The darkness fills the corners more and more as we lean towards the solstice. The short days, early dusk, and long nights give ample opportunity for reading a good wintertime tale. Stories, in fact, have shaped the way we celebrate this season. Here is an interesting article about it.
How sweet and cozy it is to snuggle up with loved ones, a cup of peppermint tea in hand, and a good book read out loud!
My favorite part is that enjoying a good book doesn’t have to cost anything. The local library is a great place to look for lovely winter stories and won’t cost a penny. If you have a computer with internet, Project Gutenberg has so many interesting old books available for free.
Otherwise, browse through the books you already have. It doesn’t have to be a Christmas tale to be fun to read! I keep a special section of books on our shelves to get out after Thanksgiving. Getting out the familiar, loved stories which haven’t been read all year is almost like opening presents on Christmas morning. Everyone gasps and holds up favorite books, calling out, “Let’s read this one first!”
Folk and fairy tales from the North, stories about celebrating the season, and old-fashioned tales of Christmas are what we have been enjoying lately. Here are a few of our favorite books from the Christmas shelf:
Kirsten’s Surprise (one of the American Girl series books)
A story about a Midwestern pioneer girl who immigrated from Sweden, and makes her family’s holiday special by celebrating the traditions of St. Lucia.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
This is an especial favorite, very funny and poetic descriptions of annoying the snoozing uncles, and snowball games.
A New Coat For Anna by Harriet Ziefert
Unable to afford a new warm coat after the devastation of WWII, Anna and her mother start at a sheep farm and cleverly trade with skilled neighbors, gathering berries and dyeing the wool themselves to make a beautiful new coat. I love their resourcefulness, and also looking at the labor and skills that go into a garment.
Snowflake Bently by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
A true story of a man who first photographed snowflake patterns – the first person who discovered that snowflakes are unique.
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
Classic story, and a fun adventure.
The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlof
This story was used to teach geography to Swedish school children. It is a diverse and imaginative collection of tales of a bad boy who finds himself suddenly very small and travels around Sweden on the back of a migrating wild goose. Among the adventures, there is an interesting story of a broken-hearted mermaid which became Stockholm, in a very similar theme as the Selkie myths from Ireland.
The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish: Based on a True Story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
The story of an Inuit family who went along with Vilhjalmur Stefansson‘s 1913 expedition to the Arctic to study the plants and people who lived there. The father helped the expedition by providing meat he hunted, the mother made climate-appropriate clothes for everyone, and their two children came along.
One of my favorite things about this book is that it really helps re-frame any sort of hardship we might have. One of the children on the expedition was a 2-year old – I cannot imagine being on an Arctic boat expedition with a 2-year old.
After their ship is broken and sunk by the ice, they walk/climb 100 miles over sea ice to make an igloo on a frozen island. The family and a few other explorers barely survive there while Stefansson and others walk 200 miles to Siberia to get a rescue party.
The Dancing Fox by John Bierhorst
An amazing collection of fascinating and captivating Arctic tales of animals, shamans, and brave people.
The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale by Lydia Dabcovich
I’ll admit that this story made a few tears come to my eyes. A lonely, poor woman adopts a little polar bear and he provides meat for her when he is grown. They love each other, but the other people don’t like him, and insist that they part.
Russian Fairy Tales by Aleksandr Afanasev
Favorite stories, and lots of Ivans. Ivan the Rich and Ivan the Poor has a very funny plot twist, and we liked it so much we made it into a play for Mirin’s boyscout troup a few years ago as a homeschool project. There are lots of other great stories, like Ivan and the Sunbird, Vasillisa the Wise, and Baba Yaga in her house on chicken feet.
The Troll With no Heart in His Body by Lise Lunge-Larsen and Betsy Bowen
Wonderful stories from Norway.
The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards
A really lovely collection of solstice stories – the story from the Northwest coast about Raven, as well as the Norse story of Ragnarok are two favorites.
The Christmas Roses: Legends for Advent by Selma Lagerlof
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol is probably the most famous, but Charles Dickens wrote many other good stories about the holiday.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Wonderfully, this story starts with a destitute Christmas! The March girls are poor, and have to make-do and make things cheery for themselves, which they do with imagination and creativity.
An Old Fashioned Christmas Day by Washington Irving
This is selected from his book The Sketchbook of Geoffry Crayon, Gent
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Of course a Christmas book list would not be complete without this one!
The Church Mice at Christmas by Graham Oakley
All of the church mice books are very funny, but this one just happens to be a Christmas book.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
Last, but not least, because of course we always save this one for Christmas Eve. The images of Santa flying around on a sleigh were apparently preceded and inspired by Washington Irving’s Christmas tales.