Looking for a light-hearted Christmas story to curl up with over the Christmas season? Kenneth Zemsky’s An Angel’s Noel is a charming Christmas story in the spirit of It’s a Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife. In An Angel’s Noel though, the angel who comes to earth is a sweet 6 and 3/4 year old boy named Tommy. Tommy is on a special mission from St. Michael to find 5 people who are willing to do a good deed before Christmas day.
Remember the True Meaning of Christmas
In our culture of commercialized Christmas craziness, little Tommy’s eyes are the perfect mirror to see just how far we’ve come from remembering the true meaning of Christmas. Tommy, touchingly, wants to go to earth to find 5 people who are willing to do good to “cheer up” God, who is so saddened by people’s forgetfulness and bad actions. At first Tommy has little success, but as he himself tries to help each lost soul he encounters, he starts a chain reaction of goodness that far exceeds his goal. Tommy reminds us all that Christmas is about the Savior’s birth, and what better way to show our love for the newborn king then to honor him by helping others?
A Christmas Story for Adults
Although the main character in An Angels’ Noel is only 6 and 3/4 years old, this story is intended for adults, not children. There’s several references to the clergy abuse scandals which particularly rocked New York, where the story is set. Also, at one point in the story Tommy encounters a prostitute, who propositions him with some rather graphic terms which go over his head. Otherwise, this story is clean and enjoyable Christian fiction.
Christmas Joy for All
In the spirit of the best classic Christmas movies, An Angel’s Noel concludes happily with a little theological twist I for one didn’t see coming! Although this book isn’t strictly academic or theologically rigorous in its approach to angels, heaven, and the immutability of God, I appreciated that the author did sneak in some things to think about when it comes to the happiness of heaven. My favorite idea was the concept that we will be able to hear first hand the adventures and thoughts of our favorite historical figures and saints. How neat is that? I, for one, am looking forward to talking to G. K. Chesterton.
You can purchase An Angel’s Noel through my affiliate link here: An Angel’s Noel
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.
We love this reworking of the beloved Christmas poem. Twas the Evening of Christmas reclaims the traditional Christmas story while keeping the familiar rhythm children love in The Night Before Christmas.
The “Along the paths of the Gospel” series of Saint stories are wonderful for young readers with only a couple sentences per page and beautiful illustrations. They can be hard to find, but Seton Educational media has some for sale right now.
In The Adventures of Loupio, a young boy encounters St. Francis of Assisi and his life is transformed. This simple graphic novel series particularly delights young boys.
The Children of Noisy Village play hard, fight occasionally, and always entertain. These charming tales from beloved Swedish author Astrid Lindgren are sure to be a hit with their short chapters and vivid descriptions of village life.
The five volumes of The Saints Chronicles tell the stories of over 25 saints both ancient and modern in a compelling way. The bold graphic novel art style really captures the attention of 8-12 year olds!
Little Britches and his family’s experiences farming in the rural west a century ago will fascinate today’s children. Complete with round-ups, rodeos, natural disasters, and beautiful scenery, it’s hard to believe these books are autobiographical!
Check out one of my favorite publishers, Bethlehem Books, for an amazing assortment of historical fiction titles for hte middle grades, all wonderful classics. Some notable series on their site include: The Mitchells series, The Bantry Bay Books, The Letzenstein Chronicles,The Drover’s Road Books, and the Fairchild Family series.
Favorite Gift Books for Teens and Tweens
Here’s a saint book modern teens can relate too: one about teens like them! Stories of 8 teenage saints from around the world.
The Shadow of His Wings is Fr. Goldman’s incredible story of his ordination to the priesthood while serving as an unwilling Nazi soldier. Amazing memoir from a great priest, sure to make a deep impact on teens.
For light comedic relief, Wodehouse can’t be beat. The Code of the Woosters is Wodehouse at his best with the hilarious Jeeves-Wooster duo. If you prefer audiobooks, the Jonathan Cecil narrations are spot-on.
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.
Mouth-watering recipes, gorgeous photography, and heart-warming Swiss guard anecdotes come together in a merry and bright Christmas cookbook! The Vatican Christmas Cookbook combines the history of Christmas at the Vatican with David Geisser’s sumptuous recipes in a delectable melding of art, culture, and fine cooking.
Recipes Swiss Guard turned professional Chef
David Geisser’s unique career path from Swiss Guard to professional chef makes him the perfect guide to a Vatican-inspired Christmas. He brings you over 70 special recipes for Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and beyond into the Christmas Season. You won’t want to miss his sections on authentic Swiss Fondue and Italian Christmas cookies! I’m excited to try out the Vaud Fondue, Papalin Fettuccine, and Amaretti recipes.
Catholic History and Culture
Interspersed with the delectable food pictures are superb photographs of Rome, the Swiss Guard, and Roman Catholic artwork from the Eternal City. There are also short stories on notable Christmases at the Vatican with Pope Saint Leo the Great, Pope Gregory, and others. There’s history about the Swiss Guard and anecdotes from Swiss Guards who served under Pope John Paul II.
An Impressive Gift
With its glossy, thick, colorful pages, The Vatican Christmas Cookbook makes a splendid Christmas Gift. Anyone who loves cooking, Catholic culture, or just the Catholic faith in general will appreciate this high-quality book!
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.
Need more book suggestions than you can find here? Here are some other great blogs, lists, and books about books which focus on appropriate reading for Catholic children and teens.
Michael O’Brien’s A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child’s Mind has been integral in forming my views on literature. In the first half, O’Brien discusses the importance of books in forming a child’s imagination and soul. The second half is O’Brien’s lengthy list of recommended reading for Catholic children and teenagers.
Jessica at Shower of Roses Blog is a Catholic blogger who suggests Catholic books for nearly every feast day imaginable! She has her lists divided by month so it’s easy to look for books for upcoming feast days.
I agree with most of the book choices on the Mater Amabilis book lists. Mater Amabilis is a Catholic version of Charlotte Mason, an independent learning program. Both programs value self-paced learning with lots of reading, so have lengthy lists of great book suggestions.
I also like the book suggestions used for each grade of Mother of Divine Grace homeschool’s curriculum. These tend to have more suggestions for history and social studies.
Seton Home Study school has even more extensive lists by grade, though these are hard to find on their website. Your best off searching them online by grade: for example “Seton Fifth Grade Reading List” to find the list for fifth grade.
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Advent is nearly upon us! As we turn our thoughts to preparing for this blessed season, here is a merry miscellany of Christmas books to encourage the true spirit of Christmas in your home. I hope you enjoy reading these beautifully illustrated versions of the Christmas story, stories about popular saints, Advent-calendar style Christmas collections, and stories about the origins of various Christmas symbols and traditions. With a story here for everyone from the very young to those only young at heart, these books are also great to give as gifts!
The Story of Christmas is a simple retelling of the Christmas story which I particularly like because of its emphasis on Jesus’ birthday as the reason for Christmas and a short explanation of why we give gifts at Christmas: “to show our love.”
Picture books for young and old: The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale is a whimsical story about a baker who learns that sometimes a dozen is really 13, thanks to St. Nicholas’ intervention. This book is perfect for reading on St. Nicholas’ Day prior to decorating gingerbread St. Nicholas cookies!
Saint Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins is my favorite version of the true story of St. Nicholas. This book’s iconography is a fitting visual companion to the story’s focus on Nicholas’ desire to be an icon of Christ, imitating his Lord in word and deed.
The Cobweb Curtain: A Christmas Story is a unique Christmas story about a tiny spider who helps save the Christ Child from Herod’s soldiers. The theme of the littlest helping and a fun connection to tinsel make this one worth buying.
The Legend of the Poinsettia is another story to explain a Christmas symbol. This legend offers one explanation of the pointsettia: how little Lucida’s selfless, humble gift of weeds to the Christ Child is miraculously transformed to bright red star flowers.
All for the Newborn Baby is a sweet lullaby sung by the Blessed Virgin to Jesus, describing how all of nature is rejoicing at His coming.
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger is a favorite of mine. This adorable, wee little mouse named Mortimer hears the Christmas story read and decides to give up his bed for the baby Jesus in the family nativity scene.
The Nativity combines the Nativity story from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke with beautiful, illuminated manuscript style illustrations.
Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing uses the story of a little boy who makes his own infant Jesus statue to introduce your child to an Italian tradition in which the Pope offers a special blessing on the third Sunday of advent to all the infant Jesus figures in St. Peter’s Square.
Little Star is the story of how only the humblest, small star can see past the newborn king’s humble surroundings and recognize his kingship.
The Christmas Candle is a fanciful take on what might happen if a candle gave one Christ’s eyes, and made one see each stranger as a loved family member.
Jacob’s Gift is a Max Lucado story about a young carpenter’s apprentice who learns to see Christ in those he meets.
The Christmas Horse and the Three Wise Men is a wonderful imaginative story about three animals, a horse, an elephant, and a camel who must work together using their unique skills to bring the Wise Men to the infant Jesus.
The Donkey’s Dream chronicles the dreams the donkey who carried a pregnant Mary dreamed, while exploring some of Mary’s titles. Beautiful illustrations again!
Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree is a powerful story which stars Saint Boniface smiting down the oak tree the pagans worship, and explains the miraculous origins of the linking of evergreen trees with Christ’s birth.
Lucia, Saint of Light is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the legend of Saint Lucia and how her feast is celebrated in Sweden.
Apple Tree Christmas is a charming story about a family who lives above a barn and practices the true spirit of Christmas.
Stations of the Nativity is a series of meditations on fourteen events leading up to the birth of Christ. Complete with reflections and prayers, this can be prayed similar to the Stations of the Cross.
The Trees Kneel at Christmas is a beautiful, humorous story of two Lebanese immigrant children who hope to see the miracle of the trees kneeling that their Grandmother told them happened in Lebanon.
Destination: Bethlehem is an advent book with twenty four chapters, one to read each evening in December, as you accompany the characters through Palestine on a journey to Bethlehem, meeting many Bible characters along the way. Perfect for a family read-aloud!
The Story Of The Other Wise Man is for an older reader. This beloved story by Henry Van Dyke is about a fourth wise man who never does get to see baby Jesus, but instead beautifully illustrates the Bible message of seeing and serving Christ in those one meets on one’s journey.
24 Christmas Stories to Welcome Jesus is, as the name implies, a story a day until Christmas collection. The stories range from the various gospel accounts of the Nativity to Christmas stories and traditions from around the world.
Kersti and Saint Nicholas is by Hilda Van Stockum, one of my very favorite children’s authors, and therefore simply a joy to read. Four-year-old Kersti knows she falls into the naughty category, but her appeal to the good bishop on behalf of all the little ones who struggle to be good is a wonderful illustration of mercy versus strict judgment.
The Gift of the Magi is a famous O. Henry short story about sacrifice, true love, and the true meaning of Christmas.