It seems as if we went straight from cookie baking and the flu right into writing Christmas cards and wrapping gifts . . . but in those moments when we do get to sit down (usually because someone has stopped by) there's nothing as much fun as reading a book with a small visitor.
Here are some of our favorite Christmas books:
** The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, by Gloria Houston, pictures by Barbara Cooney. Ruthie's papa is going off to war, but this is the year he gives the Christmas tree to the church, so he and Ruthie go up to the highest cliff in the mountains, where they find a fine, perfect balsam tree. They mark it with a red ribbon bow right at the tip-tip-top. Papa doesn't quite make it back before it's time to get the tree, so Ruthie and her mama are responsible for getting it, and Ruthie gets to be the heavenly angel. There are enough Christmas surprises for everyone by story's end. This lovely book always makes me tear up, but our grandkids love it, especially the description of Ruthie's heavenly angel dress.
** Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner. This story of a young boy's Christmas gift for his father illustrates what it means to give something of yourself to someone else. Perplexed about what he can do for the father he loves, the boy comes up with a unique gift, one he and his father will never forget. The illustrations in this book set the mood, evoking farm life with a quiet authority.
** The Shoe Box, by Francine Rivers, illustrated by Linda Dockey Graves. When Timmy comes to live with Mary and David, he doesn't own much; his treasures all fit into a shoe box. The story of what Timmy does with his treasures isn't a traditional Christmas story, but Christmas figures into the story as Timmy figures out what he might give baby Jesus when he is a wise man in the church Christmas pageant.
And of course, there is always Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, by Barbara Shook Hazen, adapted from the story by Robert L. May. We're partial to a Golden Book edition we have here, one from 1979, illustrated by Richard Scarry. It's a bit worn, with crayon marks on a few pages, and a torn page or two. It shows how much its readers have loved it.
The best books always do.