An Advent Calendar — in Books

Elizabeth Bluemle -- November 21st, 2012

A longtime friend and customer brought one of her friends to the store for the first time today. There’s almost nothing more heartening than hearing our loyal Flying Pig folk introduce the bookstore to their friends and family. They say the nicest things about how our small business has been part of their lives, and their enthusiasm and appreciation sends a glow through us that last through long hours. Our sense of being part of the fabric of our community is strongest at these moments. Meeting new people at the store has benefits far beyond just the potential to forge a new relationship with a happy customer; often, we learn about new authors and pick up great ideas. Today’s serendipitous encounter was with Allison, whose preschool-aged son loves books. She was in, she said, looking for some holiday books to add to their under-tree Advent calendar.

“Your…?” I said.

She laughed. “We’re doing a book every night for the 24 nights of December. They’ll be wrapped under the tree, and our son can choose whatever package he’d like that night, and we’ll read it to him before bed.”

I love this idea! A book Advent calendar! Brilliant!! Admittedly, this is a plan that could get expensive, and Allison did confide that what gave her the idea originally was a book club flyer from her son’s preschool that offered 10 books for $14.95. She’s buying the rest of the 14 books at local bookstores. That’s a compromise I can understand.

This is an idea that could also work for the eight days of Hanukkah, and the seven days of Kwanzaa. Of course, book fanatics like me would enjoy the book-a-day-all-year-round plan, but that’s neither practical nor possible (which is why we own bookstores), so this could be a good compromise.

I’ve had fun thinking of what books I might choose for my 24-day book Advent calendar, if they were all books with a strong Christmas theme. Many of mine are long-held loves, some from childhood, others from more recent days. This list is a little fluid; I’m sure I’ve forgotten some beloved favorites. But for now, here’s my Advent-calendar 24-book round-up:

The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, A Christmas Miracle by Peter Collington, Eloise at Christmastime by Kay Thompson, The Tree of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco, Christmas Crocodile by Bonny Becker, A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (the version illustrated by Susan Jeffers has a Christmas surprise), The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Night Tree by Eve Bunting, Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry, Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, The Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell, Santa Claus: The World’s Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell (my very first childhood Christmas favorite), The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, The Night Before Christmas Pop-Up by Robert Sabuda, Christmas with Ida Early by Robert Burch, and Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (hey, I don’t have kids, and this is my personal advent calendar, so the Macy’s elf story makes the tree!).

What Christmas books would be must-reads on your Advent calendar list?

12 thoughts on “An Advent Calendar — in Books

  1. Kathy

    THE WITNESS , I believe by Robert Westall. It’s about a pregnant cat that wanders into a stable and witnesses another mother with a new baby. Old, but nice.

  2. Alison

    Unfortunately out of print – The Trees Kneel at Christmas by Maud Hart Lovelace.
    @Ellie Miller – there are a number of Temple Bailey’s books available for free at Project Gutenberg though not unfortunately the one you mention (The Holly hedge…) I see that the copyright date for HH is 1925 which puts it still out of public domain.

  3. Kathy

    A great idea, but I would include an old favorite I used to read to my sons – sadly now no longer in print -
    The Christmas Spirit Strikes Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos. I think you always have to include some humorous books in such a list. Boys need to know that it’s ok to think about being bad – you can still get the Christmas message in the end.

  4. Suzette Ciancio

    Elizabeth,
    I SO love that you started your list w/ Rumer Godden. I only discovered “The Story of Holly and Ivy” a number of years ago in one of the bookstores I called on – happy discovery for me! I will ponder & then before next December buy books for my newest niece for a Book advent calendar.
    I would add “The Littlest Angel” & “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. My copies, one from childhood & one as a secret Santa gift from college, go on display every year at Christmas. Also, it’s not a book but conveys what I consider the true spirit of Christmas – a video/DVD of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.
    Blessings on you, Josie & Flying Pig Bookstore & staff!

  5. Ellie Miller

    An old OLD favorite by a romance writer…no bodices ripped – no buckles swashed…whom I’m rather sure no one reading this except myself will remember. Not in the Mary Roberts Rinehardt ball park, but she really was both prolithic and I guess sold well enough at the time to keep being published. Her name was Temple Bailey. She started writing just prior to WW I and continued up to WW II. I have (either in my great-grandmother’s(!) or grandmother/mother’s editions or purchased used myself to fill the set) almost all of her novels, and I love and reread them periodically. “The Holly Hedge and Others” was not a novel, rather a collection of novellas ALL with Christmas themes. BEAUTIFUL!

  6. Joan weed

    There is one whose title escapes me but something like a Winter Gift about a horse who is out in the snow and surprise! pregnant. Any of Tasha Tudor’s beautifully illustrated books about Christmas. I love this book idea and next year I’ll plan early for Hannakuh for our Chicago grands.

  7. Melissa Kim

    Love this idea!
    A classic, “My Wonderful Christmas Tree,” by Dahlov Ipcar is a wonderful book all about animals in winter, 12 days of different animals to look for; and a new one celebrates the thrills of an outdoor adventure, “The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever” by Rebecca Rule, ill. Jennifer Thermes.

  8. Ellen Scott

    It’s not specifically Christmas but winter!! Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser is my favorite read this time of year and must be included in my list.

  9. Holly Ruck

    Love, love, LOVE this idea and plan on stealing it for holiday gifts. If customers (or booksellers!) want to carry the idea through the whole year, use Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac (9781596437081)! I’m adoring my copy and marking it up the same way I mark my precious copies of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and Shelf Discovery. I know that’s shameless Macmillan promotion, but I couldn’t help it…what’s better than a children’s book every single day?! :)

  10. SHM

    We, too, have had a book advent at our house going for several years, although ours has involved a growing collection for years that the child has picked off the “Christmas shelf”- now too many for one a night, so there are favorites. We light a countdown advent candle, read and story and sing carols until the candle burns to it’s mark. It gives great family time at the end of a day and it forces some calm into an otherwise hectic season. Love the tradition.

    Many of our favorites are on your list as well, but these would be additions.
    Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki – Santa tells forest creatures the Nativity story.
    This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar – a nativity story in cumulative rhyme
    Christmas! by Peter Speir – only pictures of one family’s Christmas celebrations
    Tale of Three Trees by Angela Hunt – good for Easter and Christmas
    Santa Calls by William Joyce – fantastic illustrations and a wonderful story
    The Candymakers Gift by Helen Haidle – the legend of the candy cane
    The Nativity by Julie Vivas – the softest illustrations ever and uses Luke 2 text, such wonder on Joseph’s face with such exhausted pride on Mary’s as they gaze at Jesus – my all time favorite ever.

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