A Book Lover's Advent Calendar: 2011

In 2011 I sampled Christmasy and wintery picture books and storybooks that had been recommended to me by friends who said during Advent of 2010, "How could you possibly leave out our family's favorite??" I discovered a whole new collection of storybooks to love!



As we open the first door of the Advent calendar, we find

The Snowman

, which is a lovely little book with no words (I love those!). My family is actually familiar with this story as an animated film, but -- as is always the case -- the book is better. Thanks, Kathy!



The book behind door number two of our Advent calendar is

Olive, the Other Reindeer

, by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Seibold.  Olive the adorable dog is preparing for Christmas and listening to holiday tunes.  When she hears the words to the famous song about Rudolf, she suddenly understands: 


is the other reindeer!  This is a great little story for little ones who are just beginning to understand how hilarious puns and word tricks can be.

Thanks, Barbara!



This fabulous book features photographs as illustrations (the most gorgeous photography, people!) to tell the story of the animals of the woods who come to investigate the snowman who magically appears in a clearing.

I have looked at

Stranger in the Woods

so many times in bookstores, and have always been taken by its simple beauty. A great winter book!



Here is another story I wish my family had known about before they all turned into teenagers!

Annika's Secret Wish

is the story of a ten-year-old Swedish girl. She knows that the child who finds the almond in the special Christmas pudding will have a wish come true, and Annika so wishes for beautiful black pony! But when she finds that she has been given the special almond, she also discovers that it may just be more magical to give a gift than to receive it.

Thanks, June!



And on Day Five, behind the door of our Advent Calendar we find peter Spiers'


. This is actually a book that our family also enjoyed, when the urchins were very little. This is another wordless book, with illustrations that are so intricate and involved that children will pore over it for hours and hours, noticing fabulous details in every corner of every illustration. Our copy of this wonderful book fell apart years ago -- and sadly it is no longer in print. I'll bet, though, that diligent sleuths will be able to find it at a used book store. I have had great luck at


Thanks, Ava!  



Well, for our Advent calendar on the Feast of St. Nicholas, what could be more appropriate than the Clement C. Moore classic? Sometimes this book is titled

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

, but it was originally published as

A Visit From St. Nicholas

. I don't know about you, but somewhere along the way I had to memorize this bad boy in school. This edition has particularly lovely illustrations.

Thanks to all of you who suggested this book! 



Berkeley Breathed's lovable penguin Opus is featured in this cute Christmas story,

A Wish For Wings That Work

. All Opus wants is to be able to fly like other birds -- but his wings will not allow it. Will Santa Claus grant Opus's Christmas wish?

Thanks, Peter! 



Look what a lovely, lovely picture book is behind the door of our Advent calendar today!

A Day on Skates

is a perfect book for today -- the first truly cold wintery day in December for us around here. I just love the beautifully detailed illustrations!

Thanks, Beth and Rachel! 



Today behind the Advent calendar door we find

The Birds' Christmas Carol

, which was given to the urchins by Grandma Carol (born on Christmas Day, just like the Carol in this story). This little book (not quite a novel, but longer than a storybook) was one of the first gifts the urchins received from their new grandmother, soon after she and Grandpa got married. So it's "recommended" by Grandma Carol, but it is very dear to us as well.

Carol Bird is a cherished Christmas gift to her family; born on Christmas Day, her name describes her perfectly, since she sings all the time. Frail and often ill, she nevertheless brings joy and hope to everyone as she plans a special Christmas celebration for the nine young Ruggles children who live nearby.

I owned this version of the little story when I was in elementary school; I spent sixty cents of my own money to buy it from the Scholastic Book flier that came home from school. Isn't it strange? I totally remember it being called

The Birds' Christmas Carol

-- I distinctly remember thinking that her name was such a clever pun. But look: this edition has a different (more straightforward, more boring) title. Memory is such a strange thing . . . .

Thanks, Grandma Carol, for bringing this sweet story back into my life! 



Oh, my goodness! So many people recommended this book to me I can't even count them all. And I love it -- I can't believe my family never came upon this fantastic story when we were younger. Rumer Godden, people!

In This House of Brede

is only one of my favorite books of all time.

The Story of Holly and Ivy

tells us about an orphan named Ivy, a doll named Holly, and a couple who yearn for a child. So sweet!

Thanks, Suburban Correspondent! 



Today's Advent calendar book is perfect for families who are experiencing the first big snow of the season -- or for families who are still hoping for that first fat flake. It beautifully illustrates the Robert Frost poem,

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."


Thanks, Robert! 



Our Advent calendar today shows us

Sister Wendy's Story of Christmas

. Our family loves Sister Wendy, who has guided viewers through the great art museums of the world on several PBS series. She has written several books for children, in which she introduces them to beautiful art. This book uses masterpieces by the world's great artists to tell the story of the Nativity.



Here's a fabulous book behind today's door of our Advent calendar! In

Auntie Claus

, young Sophie grows suspicious when her Auntie Claus mysteriously disappears every winter -- and returns around Valentine's Day. One year she stows away in her aunt's luggage, and is whisked away to the North Pole. There she plunges into adventure and discovers her glamorous aunt's true identity!

Many friends recommended this charming book, which is filled with vivid illustrations and fun details. Enjoy!



Our Advent calendar book today is

Big Susan

. Mr. and Mrs. Doll and their children and servants belong to Big Susan, and live in a house with no front. On Christmas Eve every year, they can move about without needing Susan to help them.

This is such a sweet story -- thanks, Cassi Renee!



When we opened the calendar door today, we found a book that I was first introduced to as a song.

The Marvelous Toy

was originally sung by folk singer Tom Paxton; I vividly remember singing along with my dad as we listened to this fabulous song on the radio on our bi-annual trips to Oklahoma, for Christmas with our cousins. There are several print editions of the poem, all beautifully illustrated. I saw this one in the gift shop at the Kenndey Center, and just loved the bright colors and swirling motion captured by illustrator Steve Cox.



The calendar showed an old favorite today: The ladies in my book group reminded me that Truman Capote's

A Christmas Memory

is a great story to share with your family as you prepare for Christmas. I had forgotten that Capote could write so sweetly and lovingly -- this story is a great reminder.



Today the Advent Calendar reminded me that my Latin American friends are in the midst of their traditional

Las Posadas

celebrations right now. The urchins read

Carlos, Light the Farolito

a long time ago in school as they learned about Christmas customs around the world. The girl in charge suggested that you might like it as well. We learned a lot about the Mexican traditions around this special time of preparation for

la Navidad





, the Advent Calendar showed us

The Gift of the Magi

, that fabulous story by O. Henry. I have always, always loved this story. How awesome is this lovely illustrated version of the text?! Just for those who were wondering, P.J. Lynch is the illustrator of the phenomenal

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

-- voted by the urchins as the best Christmas story ever -- and featured in last year's Advent Calendar. Love me some P.J. Lynch! And I dare you not to cry when you read this story:

But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.



Here we have another book by Berkeley Breathed, of

Bloom County

fame. This time he gives us a story about his own father's childhood --

Red Ranger Came Calling

. This is another one I wish my urchins had known about when they were littler.



Today the calendar told me that Hanukkah had begun. Thank you so much to Common Household Mom, who recommended

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

. Hershel must confront hobgoblins who will not let the villagers light the menorah for Hanukkah -- just as the ancient Syrians would not let the Hebrew people celebrate their religion. A great spooky winter tale!



This door of the Advent calendar brought another Hanukkah story, but this one tells of the friendship and caring that can bring people of different faiths together in the face of adversity. In

The Trees of the Dancing Goats

, we read about a little girl and her grandfather, who while celebrating Hanukkah, bring Christmas cheer to brighten the holiday for their sick and bed-ridden Christian neighbors. So beautifully illustrated!



As we began to approach the birth of the Christ Child, the Advent calendar made me remember the gorgeous book I received from my friend Susan last year --

Why the Chimes Rang

. Last year as Susan read about the

2010 Advent Calendar for Book Lovers

, she kept wondering why this story wasn't on my list. When I told her I had never heard of it, she burst into tears. Well, not really. What she really did was smack me on the arm and call me a loser. Same thing. Two days later, my own copy of this lovely, lovely story arrived in the mail. There are many, many beautifully illustrated versions of this tale, but you can listen to it right now and read along, at

this cool link




Today for our Advent calendar book selection, I offer you the Christmas section of

Farmer Boy

, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My friend Coleen says this is her favorite "Little House" Christmas story, because of the fabulous and mouth-watering descriptions of food! I was always amazed at the thought of that long table, heaped to groaning with pork chops and chicken and ham, and mashed potatoes and all those vegetables they had grown -- and that Little House delicacy -- "apples 'n' onions!" Yum!



As always, the book we must turn to on Christmas Eve is The Gospel according to St. Luke:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David), to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Happy Christmas, my dear friends!