a book advent calendar, continued.

December 11, 2018

This is the second year that I’ve taken to wrapping up books we own and books we’ve borrowed and setting them on a shelf to open one by one through the month of December. An advent calendar, for book lovers. I have mixed feelings about the new tradition, to be honest. I’m impatient, for one thing. And fickle. I can’t remember where in the pile The Polar Express sits unopened and there have been certain nights when I’m in the mood to read one particular story or another, never mind the number on the outside of the parcel. (Yes, I’ve already done my share of rejiggering the order of appearances.)

Whether or not you’re in the midst of counting down days to Christmas one book at a time, here are a few additions we’ve made to our wintry and Christmassy reading list this year.

Like last year, I’ve included a range of secular wintry titles alongside others that are decidedly more biblical. As always, I’ve searched for books that feature predominately characters of color, and that have been written and illustrated by folks of color, too. Faye’s taken a particular liking to the story of nativity this year and so I’ve been especially intent on finding diverse renderings of that story in particular. Ashley Bryan’s Who Built the Stable is our current favorite alongside Synthia Saint James’s color-blocked illustrations of a black baby Jesus (and family) in Hallelujah: A Christmas Celebration. For a bit of child-bearing realism, the very pregnant Mary in Julie Viva’s The Nativity is truly not to be missed. And I’ve just placed an order at a local shop for a copy of Lara Hawthorne’s brand-new and beautiful Silent Night. Those and lots more below—and this way, too. If you have other favorites to share, please do! 

+ BEAR AND WOLF, words and pictures by Dan Salmieri


+ FIRST SNOW, words and pictures by Bomi park

+ HALLELUJAH: A CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrations by Synthia Saint James

+ I GOT THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, words by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrations by Frank Morrison

INTO THE SNOW, words by Yuki Kaneko, illustrations by Masamitsu Saito

+ MICE SKATING, words by Annie Silvestro, illustrations by Teagan White

+ ONCE UPON A SNOWSTORM by Richard Johnson

+ OSKAR AND THE EIGHT BLESSINGS words by Tanya Simon and Richard Simon, illustrations by Mark Siegel

+ RED AND LULU, words and pictures by Matt Tavares

+ SILENT NIGHT, illustrated by Lara Hawthorne

+ THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL words by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrations by Jerry Pinkney

+ THE LITTLE REINDEER, words and pictures by Nicola Killen

+ THE NATIVITY, words and pictures by Julie Vivas

For the curious:

The paper tape labels I used on the books are from Appointed

The wrinkly wrapping paper was salvaged from packing materials. 

Most of the books on this list are ones we’ve been able to find at our local library, but when we buy books, we love to support our local bookstores—Stories BookshopBooks Are MagicGreenlight Bookstore, and Community Bookstore, to name a few. I’ve provided links below to where you can find these titles online or in your own neighborhood bookstores. 

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links. 

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  • Reply Emily December 11, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    I chuckled to recognize your wrinkly wrapping paper – all the brown paper things are packages with drives me nuts. I’ve spent tons of time refolding that paper and storing it for…future nebulous art projects? Who knows what? I’ve started calling it “guilt paper.”

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 11, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      I love this stuff! Such a better alternative to those plastic jet packs or peanuts or anything else, plus it’s perforated so I could wrap all of these books without pulling out scissors!

      • Reply Shannon December 11, 2018 at 3:00 pm

        YES! I’ve been saving paper packaging for a month or two to wrap all our gifts this season, and those perforations made the late-night task of finally wrapping the seasonal books up so much more bearable than I remember it being in prior years

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 11, 2018 at 3:19 pm

          Totally! Such a satisfying rrrrip!

  • Reply Christie December 11, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    For those with young children, Gerda Muller’s Winter is a new favorite in our house. Our 14 month old won’t put it down, and I’ve actually “read” it to my oldest who is almost 8.

    • Reply Nicole December 12, 2018 at 9:46 am

      We love Gerda Muller’s books too, with and without words…it’s wonderful how the seasons series still has appeal with older kids. Such gentle illustrations!

  • Reply Katie December 11, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    We love so many of the books on this list (and your previous list)! We also have the following in our advent book basket: Snow on Snow on Snow (words by Cheryl Chapman, paintings by Synthia Saint James), My Wonderful Christmas Tree (Dahlov Ipcar), Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (text by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers), and The Birds of Bethlehem (Tomi dePaola). I had planned to wrap books per your idea last year, but I never got around to it and I do like having the freedom to read any of them at any time. But perhaps we’ll attempt the wrap-and-read next year! Thank you for these excellent reading suggestions.

  • Reply Stephanie December 11, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Chirri and Chirra 4-evah (did you know they have a new one coming out in the spring, all about adventures underground? Can’t wait!)

    We love Dahlov Ipcar’s My Wonderful Christmas Tree, Russell Hoban’s The Mole Family Christmas (about a mole who builds an observatory to see the stars; it features delightfully laconic mice), The Christmas Forest by Louise Fatio (with pictures by Roger Duvoisin), Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman and Father Christmas (the later has a charmingly grumpy Santa), and Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed (it is a short chapter book about winter memories of ice skating in Maine, but my three-and-a-half-year-old will listen to the whole thing in one sitting).

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 11, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      Yes, yes, yes!

  • Reply Jess December 11, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    I do something similar but I reuse the same box each time so I can select right before which book to put in it from my “hidden” pile. That way I can pick selectively each day what I want :). I also am not organized to pre-wrap all the books :).

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 11, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      NOTED! (Love this.)

  • Reply Laura December 11, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    I just came across Julie Viva’ s book yesterday!

    I work at a small, rural library and I really have appreciated your suggestions in posts like this. We are in the process of adding many of your suggestions to our children’s collection. Thank you!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 11, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      So so glad!

  • Reply Taylor Norris December 11, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    I found The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats (of snowy day fame of course) and it’s so beautiful!

  • Reply Meghan December 11, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing this list. Collecting winter and Christmas books to check out from our library has been on my list for longer than I care to admit. We always love your book recommendations.

  • Reply cathy December 11, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    OK, I admit my “baby” is now 16, but we always loved The Hat and The Mitten by Jan Brett. Her illustrations are always so lovely! Also good (with parental supervision) is Winter’s Tale, a gorgeous pop-up book by Robert Sabuda. I’d also include virtually any of the Beatrix Potter books (especially in the tiny versions), especially The Tailor of Gloucester around Christmas time. Because who doesn’t like mice who sew perfect, tiny stitches?

  • Reply K. December 12, 2018 at 2:22 am

    For a diverse Christmas book list, I would add The Farolitos of Christmas by Rudolfo Anaya, illustrated by Edward Gonzales. I went to school with Anaya’s granddaughter and he came and read the story to us one year. Of course, if you can also visit northern New Mexico at Christmastime to see traditional farolitos/luminarias decorating the houses, even better! It’s about a little girl whose grandfather is too sick to build the traditional bonfires for the Christmas procession. She has the wonderful idea to make little fires by putting candles in paper bags with some sand and saves the day.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 12, 2018 at 6:55 am

      Lovely! Thank you!

  • Reply Debra December 12, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Just wanted to say that Faye is so adorable.

  • Reply christina December 12, 2018 at 10:39 am

    I would suggest Elsa Besko. Her books are wonderfully beautiful. Ollies ski trip is one and there are many others.

  • Reply Grace December 12, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Another sweet, out-of-print book is Karen Gundersheimer’s Happy Winter, about the snow-day activities of two sisters. As a sister myself and as the mom of two girls, I can’t help but be charmed by it!

    • Reply Grace December 13, 2018 at 12:58 am

      Ooh, one more! I LOVE Becca Stadtlander’s illustrations in Sleep Tight Farm.

  • Reply Holly December 12, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    I LOVE the book, The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson. The first time I read it, I got the warm fuzzies all over from the accurately brown faces. The paintings in this book are ah.may.zing! I think you and your beautiful daughter would love it, also. Thank you for your thoughtful book list!

  • Reply marie December 17, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    Today we found a favourit in the package: le lion et l’oiseau. One of the wrapped ones I really missed these past two weeks ! It is simply beautiful. Quiet and charming and beautiful. (Oh and I really think it is so perfect in French. In case you look into it, try to get a French copy !)

  • Reply McKenzie Allyshia December 30, 2018 at 1:43 am

    This is such an adorable idea! Although I can see why you may want to switch around the order. I can easily see myself doing that same thing — wondering which book is which because I am in the mood for reading a certain one. I may have to stock up on sweet Christmas books over this coming year so that I can do this.

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