Wonders and miracles
Classic Christmas read-alouds
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The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree Gloria Houston
Every year in a small Appalachian town, one family takes a turn choosing a Christmas tree for the village church. In the springtime, Ruthie and her father locate the perfect balsam tree. When Papa gets called away to war, Ruthie and Mama must make the trek to retrieve the Christmas tree alone. The tree and Ruthie’s role as an angel in the church play lead to unforgettable surprises and a new community tradition. Houston’s hopeful and resourceful characters and illustrator Barbara Cooney’s acrylic paintings create a story children will enjoy rereading year after year. (Ages 5-8)
Christmas in the Trenches John McCutcheon
A grandfather recounts to his two grandchildren one Christmas Eve he spent in the trenches during World War I. The soldiers heard Germans singing a Christmas carol and soon both sides joined together singing “Silent Night.” Two opposing encampments came together to celebrate Christmas: “We were no longer soldiers, no longer enemies. We were all just sons and fathers far away from our families and loved ones.” McCutcheon’s fictional retelling of the 1914 Christmas truce offers beautiful illustrations by Henri Sorensen and includes a historical note with eyewitness accounts. (Ages 6-9)
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey Susan Wojciechowski
Jonathan Toomey, an expert woodcarver, seldom smiled and never laughed, earning him the title “Mr. Gloomy” among village children. They did not know the reason for his sadness: the loss of his wife and baby. A widow and her son, Thomas, seek Toomey’s help with a wooden Nativity set. As Toomey works, Thomas teaches him about each character in the Biblical story. Toomey’s heart begins to soften and heal. Illustrator P.J. Lynch captures the richness of this poignant story. Readers will see how the meaning of Christmas brings joy and hope. (Ages 6-9)
The Angel of Mill Street Frances Ward Weller
Frances waits anxiously for Uncle Ambrose to arrive on a snowy Christmas Eve. His songs, stories, and fiddle playing always bring life and joy to the holiday festivities. But as the storm worsens, Frances worries about Uncle Ambrose traveling on foot with a crippled leg. Vivid illustrations reveal his difficult journey and a big dog leading him to safety. The dog mysteriously disappears, and Uncle Ambrose speculates it was his guardian angel, posing the question that if angels appeared in Bethlehem, “why not here on Mill Street?” (Ages 5-9)
Champ Thornton’s new advent devotional Wonders of His Love (New Growth Press, 2021) can help families with young children cultivate expectant waiting in the days leading up to Christmas. Through five chapters, Thornton introduces children to the prophet Isaiah’s foretelling of the coming Messiah. Each week provides five short devotionals, including daily Scripture, reflections, and discussion questions focused on the wonders of Jesus. The weeks conclude with a Christmas carol, family activities, and an ornament cutout.
Ed Drew’s The Adventure of Christmas (The Good Book Company, 2021) is an advent devotional with 25 short lessons intended to serve as a guide for families going through the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth. Each entry includes questions broken down by age. The book offers optional activities, such as a calendar with key words and icons that children could color. Drew’s framework will help parents engage children of various ages in focused Bible reading as they prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth. —M.J.