Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Advent and Christmas Books

A broad title for what is in reality a tightly focused post. I want to make a few book suggestions, not for Advent and Christmas books in general, but for those rarer books that can be read daily throughout Advent, and in one case, Christmastide. Please bear in mind that my age suggestions are based on my experience with my own children. Your mileage may vary!

The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean.
The perfect accompaniment to making and using a Jesse Tree. This book cleverly uses the device of a grumpy old carpenter being pestered by a small boy for stories while he carves a Jesse Tree as a vehicle to retell Bible stories from the Creation through to the Nativity. Without fetching the book to count, I am not sure of the exact number of stories - I have a feeling it is slightly more than twenty-four, but the book can easily be finished during the Christmas season. The symbols shown in the book are not identical with those I have seen elsewhere associated with specific Bible readings, but they are close enough to be able to fudge the differences. McCaughrean is a good story teller, and I love the way she has set this book up as stories within a story. Ideal for ages 6 to 10.

The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
I saw this recommended by Mary of St. Athanasius Academy and ordered a copy from the library. So far I am only half way through, but I already know I am going to have to buy my own copy. A boy acquires an unusual, "magic" Advent calendar. As he opens each window, a little more of a story is revealed. A girl named Elisabet travels from Norway to Bethlehem in the company of an angel and various others they meet on the way. An added quirk is that their journey is not only geographical ... as they travel they also move backwards through time, in order to reach Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth. Elisabet's story is intertwined with the mystery of how the story has come to be in the calendar. This book would probably work for age 7 or 8 up ... to any age. Although written as a children's book, it has also been published in adult editions.

Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels by Arnold Ytreeide
I feel almost mean listing these, as if you do not already have copies you are not likely to be able to get them. All three books are now out of print and used copies sell for ridiculous prices. I also feel smug, in that I managed to get all three before Amazon UK sold out. These books are a trilogy in that characters overlap between books, but they can be read independently and in any order. Each tells the story of a child living in the Holy Land at the time of the Nativity. They are packed with adventure, and most of the daily readings end on a cliffhanger. They are not for the faint hearted, as the plots include slavery, abduction, bandits, bloodshed, murder ... these really are gripping adventure stories! After each daily reading, there is a short meditation. These are written from a Protestant perspective, but could be either adapted or omitted by Catholics. Best for age 8 and up.

The Twenty Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L'Engle
Not quite in the same category as the others as this one doesn't have daily readings. It does however tell the story of a family over the twenty four days, as they wait for the birth of a new baby and their daughter prepares to perform in a Christmas pageant. A simple chapter book suitable for younger children.

The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton
One of my favourite children's books and unique in my experience as it covers the thirteen days from Christmas Day to Epiphany. It is set in a fictional late medieval English town where Annaple Kitson's family, fed up with being the victims of her atrocious cooking, encourage her suitor to think up a romantic gesture that will persuade her to marry him. He decides on a series of gifts ... on the first day of Christmas a partridge in a pear tree ... on the second day two turtle doves. And a partridge in a pear tree. And so on. The book combines humour with lots of Christmas traditions - some real, some fictional. Probably more of a girl book (not that I have experience of reading to boys), for age 9 and up. And if you want a funny, light-hearted read for Christmas, buy it for yourself!


Mary G said...


I'm so glad you like the Christmas Mystery -- it was one of those wonderful finds at a used book sale!

I too love the Jesse Tree book -- I think you recommended it a few years back and we've used it ever since. I was just talking to MaryM today about possibly using it for the Jesse Tree we'll do at the highschool her son,my daughter attend.

Blessings -- and how are you feeling (you lucky thing, you!)

The Bookworm said...

Ah, then that's a fair exchange of recommendations! The Jesse Tree for The Christmas Mystery

I'm feeling pretty good, relatively speaking - tired and a bit icky, but compared to this stage with Little Cherub when I was being sick several times a day this is luxury!

Romany said...

I hear that the Ytreedie books are going to be republished next year and that a fourth is planned! Yay!

I just wish someone would write a Lenten version!