Every year since my oldest children were little, I've pulled out our Christmas books during Advent. Kept in a box along with decorations, they come out only at this season for quiet reading and reading out loud, so that those unpredictable stray moments can be filled with bright images.
I admit that this might be the first year that I've found a good basket for them (and please overlook whatever that substance is that's jutting out at you), and only by emptying one in the pantry and dragging it out for this purpose (just in time -- wow, I'm doing great! Let's see, my oldest child is 28? Good job.) . But who can have a large basket languishing around doing nothing all year, only to be brought out for six weeks? (In the past I think the books have been stacked in a corner. Sigh.)
Many a Christmas thought and contemplative idea are nurtured with the right book at this time. Over the years, I have tossed out a few that are just not fitting with our family standards -- too cartoonish, too silly, too sentimental. But many have endured and become wonderful favorites.
I thought I'd show you a little of what we love. I'm including Amazon links in case you are looking for a lasting gift that you want to know is already kid-tested :) (I'm not selling these myself, but if you go through my link I do get a small commission.)
We love pop-up books, and have several that are truly amazing.
You can teach little hands to be gentle with these books by perhaps keeping the special ones up out of reach, bringing them down for calm moments when you can model the proper handling. I found that if I said, "Gently turn this, carefully pull that" and helped them do it, even the youngest toddler had a sense of wonder and care for these books. Any "issues" can usually be resolved with a judicious application of scotch tape.
This one is lovely. The meaning of Christmas is not just the Babe in the manger, but the whole of the life of Christ, including of course His death and resurrection. This book is incredibly well done.
Just look at these scenes:
Other pop-ups we love are these:
Unfortunately they are out of print and expensive. I wouldn't buy a used pop-up book sight unseen, would you? But you never know -- in the coming year you may find one at a used book sale...
Not a pop-up, but a great favorite, is this one:
The text includes poetry, some from Scripture, and beautifully printed images from the Renaissance.I admire the illustrations of Lisbeth Zwerger: her lines are breathtaking! Bridget says this book is probably her favorite:
A Christmas Testament has many medieval images and is a wonderful read-aloud book. It's out of print but there seem to be many cheap copies -- and this is a boxed hardcover book!
A fun one that I found at a library discard sale is Peter Spier's Christmas.
I really have a fondness for his illustrations, which lead to so many intensive, exhaustive perusals of their detail -- although this book made my children wonder about just what kind of churches have chickens at the top of their spires rather than crosses!
Anything by Tasha Tudor is delightful. Take Joy! doesn't reside in our basket/pile, but at the piano, since it contains easy settings of just about all the Christmas carols you will want to sing.
But she also includes traditions, Advent and Christmas, as well as recipes. You might be able to find one at a yard sale, you never know!
Over the years your collection can grow, and if you are diligent in inspiring a practical awe in your children, the books will last for another generation. Yes, some will fall apart. Don't worry about that. Keep working on it. Little by little they (the books, not the children, although you never know) will come down from the high shelf and into a Christmas book basket -- and if I can, after all these years, actually find a basket to hold our collection, so can you!