By Rachel Davis
The Christmas season has arrived! There’s no better time to start reading all the books you’ve been wanting to get around to. Fortunately, Christmas has inspired countless pieces of heartwarming literature to get you into the holiday spirit. Here is a list of the top 10 works to do just that.
#1: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
This is the classic children’s book that everyone has read at least once. No third grade classroom left for the holidays before reading it. The story follows a grumpy creature known as the Grinch. He sits atop a mountain, plotting to ruin Christmas for the Who’s down in the village out of pure malice. He steals everything: toys, presents, decorations, and food for the Christmas feast. His plan to ruin Christmas, however, is ruined when the Whos join hands and sing together despite having nothing. At this point the Grinch begins to humble. His heart grows bigger, he gives everything back, and finally joins them for the great Christmas dinner. The underlying message of our best gifts not being possessions is great for kids.
“Then the grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” – Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
#2: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Yes, this is another obvious one. But saying it isn’t one of the best would be a lie. The Polar Express is about a boy and his journey to the North Pole. He embarks on this adventure when a magic train pulls up outside his door on Christmas Eve.
“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” – Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express
#3: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter and selfish money-lender, is not a big fan of the holidays. Scrooge refuses to give to charity, buy coal to heat the anteroom for his clerk, and go to his nephew’s annual Christmas party. After his grouchy attitude towards the holidays, he is visited by the ghost of his old partner, Jacob Marley. He warns Scrooge of his impending fate and the Christmas spirits that are to visit soon. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future show him the path of joy. He learns to be humble and get in the holiday spirit.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
#4: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May
After being made fun of all his life, Rudolph finally gets to use his shiny nose to lead Santa’s sleigh on a foggy night. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a classic that children have enjoyed for generations. May wrote the book in 1939 after being asked by Montgomery Ward, a department store company. The book was given out for free to over 2 million kids during the holiday seasons at the stores. May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the song for the book, kickstarting its popularity.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games” – Johnny Marks, songwriter
#5: The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
A little girl is out trying to sell matches on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, she is unable to sell anything. The little girl is afraid of returning home with nothing, so she seeks shelter in an alleyway. Dressed poorly for the weather, and freezing, she decides to light the matches. She continues to do so and imagines a perfect New Year’s Eve in heaven with her grandmother. The short story is a reflection of the time period. Begging was banned, so children were sent out to sell matches. Kids of poor families were often ignored and had to face the consequences at home. Because of her hard life, the only way to experience a good New Year’s Eve was to imagine one with her grandma.
“The matches glowed with a light that was brighter than the noon-day, and her grandmother had never appeared so large or so beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and they both flew upwards in brightness and joy far above the earth, where there was neither cold nor hunger nor pain, for they were with God.” – Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Match Girl
#6: Silent Night: The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub
Perhaps this isn’t a typical Christmas story that would be read aloud in an elementary school classroom, but it gives good insights on an important historical event. During WWI in 1914, a truce took place during Christmas Eve and Christmas day: French, British, and German soldiers went into No Man’s Land and celebrated Christmas together.
“On both sides in 1915, there would be more dead on any single day than yards gained in the entire year. And there would be nearly four more years of attrition—not to determine who was right, but who was left.”- Stanley Weintraub, Silent Night: The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce
#7: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Herdman siblings are troublemakers. After accidentally stumbling into the auditions, they have a plan to take over the annual Christmas Pageant hosted by the church. After getting the starring roles in the play, the Herdman’s decide to put their own spin to the show. This children’s book, though humorous, has underlying messages of poverty, hardships, the true meaning of Christmas, judgment, and society.
“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.” – Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
#8: Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R Tolkien
Every year, ‘Father Christmas’ would send letters to J.R.R Tolkien’s kids. The letters were comprised of stories from the North Pole and life lessons. Letters From Father Christmas is the book put together by Tolkien containing all the letters. Of course, they are filled with fun and adventure, but also the dark realities of the time period. Though kids might have a hard time understanding the context and the lessons, it’s perfect for realizing the things one should be grateful for.
“If you find that not many of the things you asked for have come, and not perhaps quite so many as sometimes, remember that this Christmas all over the world there are a terrible number of poor and starving people.” – J.R.R Tolkien, Letters From Father Christmas
#9: The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert
Anja is a brave little girl, heart set on meeting Santa and becoming one of his elves. She takes off on her skis, and on the way meets animals that later become her friends. The reindeer she befriends leads her to Santa, and the next morning she wonders if it was all a dream. With the child-like wonder and stunning pictures, it’s very easy to get immersed into The Christmas Wish.
“Long, long ago, in a place so far north that the mothers never pack away the wool hats or mittens, lived a sweet little girl named Anja, whose greatest dream was to become one of Santa’s Elves. One year, as the days grew shorter and the snow had fallen for weeks without rest, Anja decided it was time to look for Santa Claus.” – Lori Evert, The Christmas Wish
#10: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
Jim and Della Dillingham are a poor couple. They love each other very much and want to give each other presents for Christmas. Their two most valuable possessions are Della’s knee-lengthed hair and Jim’s gold watch. In order to afford the other one a present, they sell their two valuables. Jim had gotten Della an expensive comb set, and Della got Jim a watch chain. The Gift of the Magi is a short story about sacrifice, and how Jim and Della are wise gift givers.
“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. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.” – O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi
Though Christmas is now culturally centered around giving gifts, it’s important to remember your family and friends, as well as to be kind and grateful. Many kids grew up with the books that taught these lessons, and it’s vital to understand the morals of the stories. Whether you’re reading a classic, or a newer Christmas themed book, reading during the holidays is a sure-fire way to immerse yourself into the Christmas spirit.