By Sofia Cuddeback
Here are some of our favorite books to read aloud at Christmas time! I have included a note for each book about how long it will take to read aloud.
For a general list of our family’s much-loved books to read aloud to children, see Our Favorite Books to Read-Aloud with Children.
Picture Book for Children:
The Clown of God, by Tomie dePaola
While the rest of the books on this list are chapter books, this is a picture book for children, and a quick read.
Chapter Books for Children:
The Christmas Anna Angel, by Ruth Sawyer, ill. Kate Seredy
This story takes place in Hungary during World War II as a girl Anna hopes for a Christmas miracle. The book was a recipient of a 1945 Caldecott Honor award for Kate Seredy’s marvelous illustrations. 48 pages with illustrations. 6 yrs and up. This book takes one long sitting or two moderate sittings. About a 60 min read aloud.
The Year of the Christmas Dragon, by Ruth Sawyer, ill. Hugh Troy
Ruth Sawyer cleverly links the Far East and Mexico in this story of a Mexican boy who finds a Chinese dragon on the hillside and, in exchange for feeding the dragon and telling him old tales, the dragon helps the boy save the village’s Christmas celebration of Los Posadas. 88 pages with illustrations. 7 yrs and up. Two long sittings or three moderate sittings. About a 2 hr read aloud.
The Lion in the Box, by Marguerite de Angeli, ill. by the author
This is a true story about Lili Galen retold by her friend, the author, Marguerite de Angeli. Lili’s mother, recently widowed, struggles to support her five young children. This story tells of a remarkable Christmas Eve which starts out anxiously but turns into the most extraordinary and memorable Christmases of the Galen’s life. 7 yrs and up. 62 pages with illustrations. About a 90 min read aloud.
Turkey for Christmas, by Marguerite de Angeli, ill. by the author
Semi-autobiographical, this book is a sweet little story of a 12-year-old-girl, Bess, in a family who had to decide between having a turkey or presents for Christmas amidst a season of difficulty with her 15-year-old-sister in the hospital. Bess learns that family togetherness is the best gift. 48 pgs with illustrations. 7 yrs and up. About a 60 min read aloud.
The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden, ill. Barbara Cooney
A story about an orphan girl looking for a family and Christmas wishes coming true. 7 yrs and up. 32 pgs with illustrations. About a 45 min read aloud.
A Certain Small Shepherd, by Rebecca Caudill, ill. William Pene Dubois (the illustrations are very important!)
If you don’t have children at home, borrow some so that you have a good excuse to read this story out loud! When we read this story, by the end, all the children’s eyes are shining and the adults eyes are glistening, if not weeping! From the flyleaf, “The marvelous power of love speaks gently, eloquently, and powerfully in this beautiful story of a mute child’s Christmas morning in Appalachia.” I can’t tell you anything more; you’ll just have to read it on your own! 7yrs and up. 48 pgs with illustrations. About a 50 min read aloud (leave extra time to show everyone the pictures as you come to them!).
Books for Both Children and Adults:
The Long Christmas, by Ruth Sawyer
This is a collection of Christmas stories for the Twelve Days of Christmas gathered from many cultures and eras. From the flyleaf, “From Christmas to Epiphany is thirteen days, and this is the Long Christmas. For each night of the thirteen, Ruth Sawyer sets a candle burning with a story. Some are humorous, some touching, some ancient, and some brand new, and all are interspersed with carols and Christmas rhymes.” The introduction to this collection is Sawyer’s explanation of the rationale behind this collection and is marvelous in enunciating the spirit behind the old tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Really worth reading, though not necessarily for your read-aloud.
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
This one hardly needs description being the classic tale of the hardened heart converted to charity through the spirit of Christmas. This one is Dickens, so it’s long and has a lot of descriptive passages. But his language is so wonderful, and the images are so memorable that its worth a cozy evening around the fire. Ages 8 and up (the ghosts can be a bit scary). About a 2 hr read aloud.
Cricket on the Hearth, by Charles Dickens
This one is not really a Christmas story but for some reason it is associated with Christmas. I am not sure why, but it’s perfect on a dark and cold Christmas evening. Its the story of hearth and home, love and marriage, family and friends. It is a little bit of a mystery that needs to be solved so it really carries you along. The main heroine’s declaration of the nature of her love for her husband is, well, amazing and beautiful. Ages 10 and up. A 3 hrs 45 min read aloud (definitely more than one sitting, but we tried!).
The Winter Cherries: Holiday Tales from Around the World, by Odds Bodkin
This is actually not a read-aloud but an audio recording by the storyteller Odds Bodkin. Odds Bodkin is a very unusual and unique storyteller in that he does all the voices, sound effects and music himself in realtime while he is telling the story. He has MANY albums of stories on his website, most of which I have not heard and cannot speak to. However, among the ones that we have heard, this one is our absolute favorite. John just loves his telling of the Arthurian Christmas legend The Winter Cherries. The other stories on the album are lovely too. The last tale is a “rock & roll” story called The Take-over Before Christmas, which may or may not be to your liking but is very clever nonetheless. Sadly, I don’t think that you can purchase hard copies of this CD anymore but all the stories are available for download, as an album or as individual stories, on the Odds Bodkin website.
More Christmas Resources at LifeCraft
How to Make an Advent Wreath
by Sofia Cuddeback
Advent wreaths can be an important way to spend the waiting days before Christmas. Gather some simple supplies and make your own beautiful wreath!
Ordinary Means for an Extraordinary Time
by John Cuddeback
Serious issues can call for serious measures. But at the same time, even the most challenging issues call for an ‘ordinary’ response. This is consoling and encouraging…
Christmas Details Matter
by John Cuddeback
Real festivity, like a human person, has a soul and body. A person’s thriving is most of all in the well-disposed soul, which can be profoundly alive even when the body is ailing. And similarly, if the soul of a feast is in place, a great festivity can be had even with a minimum of externals. Christmas celebrations through history make this apparent….