Friday miscellany: What the kids are reading

In past years, I’ve done a “literary Advent calendar” in December (see this year for an actual day-by-day calendar). I wrapped up a selection of Christmas-oriented books, and we opened one each night to read. This worked better when I had three kids in read-me-a-picture-book age ranges.

The three older kids have pretty much moved on from that. But there’s still some good reading going on. The 10-year-old has been working his way through the Ranger’s Apprentice series, and quite enjoying it. I welcome suggestions of other series I might get him hooked on. The 12-year-old has been reading the Harry Potter series to the 8-year-old! They are almost through book 2 at this point. Their goal is to finish the series before a potential trip to Universal’s Harry Potter World late this summer.

The 4-year-old and I are enjoying pulling out our favorite Christmas books for night-time reading. Here are a few we keep re-reading:

Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? by Jan Brett. A naughty pack of trolls breaks into a far northern Scandinavian Christmas feast before getting their comeuppance at the hands of an “ice bear.” (Polar bear; the Norwegian word is in fact “isbjorn” or “ice bear.”) I suspect my 4-year-old identifies with the trolls, but hey.

How Santa Got His Job, by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by S. D. Schindler. A young Santa experiments to find his professional calling, working as a chimney sweep, a delivery man, a zoo keeper, and so forth, before finally finding the right fit. This is a fun book for kids, but also has a useful lesson for adults on gaining insight into your skills, even from jobs that don’t work out.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman. We like Bear books in general, but the premise of this one — that Bear’s friends are trying to keep their buddy from hibernating over Christmas — is fun and festive.

The Crayons’ Christmas, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Olver Jeffers. Just published this year, this interactive book — which contains paper dolls and a board game, among other things — is fun to open the first time, and can then stand up to a second reading.

The Christmas Farm, by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Barry Root. Wilma and her 5-year-old neighbor, Parker, undertake to plant 62 dozen balsam seedlings. Over the next several years the trees (and Parker) grow, until they’re ready to be harvested. A good reminder of the labor (and loss to frost) that goes into growing living things.

Cranberry Christmas, by Wende Devlin and Harry Devlin. Mr. Whiskers is in a fix, with a sister who thinks he can’t live alone, and a cantankerous neighbor who keeps children from skating on the frozen pond. Then he and some neighbors bring small miracles to Cranberryport. I like this one for descriptions of winter life by the sea.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. A classic for a reason. The Grinch tries to steal Christmas from Who-ville by snatching the presents, only to discover that Christmas doesn’t come from a store.

The Night Before the Night Before Christmas, by Richard Scarry. Mr. Frumble causes all sorts of trouble, inadvertently sending Santa off on the wrong night, before rescuing the situation.

Pick a Pine Tree, by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis. This is a new one to us this year, but we’ve read the sweet rhymes and oohed over the final Christmas tree more than once. Nice and gentle for lulling children to sleep.

The Elf on the Shelf, by Bell Chanda and Carol V. Aebersold, illustrated by Coe Steinwart. Yes, this tradition began for our family in 2013, when we welcomed our elf, Sassy. I am not a huge fan, but the kids love the concept, and hunt for him (or her?) each morning. G (nanny) got some video footage of the two younger kids purposefully saying their prayers in a place where Sassy could hear them. I’m just trying not to think too hard about the theology of all this.

What Christmas/holiday books have stood the test of time in your house?

13 thoughts on “Friday miscellany: What the kids are reading

  1. My daughter asked for books for Christmas!!!!! It took me a bit to figure out what she liked though. Some favorites: Pegasus series by Kate O’Hearn, Apollo series (I think) by jack riordan, Ramona series by Beverly cleary. I got her a bunch of fantasy books for Christmas plus some others I think she’ll like. We’ve had Harry Potter for years which she has refused to read Bc we suggested it, but I’m hoping she’ll come around. Yay!!! I can’t tell you how happy this made me. 😂😂😂

  2. Thanks for sharing this great list! I have kiddos similar ages to your youngest & just reserved several of these from the library.

  3. Thank you for Ranger’s Apprentice recommendation– I’m always looking for new series for my 4th grader. Here are some he’s enjoyed in the past year or two (having an older kid, you’re probably acquainted with most of them): Spy School and any of the other Stuart Gibbs series, Chris Grabenstein– Lemoncello series but also the Wonderland series; Artemis Fowl; Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales (not necessarily a narrative series, but a collection of fun graphic novels about U.S. history). All of the Rick Riordan series. He also enjoyed a YA series that started with a book called Croak, by Gina D’Amico. Parts of it were inappropriate for a fourth grader (mostly language and some teen concerns), but he’s at the age where I really want him to keep loving reading, so I’m a little less concerned than maybe I should be– if he thinks I may not approve, that just adds a little extra spice and urgency to his reading. He’s also currently interested in an author named Alan Gratz, who doesn’t have a series, but writes novels about kids in war time circumstances. I hope others comment with more series, there really is no better way to keep kids reading (and vacation is coming up!).

    1. @Liz – yep, some kids like the idea that their parents don’t approve! And if that’s what it takes for them to keep reading…

  4. My 4th and 5th graders loved the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, as did many of their friends. Long books, lots of books= a great series!!

    Also last Christmas they read The Unwanted series.

    My younger son (just turned 10) loves all of the Dog’s Purpose books and is reading A Series of Unfortunate Events. He also liked the Spy School series a lot. Also is reading a triology I believe called Hello Neighbor which he is really into it.

    My older son badly wants the rest of the Magesterium Series. Read the first one last week and is obsessed- another fantasy series. He also loved Trials of Apollo, Percy Jackson, anything by Rick Riordan. Harry Potter of course. Wings of Fire series. A wrinkle in time series. I second the Alan Gratz books. Spirit Animals series they enjoyed in the last couple years. Rick Riordan has a book called Greek Gods and another called Greek Heroes that my son just devoured. The Way of the Warrior kid books were hits too. The I Survived series they always love.

    Can you tell I have voracious readers in my house??

  5. Some favorites in our house:
    Merry Christmas Strega Nona
    Que Monton de Tamales! (Too Many Tamales!)
    The Night of Las Posadas (I live in New Mexico, so this is a nice one with lots of local traditions)
    The Legend of Old Befana
    Christmas Trolls

  6. Such great suggestions! My four year old boy is really enjoying Mary Engelbreit’s version of The Nutcracker. It is a beautiful version of the story. His twin sister is “pretending” to read the illustrated copies of various Harry Potter books because she knows how much her older sisters love them. I am re-reading aloud “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” to my older kids. That series is fantastic and the short stories work well for a group and keep us all laughing.

  7. My kids love books and we are at the library constantly. Before our first trip to Universal, we listened to the audiobooks, read the actual books, and watched the movies together as a family. It definitely helped to make the experience more immersive!! Universal is one of my favorite places and the Wizarding World is so well-done! Would love to help you book and plan this trip if it comes to fruition!

  8. For Christmas, we were just introduced this year to The Christmasaurus and its sequel, and we love them so far. In general, our 5 year old loves the Junie B Jones books (probably would be liked by anyone who likes the Ramona books). Our 7-year-old read all the HP books this year (with my husband) so we are getting him the Chronicles of Narnia books for Christmas. He also, of course, loves the Captain Underpants books which are way way better than I would have thought (unlike the Netflix series which is borderline intolerable… 😉

  9. Thank you for these recs! We have been so sick and just getting better, and I’m so sad we haven’t done many ‘Christmasy’ things. I just requested half of these from the library! At least we can read new to us books!

  10. Fun story about Mary Lyn Ray: she lives in a house in New Hampshire that used to belong to my great-grandparents. You might also like her book Pianna, since you play the piano–that is about another family member of mine. It’s out of print but available through used bookstore sites.

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