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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wonderful Christmas religious books for kids!

   A couple of years ago, we started a tradition of wrapping 25 Christmas books and unwrapping one each day of December.  We all love doing it and the kids are older this year (8 and 6) so they actually helped me wrap!  I wrap the religious ones in a different color wrapping paper than secular ones so that we can balance them out...secular, religious, secular, religious, etc.  I was pretty disappointed this year at how many religious ones I had :-/  I think I may have misplaced a few in the move.  I think it's real important to keep the focus on Jesus and not Santa and one way we can do that as parents is to control what we do at home.  They are going to get bombarded with secular Christmas stuff outside the home, but you can control what is IN your home.  So this is an easy way to do it.  We also read secular Christmas books...don't get me wrong...but it's so much easier to find those!  Religious Christmas books are harder to find, and sometimes not completely apparent that they are Christian (or have a great Christmas message)! Anyway, I decided to go on a mission to find more good religious books!  I'm a Christian educator and figured I really should know more than I do, but I am a member of a great group on Facebook of Christian Educators and I knew that if anyone could help, they could :)  And they did!!  I got tons of ideas :) Thanks guys :) So, here are some absolutely wonderful, tear-jerking, humorous, insightful, informative Christmas books for children...that are all about the REAL meaning of Christmas!!  They are grouped by age range and each title is a link to if you see something you like :) There is also a short description of each one from amazon.  Enjoy! Unintentionally, I ended up with 25 recommendations :)  One for every day in December!  Perfect!  But on Christmas morning we will be reading directly from our Children's Bible...the best book of all :)


Who is coming to Our House?
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"Who is coming to our house? Someone, someone," says Mouse. 
As Pig makes room, Lamb cleans up, Goose stacks the hay, and Duck lines the crib with eiderdown, Mary and Joseph are on their way by donkey. All the animals welcome the baby Jesus to their home."

I love this book and even wrote a reader's theater to use during our Christmas Eve service children's time :) My daughter still likes it and she's 6 :)

Room for a Little One
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My daughter just brought this one home from the school library :)  It was very sweet and she enjoyed it...I can see reading it with very young children as well.  Simple story, great pictures and the 90+ positive reviews can't be wrong ;)

(Peter Spier's) Christmas!
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I saw this one in our church library and almost didn't include it...but then a review made me see that I judged too hastily.  It is only illustrations - no words - which I LOVE.  I thought they were a bit "busy" for small children, but the reviewer talked about all the details that their mother would always point out when they were young :) It shows the family giving to the needy, going to church and other religious aspects of the season.  It even shows them "cleaning up" after Christmas.  The cool thing about no words is that you can make it age appropriate for any aged child!

Berenstain Bears Get Ready for Christmas
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My parents had this at their house for my kids when they were little.  It's a very cute book for preschoolers.  It's a lift the flap book and you have to "find" all the pieces to their manger scene...taking time to explain each one :)

The Parable Series: The Pine Tree Parable
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From what I gather from the review here, this is not a religious book, but does teach the importance of having a giving heart.
"The Pine Tree Parable tells the heartwarming tale of a farmer and his family who nurture tiny seedlings into fragrant Christmas trees.
When the trees are tall enough to offer to their neighbors, the farmer's wife plans to keep the most beautiful pine tree for her family, until one snowy December night when a child teaches her the true meaning of Christmas".

Ages 4-8

Animals Christmas Carol
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This says 4/5 year olds and older but I think you could probably read it to your 2-3 year old...depending how you read it :)  I read pretty much anything to my kids when they were real little...I just changed the words to fit their age.  This is a song that was written centuries ago that this author sort of re-wrote.  I love the song and my children have both sung it in church choir.  So when my daughter saw it in her school library (!) she couldn't wait to bring it home and "sing" it with me :)  I can see making this a powerpoint and using it in church...
"Inspired by a French carol that can be traced back to the 12th century, and written in the spirit of a traditional Nativity play, each lyrical verse retains all the resonance of its medieval origins. Drawn in painstaking detail, and with the addition of gold printing throughout, it is a visual feast"

The Legend of the Poinsetta
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I took a class in seminary where we read children's books and then reviewed them.  Evidently, the school started a web site to "house" all of the reviews (after my time though ;).  Thanks to a fellow CE for showing me this!  I got a few ideas from this site as well and this is one of them.  The in depth review is here if you want to read it.
"In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la Nochebuenao flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the quite exquisite red stars lighting up the countryside.
This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl's unselfish gift to the Christ Child."

Unwrapping the Christmas Creche
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I haven't read this one and amazon doesn't let you "look inside" this book...and there are no comments, but a fellow CE recommends it :)  It sounds like a neat book to read while you set up your nativity set with your child :)
Where's my favorite box? Here it is. . . the Christmas crèche. "Rise and shine," I say in my good morning voice . . . "It's time for you to tell the story once again. Places everyone."This engaging and delightful books follows a child's thoughts and actions as the Christmas crèche is unwrapped. Each figure comes to life in this Advent adventure! Share Unwrapping the Christmas Crèche with your children as you create memories and traditions of your own.

The Joy of Giving
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I grew up reading the BB and I just LOVE them.  The newer ones aren't as well written I admit, but
they are religious which I like.  This is a nice one my kids and I enjoy reading.
"In The Berenstain Bears and The Joy of Giving Brother and Sister Bear can’t wait for Christmas and all the presents they’ll open. But during the Christmas Eve pageant, something special happens! The Bear cubs learn a very valuable lesson about the joy of giving to others."

Great Joy
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  There was not a description on this book, and I have not personally read it, but there was a comment that said, "This is a tenderly written story with gorgeous, rich illustrations. It is about a girl who is preparing for her Christmas pageant, but recognizes the sadness and poverty of an organ grinder and his money, and reaches out to them kindly." And she gave the book 5 stars :)  Plus more than one CE recommended I trust them :)

Mary's First Christmas
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The premise for this book sounds wonderful.  This is one that I would like to go out and buy.  I think my children, 6 and 8 would enjoy it.  It is written in four parts and can be read all at one time, or broken up over 4 nights.  It says for ages 4-8 but I think, after looking at the pictures and words on amazon, that some 4 year olds may have a difficult time sitting through this. Your call.  The CE that recommended this book especially liked the pictures :) Here's part of the summary from amazon:  On the night you were born the whole sky exploded with love, and the angels shouted, and more than a thousand hearts were in love with my baby Jesus on his birthday! Gather near and listen to the wondrous bedtime story, told long ago by a special mother to her very special son. Listen as Mary tells five-year-old Jesus of the first Christmas -- of his own birth and the remarkable events that surrounded it...artist Timothy Ladwig brings to glowing life the people and places of Jesus' young life. Listen. Look. And you too will experience the wonder and glory of Mary's First Christmas.

Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas
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(for ages 5 and up) This was recommended by a CE and I was intrigued as I read through some of the pages on Amazon.  Obviously this is a different kind of Christmas book, but I believe, from what I read, that it is based on a true story?  Perhaps.  Either way, it sounds like a great "bridge", and if your kids are anything like mine, their public schools teach them every holiday under the sun to be politically correct so they have many questions.  Here is the summary...Michael and Elijah are friends, but when Elijah gives Michael one of his special carved angels, Michael doesn’t know what to do. How can he possibly take home a Christmas angel, a forbidden graven image--especially on Chanukah? “A strikingly illustrated story that tenderly bridges the boundaries of age, race, and religion.”--American Bookseller

Wombat Divine
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As a preschool teacher I think I would like this one for my classroom :)  From reading the few pages on amazon I think Wombat gets to be baby Jesus (spoiler;)
"Wombat loves everything about Christmas--especially the Nativity play. He's wanted to be in it for as long as he can remember. At last he's old enough to try out. But at the auditions, the first part goes to someone else. So does the next. And the next . . . Will there be a part left for Wombat?"

The Nativity
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I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read this one.  It was by far the most popular recommendation with the CE group!  The illustrations are what makes it I think...that, and turning the story into one that would relate to modern day.  It's recommended for prek-3rd grade but I think everyone enjoys it! :)
"The biblical story of the Nativity is one about faith, love--and a miracle. With illustrations that are enchanting and unexpected, Julie Vivas reveals the human side to Mary's story, beautifully imagining the Angel Gabriel delivering the news to her, the exhausting journey with Joseph to Bethlehem, and at last the deliverance of the baby Jesus."

Voices of Christmas
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I would like to read this one.  There are less words per page in this one so it may be good for the littles. "Gabriel “paced the halls of heaven” as he memorized God’s message to Mary. He wondered what she would say. The Christmas story unfolds, as never before, through the voices of those who witnessed the Messiah’s birth. Listen to Joseph’s struggle. Rejoice with Elizabeth and Zachariah. Worship with the magi. Hear the fear in Herod’s voice. Receive the blessing of Simeon and Anna. And, like the shepherds, shout for joy!"

The 12 Prayers of Christmas
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This says recommended for 3-7 but each page has someone from the Nativity scene and there is a prayer in prose for each character.  Some of the wording is pretty complex for a preschooler.  I don't think I'd use it in my class...but I do like the idea of the's amazing how many different ways this story can be told :)
"Many were present the night Jesus Christ was born. Joseph and Mary were there, their hearts filled with peace. So were the donkey, the lamb, and the three Wise Men. Even the Star of Bethlehem looked on, casting a single heavenly beam of light upon the scene. This book gives voice to every creature present on that miraculous night and shares their twelve special prayers to the Christ Child."

Winter's Gift
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This is not a religious book, but a great book about hope at Christmastime. 
"It may be Christmastime but on a small, forlorn farm the holiday season is best forgotten, along with painful memories of loved ones lost. Mother Nature has other plans, however, and a chance snowstorm brings together two unlikely hearts, one human and one beast, yet both yearning for comfort, companionship, and that most elusive gift of all, hope."

Humphrey's First Christmas
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You won't need tissues for this one like some of the others :)  This one had me at the cover.  lol  This book has tons of great reviews but a few very harsh ones.  You have to keep in my when you read it that it isn't meant to be a serious book...but a funny one that teaches the importance of giving at the end :)
"A beautifully illustrated Christmas story...We've all heard the story of the three wise men who brought their gifts to Baby Jesus. But what about the camels who carried them? Here is the story of Humphrey the camel and his long, cold journey to Bethlehem. Humphrey has lost his blanket and schemes to acquire a new one. When the party reaches its destination, Humphrey is so drawn to the love surrounding Baby Jesus that he finds himself selflessly giving his new blanket to the Christ child."

The Last Straw
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This sounds like the Humphrey book above...just a bit different...and just as cute :)
"Everyone has heard the Christmas story before, but THE LAST STRAW is a unique and unforgettable new telling. Voices roll across the desert sands to Hoshmakaka, a curmudgeonly old camel, whispering that he has been chosen for the great responsibility of carrying gifts to the new baby king. With reluctance, Hoshmakaka accepts his task. Every day in the heat crossing the desert, his pack grows ever more burdensome as the crowds of people, anxious to welcome the new king, give him their gifts to carry. He is as strong as ten horses as he proudly tells the younger camels. But, oh, his gout! Oh, his sciatica! Nevertheless, Hoshmakaka plods on until he reaches Bethlehem. In the end he realizes the great honor of his task and never again is there a burden too heavy for him to carry."

Ages 6-9 (or older)

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomy
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Our library at church had this one so I got to read it.  I'm glad I was alone when I did...but it made me cry :)  Beautiful story.  I read it to both my children and they liked it as well.  A great story that shares hope and joy but also manages to include bits and pieces of the Christmas story...
Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, but he is always alone and never smiles. No one knows about the mementos of his lost wife and child that he keeps in an unopened drawer. But one early winter’s day, a widow and her young son approach him with a gentle request that leads to a joyful miracle. The moving, lyrical tale, gloriously illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has been widely hailed as a true Christmas classic.

An Orange for Frankie
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Another one I might get for my kids.  This is not a religious story per se, but the message, according to the numerous comments, is very clear.  This story (at least partly true), is about the spirit of giving and sacrifices.  A good lesson at Christmas.  Many of the comments said they were in tears by the have some tissues handy ;)  
"The Stowell family is abuzz with holiday excitement, and Frankie, the youngest boy, is the most excited of all. But there's a cloud over the joyous season: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and Pa hasn't returned yet from his trip to Lansing. He promised to bring back the oranges for the mantelpiece. Every year there are nine of them nestled among the evergreens, one for each of the children. But this year, heavy snows might mean no oranges . . . and, worse, no Pa!
This is a holiday story close to Patricia Polacco's heart. Frankie was her grandmother's youngest brother, and every year she and her family remember this tale of a little boy who learned--and taught--an important lesson about giving, one Christmas long ago"

To Whom the Angels Spoke
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Yet another way to tell the Christmas story.  This time, from the point of view of three shepherds.  The cool thing is, according to the reviews, all three see it a different way - showing how all of God's children are different and see God in different ways :)
"TO WHOM THE ANGEL SPOKE tells the story of Christ's birth through the perspective of three shepherds outside of Bethlehem. Distinctively different in every aspect of their personalities, the three hear a voice one night, and because they believe what the voice tells them, they are alike. In witnessing the Christ child, each understands the event in his own special way. In this touching tale, Kay gets to the heart of the Christmas story, while also acknowledging the differences among Christians. We are all different people, we all feel different things. Here we have something to bring us together."

Christmas Tapestry
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This sounds like a very touching story (again, have tissues ready :), but I'm not sure they have the age recommendation correct.  It says 6-8, but many of the comments talked about older children enjoying as well as middle schoolers and adults.  It refers to the it may not be something you would want to read with your younger elementary children.  However, I haven't read it...just going by the description and the 30 comments left...after reading the few pages on amazon however, I am hooked and now I want to know the end!!
"When a leak ruins the sacristy wall in his father’s church, Jonathan Jefferson Weeks thinks Christmas Eve service will be ruined. Luckily he and his father find a beautiful tapestry, perfect for covering the damaged wall and giving the church a festive look! But then, an old Jewish woman recognizes the beautiful cloth. Her discovery leads to a real miracle on Christmas Eve."

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie:Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth
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"It’s the Christmas season during a time when people had little money to spend. Cookie jars held pennies, not Christmas cookies. So when Jack smells something delicious coming from the kitchen, he can’t believe his nose. Cookies! But his excitement turns to disappointment when he learns the cookies aren’t for him. Instead, Mother is baking them for the needy people at their church. While Jack helps roll out the dough, his mother tells him the legend of the Christmas cookie. In a captivating interplay of simple words and beautiful illustrations, The Legend of the Christmas Cookie tells a tender story of giving—not just cookies, but gifts of the heart that last forever."

If You're Missing Baby Jesus - A true Story
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I love true stories!  I want to read this one :)  It says for 2nd grade and up.  There isn't much of a description on amazon, but the seminary review website I mentioned earlier has one here


If you have a suggestion - please share!  I will include my readers' faves below :)

Mortimer's Christmas Manger
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The Legend of the Candy Cane
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The Crippled Lamb
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The Tale of Three Trees
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The Littlest Angel
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