will not only learn about compassion and service but, most important, they ll see that no matter what your age, you can make a difference in the life of someone else.


Diane M. recommends:

First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote's rural Alabama boyhood has become a modern-day classic. Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: "It's fruitcake weather!" Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls—one young and one old—and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals. 

Eloise, Tammra and Diane M.

Eloise: "Why the Chimes Rang" by Raymond MacDonald Alden is also a tradition in our family.  We were introduced to this story at a Primary meeting when we lived in Fresno and were expecting our third baby at Christmastime in 1982.  Having a baby at this time of year is wonderful and brings tender feelings, especially about Mary on the donkey and in the stable, to the surface. (Celebrating the birthday every year after is really difficult, though!)  I love this story because it illustrates that seemingly small gifts, given with the attitude of consecration, are the most meaningful.  

Ronnie and April recommend:

 This is a tender story of a young Appalachian boy, born mute, who speaks for the first time ever to a young couple and their newborn baby, who have taken refuge from a blizzard in a nearby church.

Valerie recommends:

The story relates how a young couple, Richard (who narrates) and Keri, accept a position to care for a lonely widow, Mary Parkin, in her spacious Victorian mansion. As Christmas draws near, Mary becomes anxious about Richard's obsession with success and his failure to make time for his family. She urges him to reconsider his priorities, but he is always too busy to heed her advice. It is only when Mary is on her deathbed and her secret sorrow is revealed through the letter-laden Christmas box of the title that Richard realizes what she has been trying to tell him. The message concerns love, of course, and the strings Evans pulls to vivify it should squeeze sobs from even the stoniest of hearts

Holly recommends:

A Christmas Carol is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of a Christmas Eve night. If the experience doesn't change Scrooge's ways, he will end up walking the Earth forever being nothing but an invisible and lonely ghost, like his deceased friend Jacob Marley. Mr. Scrooge is a financier/moneychanger who has devoted his life to the accumulation of wealth. He holds anything other than money in contempt, including friendship, love, and the Christmas season.                                       

 DeeAnn recommends:

It is Christmas Eve in New York City when Brian, a determined seven year old, follows the thief who took his mother's wallet, hoping to retrieve the St. Christopher's medal that he believes will save his father, who has leukemia, just as it saved his grandfather in World War II. However, the child is kidnapped by a vicious escaped convict who needs a hostage. The central characters come to life rapidly as the fast-moving story quickly builds suspense.          

Megan recommends:

The book contains two stories. The first is of Nathan, a young boy who's mother is dying of cancer. This will be her last Christmas as death is just around the corner. Nathan wants to make this Christmas the "best ever" for his mother. The second story is about Robert, a man who has just realized that he has put his business life in front of his family for way too long. When his wife tells him that she wants to leave him, Robert realizes that he has been a bad father and husband all these years and sets out to make things right again.

       Yara recommends:

Hallelujah is the remarkable story of one of the greatest events in musical history, the creation of George Frederic Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah. Composed in just twenty-four days, Handel’s “Grand Oratorio which rendered him immortal” was birthed in the darkest and most desperate hours of his life. His health was failing. Critics ridiculed him. Creditors hounded him. Enemies persecuted him. Pride had nearly destroyed him. Yet, out of Handel’s night emerged the dawn of Messiah.

 Tammra recommends:

Born on Christmas Day, Carol is the Bird family's special Christmas baby. As her tenth birthday approaches, declining health threatens young Carol's life. Her only wish, however, is to plan an unforgettable Christmas celebration for the poor Ruggles children next door.

Ronnie recommends:

The horrible Herdmans are the meanest kids around. They lie, steal, cuss, and smoke cigars -- even the girls. The last place anyone expected to see them is in church. So when the Herdmans storm Sunday school and take over the annual Christmas pageant, everyone braces for the worst. But no one is prepared for what really happens when the rottenest kids in the world take over the greatest story ever told. It's a pageant full of surprises for everyone -- including the Herdmans themselves.


Tammra recommends:

Two old ladies find themselves alone in a nursing home during the Christmas season, but one of them still believes in goodness, faith, and hope. She believes that one phone call to her children will show that kindness to strangers still exists. But something unexpected even miraculous happens that will change both women's lives forever.

Eloise also recommends this delightful poem by Ogden Nash. Her husband's rendition is a much- looked-forward-to tradition in her home each Christmas

The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus by Ogden Nash 
In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn't anybody's joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.

In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies' reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn't any Santa Claus.

Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying 'Boo' at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
'There isn't any Santa Claus!'

Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.

Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
'Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
'There isn't any, no there's not!'

The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez' ribald mocking.

He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.

What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of 'Don't,' and 'Pretty Please.'
He howled, 'I don't know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!'
'Jabez' replied the angry saint,
'It isn't I, it's you that ain't.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn't any Jabez Dawes!'

Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
'Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don't scare me, it doesn't'
And suddenly he found he wasn't!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.

The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.

All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.

We all wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and look forward to a happy New Year full of wonderful reading experiences and good times at the library!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the recommendations. I'm excited to try some new books.