Have you ever wondered what happened to the shepherds who were the Holy Infant’s first visitors? Did they go home and forget about him? Or were their lives forever altered by encounering Jesus? Patrick O’Hearn and Michael Corsini explore what might have happened to one shephered boy in The Shepherd at the Crib and the Cross.
Nissim is a poor shepherd boy who lives near Bethlehem. He loves to hear his father recite the Messianic prophecies from the prophet Micah. So when an angel appears to tell the shepherds the Messiah has come, Nissim knows what’s happening! He rushes to Bethlehem and lingers after the other shepherds to bask in Jesus’ love. He wishes to give a gift to the Christ Child but misses the moment.
Later, as an adult, Nissim encounters Jesus again in Jerusalem. He realizes he has another opportunity to show his love and give something to his Savior.
Also check out Beloved Son, another great Christmas present option just released this winter. The latest addition to Maura McKeegan’s fantastic Old and New Series which explores typology. Beloved Son connects Joseph and Jesus in ways that will surprise even adults! Buy it through the publisher or through my affiliate link: Beloved Son
Disclaimer: I received copies of “Beloved Son” and “The Shepherd at the Crib and the Cross” from Emmaus Road Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
Give someone you love the gift of getting lost in a good story this Christmas!
What’s better than a book for Christmas? It doesn’t take up much space, is easy to mail, and gives the gift of an experience without leaving the comfort of your home! Find picture books, chapter books, picks for teens, and even the adult who won’t read on your list here this year!
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you buy through my link I recieve a small fee at no additional cost to you.
Beautiful picture books to treasure
Swedish author Elsa Beskow’s beautifully illustrated picture books are favorites at our house. In Peter’s Old House, a community comes together to help renovate an old neighbor’s house.
Or if you’re looking for a classic fairy tale gift, Beskow’s rendition of Thumbelina may be the perfect fit.
Classic Picture Books that no one knows about
Flicka, Dicka, and Ricka are three sisters who always dress the same. In Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Bake a Cake, they learn how to make the perfect cake for their mothers’ birthday. This vintage series of charming stories about three sisters is over 100 years old, but back in print in collectible hardcover editions at a reasonable price! Only $10 a book!
Have little boys? No worries, there’s a brother series about three little boys named Snipp, Snapp, Snurr that is equally charming! (Note that these are only available in paperback that I could find).
For the Little Girl in Your Life
Have a 3-6 year old girl in your life? She’s sure to love The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook. These simple and sweet stories about a little girl’s small everyday village adventures will charm you. Plenty of illustrations and short chapters help hold interest making this a great first chapter book.
For the small boy with the heart for big adventure
Tall tales are always a hit with the 4-6 year old boy crowd. Try Steven Kellog’s renditions of Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink, and Pecos Bill with their detailed illustrations.
Or for a really unique and neat gift, give this little-known classic story from Virginia Lee Burton: Calico the Wonder Horse: Christmas Gift Edition. Calico is a smart ranch horse who saves the day when Stewy Stinker and his Bad Men come to town to try to steal Christmas.
For the elementary schoolers in your life
This interactive edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandand Through the Looking Glass is amazingly detailed! Tons of illustrations and even movable elements. Watch the Cheshire Cat appear and disappear, help Alice get bigger and smaller, and more. Hardcover quality edition at a very good price!
Or for the adventurous child, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful hardcover illustrated edition of The Hobbit. Again, quality illustrations, paper quality, and binding make this a great gift edition of a beloved classic.
For your godchild, niece or nephew, or child who loves audiobooks
My kids will listen to Glory Stories on repeat if I let them! These full cast productions bring the saint to life in a vivid and memorable way. There’s a nice variety of Saint Stories to choose from, ancient to modern. My kids’ current favorite is the newly released story of Blessed Carlo Acutis, available from publisher Holy Heroes.
The book that every teen should read
Even middle schoolers can understand the message in Animal Farm, George Orwell’s classic dystopian allegory about the dangers of Communism.
For the teen who enjoys historical fiction
I really enjoyed Sword and Serpent, the first in a Catholic historical fiction series which imagines the lives of St. George, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Nicholas, St. Blaise, and other early saints.
For the teen who loves fantasy and fairy tales
Shannon Hale’s rendition of the fairy tale The Goose Girl is masterfully done! A little romance, a lot of adventure, and great themes about friendship and courage make this a great teen novel.
What about Andy Serkis’s amazing new performance of the Lord of the Rings? An unabridged reading by the man who voiced Gollum- what could be better!? Audio Books still count as books!
For the adult story lover on your list
Reading Piranesi was a highlight in my 2021 Literary Adventures. This thought-provoking story inspired by The Magician’s Nephew brings together mystery, art, philosophy, and suspense into a unique and gripping plot. My full Review of “Piranesi” is up on the blog.
For the adult who loves the classics and beautiful editions
Check out the beautiful editions at The Folio Society! Most book lovers would drool over these gorgeous illustrated copies of favorites like Around the World in 80 Days, Austen’s books, the Bronte classics, or The Wind in the Willows.
For that person who likes looooonnnngggg (and amazing!) books
I’ve read pretty much everything Michael O’Brien has written. The Island of the World is my favorite. So if you need a tome for someone like me who thinks 1000+ pages is a positive, then you’ve found the perfect reflection on art, love, and the power of suffering.
For the Mystery Lover
For those who love classic mysteries but have read all the greats like Sayers and Christie and Allingham, Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a contemporary mystery in the classic tradition. Full review up on the blog here.
For the adult who loves historical fiction
A Gentleman in Moscow is one of those books that draws you right back into a particular time period and way of life. Aristocrat Alexi is sentenced to lifelong house arrest in the attic of the Grand Hotel in Moscow as the Communists take over Russia. How does the last Gentleman remaining in Moscow maintain sanity, find community, and even thrive over the next decades?
For more ideas, check out my 2020 Christmas book guide!
In the spirit of the Year of St. Joseph, here’s a new Christmas story for your family about Joseph’s Donkey.
From the author and illustrator that brought us the beautiful and bestselling Our Lady’s Wardrobe and Our Lady’s Picture Book, here’s a brand new book to put under your Christmas tree this year!
Joseph’s Donkey is a gorgeously illustrated story about the gentle earthly father of Jesus and his equally quiet and noble helper. See the events of the Holy Family’s journey to Bethlehem, the Christ Child’s childhood, Egypt and back again, and the quiet years at Nazareth through the eyes of this gentle donkey.
Little children will love the detailed depictions of the Holy Family’s life and affection for one another.
The gentle, rhythmic poem captures the spirit of these years of peace and harmony. Sometimes we forget the decades of silence before Jesus began his public ministry!
Animal loving children will also love the pictures of a young Jesus with his donkey.
Death and New Life
The story concludes with the death of the donkey at an advanced age. I’ve noticed a theme in Anthony DeStefano’s books: he wants children to experience death as an opening of the eyes to a richer, brighter new life. Like the Seed in The Seed Who was Afraid to Be Planted, Joseph’s donkey falls asleep to wake to a more beautiful world than he had ever imagined.
If you love St. Joseph, you’ll enjoy this lovely and luminous book!
In this fanciful new Christmas story, author Gracie Jagla comes up with an imaginative solution. All the saints of heaven work together to save Christmas by delivering gifts to their homelands! From Saint Joan of Arc on her horse to Saint John Paul II on his skis, each saint finds a way to bring gifts to their country’s children.
The Nights the Saints Saved Christmas is a beautifully illustrated celebration of the Communion of Saints and the true meaning of Christmas.
Your little ones will learn a bit about some great Saints in this gently rhyming story. Short text and detailed illustrations combine to make this the perfect Christmas story for the 2-6 year old crowd!
Parents will appreciate the focus on giving versus receiving. There’s also a tie in to the true meaning of Christmas being adoring the Christ Child versus the presents.
Who is Santa Claus?
I loved how The Night the Saints Saved Christmas affirms Sant Claus’s sainthood! As you may know, “Santa Claus” comes from the Dutch for St. Nicholas. This book acknowledges the popular western custom of attributing Christmas gifts to St. Nicholas without undermining the true meaning of Christmas.
Whether you “do” Santa Claus or not, your kids will enjoy this whimsical story about the saints working together to help the children of earth. See if you can spot some of your favorite saints; my kids were excited to see Pier Giorgio Frassati and the Fatima children!
I was super excited to get an advance look at Anthony DeStefano’s newest book, The Beggar and the Bluebird. This new book for Christmas 2021 is a truly beautiful story about sacrifice, charity, and the true meaning of gift giving.
Did you know that bluebirds traditionally have symbolized beauty, joy, and messages from God? In this story, a bluebird is about to fly south for the winter when a ragged beggar asks for help delivering a gift. The bluebird finds itself helping the poorest of the poor, the sick, and the hopeless.
The little bluebird literally gives until it hurts! It ends up dying in the snow from cold and weariness. Then, a miracle occurs, and the bluebird finds itself the one receiving a wonderful gift.
A Christmas Fairy Tale
The Beggar and the Bluebird is a fairy tale which pushes the reader to look beneath the surface, to see beyond the beggar’s rags. It’s a story about the true meaning of Christmas: to give not to get. Hopefully, children will be moved to think about Christmas giving in a more other-focused way.
It’s also a story about trusting in God’s plans. The bluebird judges that it needs to fly south right away for its own protection. But when it opens itself up to helping others, allows a heavenly plan to unfold, it finds more happiness than it imagined possible. In many ways, this story’s themes reminded me of another DeStefano story I loved, The Seed Who Was Afraid to Be Planted.
Another book for the Christmas Collection
This latest Anthony DeStefano book definitely deserves a place in your Christmas book collection!
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
One icy cold night, an innkeeper’s daughter awakens angry at her discomfort and poverty. But then, she remembers someone who must be even colder than she is: a tiny newborn baby in the family stable. Moved by pity for the young family in the drafty stable, the girl decides to bring them light to make a fire. But when she meets the infant Jesus, her own heart fills with fire and her life is changed forever.
A Wonderful Picture Book for the Family Collection
This lovely new Christmas story would make a perfect edition to your family Christmas Book Collection! I loved the evocative descriptions of the textures, sounds, and feelings the girl experiences. Author Claudia Cangilla McAdam really brings a cold night in Bethlehem to life for readers. I also loved the light symbolism throughout.
The best part of the story is the transformation from anger to joy that the young girl experiences after encountering the Christ Child. This book illustrates that when we reach out to help others, we find unexpected happiness ourselves. In serving a stranger, the girl unknowingly serves Christ. This is a powerful message that will stick in children’s minds long after they’re grown up.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”
Releasing for Christmas 2021
This book is available to order in time for Christmas 2021. It looks perfect for a St. Nicholas Day gift or Christmas present. I’ll be wrapping my copy to surprise my kids in our annual Christmas Book Advent Calendar tradition! They unwrap a book a day until Christmas. Some our old favorites and others are new surprises. Stay tuned over the next month as I check out some of the other exciting new Christmas books Catholic publishers are releasing this year!
You can see a full preview of “The Christmas Light” on the publisher website: Sophia Institute Press.
In The Spider Who Saved Christmas, Raymond Arroyo brings a popular Eastern European Christmas legend to life. This gorgeous book tells the story of the Golden Orb Weaver spider who protected the Christ child.
An Unusual Christmas Ornament
In Poland and Ukraine, spider ornaments are commonly placed on Christmas trees. According to a legend little-known in America, a spider made a web to camouflage the cave where the Holy Family hid while fleeing Herod’ slaughter of the innocents. While the Holy Family slept, the spider spun a web across the opening of the cave which saved the Christ child’s life.
Beautiful Illustrations for a Beautiful Story
My favorite part of this book is Rand Gallegos’ luminous illustrations! The light seems to emanate from the Christ Child’s peaceful face in a way that fascinated my children and charmed me. To scroll through a full preview of these amazing pictures, check out the sales page from publisher Sophia Press.
Not for the Littlest Ones
This is a beautiful and unique Christmas picture book which older kids will enjoy, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the littlest children. My 3 year old (who’s a bit sensitive) was upset by the references to Herod slaughtering the innocent baby boys. The actual slaughtering isn’t described, of course, but there are descriptions of the wails and shrieks of dying babies, which may be upsetting to very young or sensitive children.
Great Present for 5-7 year olds
This beautiful book makes a great St. Nicholas Day or Christmas present for Catholic children 5+. Even your non-Catholic friends will enjoy this unique Christmas legend! We’ll be adding it to our Christmas book basket books this Advent.
Catholic blogger and homeschooling mother Kendra Tierney is an expert at making Liturgical living accessible and fun for Catholic families. Following up on her popular Catholic All YearCompendium, Kendra and Emmaus Road Publishing are releasing an exciting new Advent book this Christmas season: O Come, Emmanuel.
Gather ’round the Jesse Tree
What better way to prepare for the birth of Christ than through tracing Salvation history with the Jesse Tree? Whether you’re new to this Catholic practice or your Christmas bin is already full of handcrafted ornaments, you’ll find something to enrich your Advent in O Come, Emmanuel.
For each day of Advent, Kendra gives you a Bible reading, a short reflection, and a prayer to pray as a family. Each day’s reading and meditations pair with the Jesse Tree ornament for the day. My little ones love taking turns hanging the ornament of the day on the tree as we read the Scripture reading.
Symbols of Faith
Grow in your faith as a family as you remember God’s faithfulness from generation to generation. Learn what each Jesse Tree symbol has to teach about God’s promises and growing relationship with mankind. For example, Kendra explains some of the levels of meaning in Jacob’s ladder:
Available in time for Advent 2020
O Come, Emmanuel is available in time for Advent through Emmaus Road Publishing. Order now and you’ll even get a special bonus: a FREE download printable of all the Jesse Tree ornaments so your children can color an ornament each day as you read the meditation.
Just in time for Christmas shopping, here’s an original new Christmas story from Anthony DeStefano and Sophia Institute Press. In The Grumpy Old Ox, a blind and curmudgeonly ox lives with an equally crabby innkeeper in Bethlehem. When the innkeeper grudgingly allows a man and his pregnant wife to sleep in his stable, the ox encounters the miracle of Christ’s birth. His life will never be the same.
A Unique Theme
The Grumpy Old Ox is a simple rhythmic story on the surface, but as is typical for DeStefano’s books, there’s a profound theme lurking beneath the surface. The grumpy ox’s blindness is a physical symbol of his spiritual pride and selfishness: a form of spiritual blindness. When the ox opens his soul to welcome the Christ Child with simple gifts, his spiritual and physical blindness are healed. With this story for children, DeStefano foreshadows the many examples in Jesus’ life where pride and blindness intersect to prevent people from recognizing him as the Messiah. But in this hopeful story, the grumpy ox has a change of heart and is healed.
One for the Christmas Basket
If you’re like me, you love collecting special books for the Advent and Christmas Season. I wrap all our Christmas books into bundles and my children take turns opening one a day until Christmas. I’m excited to add this new book to our basket this Advent. I know my kids will love the bright illustrations and rhythmic story!
Advent is almost here, and I’m preparing by getting our 2019 Christmas books wrapped and organized for our book-a-day Christmas countdown! This year, one of the new books we’ll be unwrapping is Thomas William’s recently published book The First Christmas. Williams’ charming poem is accompanied by vibrant, unique illustrations by Frank Fraser. Together, poem and illustrations make this a perfect addition to any Catholic family’s Christmas collection!
Illustrations that tell a story
My children were captivated by the illustrator’s fascinating juxtaposition of different styles to emphasize the story. On the one hand, there are the exaggerated, almost cartoonlike, depictions of the bored townsfolk and wealthy men who don’t notice, or don’t care, that the Messiah is born. On the other, there are the serenely beautiful and luminous pictures of the Holy Family, angels, shepherds, kings, and little children who recognize their Savior. This contrast in artistic style really forces the reader to reflect on Jesus being born into a world which largely didn’t recognize Him.
The Theology major in me loved the Biblical references interwoven into the poem. Williams explains how the coming of the Messiah is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah and Hosea. There are also New Testament quotes and paraphrasing from Luke.
Little Children Leading the Way
Throughout the book, if you look closely you’ll notice that it is the children who recognize and welcome Jesus most readily. Young readers will love imagining themselves as the girl who cheerfully waved to Mary as she traveled to Bethlehem, or the shepherd boy who smiles at the angel as the older shepherds stare in fear and awe. The First Christmas really does a stellar job trying to draw young readers into the story of Jesus’ coming.
A Wonderful Explanation of the True Meaning of Christmas
Overall, this is a beautiful book that does a noteworthy job of explaining the true meaning of Christmas. With its lyrical verses, this poem is a great alternative Christmas poem to replace or complement the secular poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. With its focus on the true Christmas story, this picture book is really a great gift or addition to any Christmas collection.