As we race for the finish with holiday preparations, it is good to take a moment to think of stories to share with our children, stories that reflect the time of year and the anticipation of the celebrations to come. Some stories to consider are highlighted below:
The Night Tree by Eve Bunting is a charming story of a family enjoying a tradition of trimming a tree for the holidays. The tree is not what you expect, however. It is located in deep in the woods and the family decorates the tree for the woodland creatures, making certain that they include treats for all of the forest animals - fruit slices, popcorn, sunflower seed balls. It is a heart warming story that begins to teach the importance of thinking of others during a festive time. Written by one of North America's most well known children's author, it is sure to become a family favourite.
The next two suggestions come from one of my facourite authors for children, Patricia Polacco. If you have never read any of her books, you are in for a real treat. Most of Patricia's books are based on stories from her family and family experience. In Welcome Comfort, though, she deviates from this pattern to bring us a story about a young foster child who does not have any fond memories of the holidays and does not feel as if he belongs anywhere. Then he meets a special person, the school custodian, and all of that changes. Told with warmth and understanding, children of all ages will relate to how it feels to finally find your place in the world.
With the story The Trees of the Dancing Goats Patricia returns to the story telling that she does so well by relating an incident from her own family. This story explores the love of neighbour for neigbour when her Jewish family reaches out to help their Christian neighbours celebrate Christmas. When she was very young, scarlet fever was raging through the area. Most of their neighbours were too ill or taking care of relatives and could not prepare for the holidays. Patricia's Jewish family prepares and secretly delivers a small, decorated Christmas tree and a food basket to each home early in the morning so that their neighbours can enjoy Christmas.
Your children might enjoy a twist on a traditional tale that is offered by Gingerbread Friends. Written and illustrated by Jan Brett, this tale follows a gingerbread boy as he tries to make friends with other cookies in the bakery he discovers. As in most of Jan Brett's books, the story is told on two levels, in pictures as well as in words. There are also sidebars offering instructions for making gingerbread friends to eat and enjoy.
A final book for your consideration is Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. This beautifully written book explores the adventure a young girl shares with her father as they venture out into the winter evening searching for owls to observe and marvel at. The story is filled with the magic of discovery and the closeness that the two characters share with each other and the quiet of the night. The late-night walks are steeped in family tradition, no words are exchanged, but the companionship of the elusive quest speaks volumes.
Whatever books you choose to share with your children in these long winter evenings, enjoy the closeness that it brings to your family and rejoice in the sharing of the magic of reading together.