Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Fiction: Inspiring Realistic Stories (Picture Books)

As I have read dozens and dozens of Christmas stories this season, these are some of my favorites.  Each one teaches valuable lessons about family, others, love, sacrifice, generosity, and much more! 

Josie's GiftJosie’s Gift (ages 5-10) by Kathleen Long Bostrom 
It is Josie’s first Christmas without her father.   Each year he carved a figure in their family nativity scene.  Initially, Josie is focused on her loss and her longing.  Her mother reminds her to concentrate on what they have, rather than what she wants.   All she can think of, though, is the beautiful blue sweater in the store window.   On Christmas Eve, she discovers a box with the sweater in it.  She is thrilled to receive her wish, but she still feels an emptiness in her soul.  During a visit to the barn, she finds a family, who has lost everything, taking shelter there.  Josie willingly gives her sweater as a blanket to the desolate family's baby.  She tells them, “Christmas is not about what we want.  It’s about what we have.”  Josie finally understands the meaning of the holiday.  

Christmas Day in the MorningChristmas Day in the Morning (ages 6-10) by Pearl S. Buck 
When Rob overhears a conversation between his parents, he realizes how much his father loves him.   With very little money and Christmas coming up quickly, Rob longs to give his father something special.  He decides to get up extra early on Christmas morning to go out to the barn to complete both his and his father’s chores.  He finds that each task goes more easily than it ever had in the past.  Rob manages to get it all done and sneak back into bed.  When his father goes out to get started, he is so touched by his son’s gift that he comes back in to hug his son and tell him, “Nobody ever did a nicer thing.”   In retrospect, Rob realizes that Christmas morning was his first gift of true love. 

Christmas TapestryChristmas Tapestry (ages 6 and up) by Patricia Polacco  
Jonathan is upset about his family moving from their beloved church in Tennessee to pastor at a dilapidated one in Detroit, Michigan.  He asks himself, “What possible good reason could there be for leaving home and coming here?” The whole family works hard each day to bring the church back to life, eventually others in the community help out.  As Christmas draws near, the church building is ready for a special mural to be painted.  Jonathan is encouraged by the progress and excited about the mural.  Bad weather and a leak ruins a focal point of the wall where the mural is to be painted.  Through a series of events, some of which at first appear discouraging and others that are providential cause two people to be reunited after many decades.   Jonathan realizes that all the events—seemingly unfortunate and the blessed—are part of a Christmas Tapestry. 

The Christmas CandleThe Christmas Candle (ages 6 and up) by Richard Paul Evans
On a snowy Christmas Eve, a self-centered man seeks out a chandler for a candle to light his way home for the holiday.  He pushes aside a beggar impatiently as he makes his way to the shop and scoffs at the chandler for his artistic works that will “devour themselves.”  As a challenge, he purchases one of the frivolous candles and journeys back out.  First, he comes across a beggar woman, who appears to be his mother.  Troubled by her appearance and desiring to help her, he offers his cloak.  The woman snatches it and runs off.  He realizes it is not his mother though.  Next, he sees a man lying on the side of the road who looks like his brother.  He gets him into an inn and gives everything he has to take care of him, only to find out it is not his brother.  The man finally comes across a young, hungry girl in the cold who reminds him of his sister.  As this point, he has nothing left to give.  He flees.   At home, he sees all his blessings—food, family, warmth—so he runs back into the night to find the girl.  The man learns, “If we will see things as they truly are, we will find that all, from great to small, belong to one family.” 

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