The Advent Book List.

A few years ago, I came across an awesome advent idea on Ohdeedoh: the Advent Book Calendar. (If we had a genuine mantle, I would soooo love to make one exactly as shown.) I didn’t get my act together in time last year, but I’ve been collecting inexpensive Christmas books here and there for months and I just placed a big used book order so I will be ready in plenty of time this year. To be honest, Camilla didn’t sit through a lot of stories at 18 months so I don’t think she missed a lot. But this year, she loves storytime and can handle nice books with paper pages so it’s good to begin now.

The first and biggest problem in assembling 24+ books is: which ones to get? There’s plenty out there, but a lot of them have junky illustrations or stupid text and I’m picky about both. I’m okay with winter-themed books in addition to specifically Christmas ones, but we don’t do Santa Claus with our kids so that takes out a bunch. (I couldn’t resist a version of The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, though.) And when it comes to the real Christmas/Nativity story, I am quite picky about the pictures and don’t want anything cartoonish.

Trying to find a good list on google proved to be difficult as the lists that turn up first feature mostly recently-published stuff and I wanted to include some older (and cheaper!) books as well. But search I did, also tracking down a few books from my youth and those recommended by friends. I should say in advance that I haven’t looked through all of these yet and a few were accumulated more on the basis of price rather than a careful read of the text and might be swapped out for others next year. With some scrounging on Amazon and Abebooks I was able to keep the cost down to about $4/book (including shipping) and the thrift store ones were usually only $1, so I took a few risks. There are some simple board books and some text-y ones that are obviously too complex for a toddler to sit through, but I figured that I might as well get them now and we’ll just look at the pictures. I will try to remember to post an annotated version of this list in January to record which ones we liked best and if any of them weren’t as good as I thought they’d be.

Anyhow, after spending a couple of weeks working on this I thought I would pass along my findings early on in the season so that someone else can do the same thing, if so inclined. We will probably also pepper our collection with a few books from the library (just make sure you open them before the due date!). If price is a big factor for you and you have a good library, you could probably come up with at least half of these for free, especially if you just bring one out each day and don’t wrap them all at the beginning.

Without further ado, here is the 2011 Advent Book List:

Churchmouse Stories, Margot Austin (I think there’s a Christmas story in here)
Madeleine’s Christmas, Ludwig Bemelmans
The Twelve Days of Christmas, ill. by Jan Brett
The Mitten, Jan Brett
The Snowman, Raymond Briggs
Snowflake Bentley, Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Cross-Country Cat, Mary Calhoun
The Night before Christmas, Clement Clark Moore, ill. by Lizbeth Zwerger
The Miraculous Child, Alvin Aleksi Currier
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, ill. by Lizbeth Zwerger
Noel for Jeanne-Marie, Francoise Seignobosc
One Winter’s Night, John Herman, ill. by Leo and Diane Dillon
The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
The Little Drummer Boy, ill. by Ezra Jack Keats
Christmas in Noisy Village, Astrid Lindgren
Good King Wenceslaus, J.M. Neale
The Friendly Beasts, Tomie de Paola
Baboushka and the Three Kings, Ruth Robbins
The Christmas Alphabet, Robert Sabuda
The Shoemaker’s Dream, Mildred Schell, ill. by Masahiro Kasuya (my mom is sending me my childhood copy)
Snow, Uri Shulevitz
Who Is Coming to Our House?, Joseph Slate
The Christmas Story, Gennady Spirin
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas, ill. by Edward Ardizzone
Papa Panov’s Special Christmas, Leo Tolstoy (this one might be all text — not sure)
White Snow Bright Snow, Alvin Tresselt
The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
Treasury of Christmas Songs and Carols (so I can remember all the words)
Swan Lake, Lizbeth Zwerger (not wintery per se but I just love L.Z.)

Yes, it’s more than 24. I couldn’t stop myself.

There are also some books that I didn’t buy this year because they were more expensive, even used (this project has turned out be a little more–ahem–pricey than I had originally envisioned, mostly because it was hard to stop filling up that online shopping cart). I hope to add a couple at a time during the next few years and keep a watch for them at the Goodwill.

The “other books to look for” list:

The Longest Night, Marion Bauer, ill. by Ted Lewin
The Legend of Saint Nicholas, Demi
Nine Days to Christmas, Marie Hall Ets
The Elves and the Shoemaker, Paul Galdone
Let it Snow, Hollie Hobbie
Good King Wenceslaus, JM Neale, ill. by Pauline Baynes
The Life of Saint Martin, Emile Probst, ill. by Verena Smith<
The Life of Saint Nicholas, Emile Probst, ill. by Verena Smith
A Small Tale from the Far, Far North, Peter Sis
We Three Kings, ill. by Gennady Spirin
The Nutcracker, ill. by Gennady Spirin
Saint Nicholas, Ann Tompert
The Miracle of Saint Nicholas, Gloria Whelan
Auke Lake Tales, Etolin Wittanin
The Nutcracker, ill. by Lizbeth Zwerger

Any other recommendations, friends? I am always looking for more books that have just song lyrics for text, as Camilla loves it if I sing instead of read while flipping through the pages.


7 thoughts on “The Advent Book List.

    • Lauren, do you know of any good Orthodox nativity books? I’ve found a few online and will ask Sue Ann to order them, but I have no idea what the pictures are like. Also, what do you do for the 12 days of Christmas? I’ve been focusing more on Advent because I’m just not patient enough to wait, but I’d like to save some fun things for the feast. I guess most of our food treats will be saved for then…

  1. Great list!

    We have a nice illustrated version of Little Tree by E.E. Cummings – I am sure your library will have a few options you can look at before deciding on an illustrator.

    The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats: An Unlikely Royal Family Tree by Andrew Peterson (song!)

    Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

    Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold, just fun.

  2. Older kid (late elementary?) book I really like: The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder, which has a little chapter for each day of Advent. He wrote Sophie’s World, which you may be familiar with (it’s a young adult novel about the history of philosophy.)

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