The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Health & Family

December 6, 2012

Sarah Coyne: These holiday books make great reading traditions

JOPLIN, Mo. — Many of us love settling in with our families to read beautiful holiday books that have become cornerstones in our Christmas traditions. You probably know most of the words to the iconic "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," and it's very likely that you've been inundated by readings of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

But what should you read if your family is searching for new favorites this year? Here are some fantastic Christmas books to see your family through the coming weeks of anticipation.

"Bear Stays Up for Christmas" by Karma Wilson. If you're looking for rhyming cadences and catchy phrases, Bear will be perfect.

He's sleepy and ready for hibernation, but his forest friends promise to keep him busy. He follows their instructions for a winter celebration, and ends up sleepily surrounded by friendship on the perfect Christmas morning. This one is a favorite with preschoolers and simple enough for beginning readers, but sweet for all ages.

"Santa Claus" by Rod Green. Reading more like a National Geographic documentary, Santa Claus gives us a behind-the-scenes look at everything we've ever wanted to know about St. Nick, his home at the North Pole, the reindeer, the elves and more.

"Auntie Claus" by Elise Primavera. For more of an eccentric twist, here's a book about a little girl whose aunt has some very suspicious habits and tastes.

Sophie's aunt seems extra-mysterious and upholds quite an air of magic all year round. While trying to discover her aunt's secret agendas, the demanding Sophie is swept along on an adventure that will not only open her eyes to her aunt's true identity but teach her a thing or two about the heart of Christmas.

"Olive, The Other Reindeer" by J. Otto Siebold. The song can be deceiving for little ears and canine ears alike, it would seem. Olive is a precocious puppy who believes she's the reindeer everyone forgot.

While the rest of us sing "All of the other reindeer," she knows the truth: "Olive, the other reindeer." She sets off on an expedition to do her rightful reindeer duty, resulting in much silliness. You and your kids will laugh at her antics and cheer her on her way.

"The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg. When books become movies, we sometimes forget their humble beginnings. But in the case of "The Polar Express," the beginning isn't humble so much as magical.

The original book's illustrations are vivid and tender, and the story itself invokes hushed tones and awed attention. Read this one with your family if you're hoping to remind them of the magic of Christmas and the power of believing in miracles.

"Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story" by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Sometimes, a Christmas bedtime story just needs to be a nightcap of soft words and beautiful artwork, and "Song" is exactly that.

Following nature's celebration of the infant Jesus's birth, this book lulls and pacifies. The illustrations by Alison Jay are enchanting (also check out her work in "The Nutcracker" -- another Christmas classic) and full of visual gems. Read this one right before falling asleep, and visions of sugarplums will be put to shame.

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