Thanks to my friend Bonnie, I was given three beautiful children’s Christmas books to review. The first is The Christmas Light by Claudia Cangilla McAdam and illustrated by Igor Kovyar. The next two books are by Anthony DeStefano: Joseph’s Donkey, illustrated by Juliana Kolesova, and The Beggar and the Bluebird, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. All three of these shiny new books are published by the Sophia Institute Press.
For me, they arrived at a perfect time.
Review written by C.H. These books were provided for review courtesy of the publisher; all opinions expressed remain the reviewer’s. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Advent Preparations with a Busy Family
Advent can seem very daunting. I want to make the time meaningful, not only for myself, but for my kids. Some years I’ve signed up for online programs with talks given daily, or daily readings or activities, hoping that would be the answer. The only problem? Real life. The business of life with six kids ages 10 months up to 13 years often gets in the way.
My hope and my goal is to help bring Christ to their lives in a real and personal way, and yet caring for them in their daily needs seems to make this an unattainable goal. We get ourselves busy around this time of year with Christmas preparations and activities. We don’t want to forget the reason for the season, but I find it can be difficult to add new commitments to our schedule.
This year, yet again the desire was there, but here we are almost done week two of Advent, and I still haven’t followed the link on the parish website to sign up for the daily devotions.
If you are struggling like I am, please remember it is not how many devotions we have done or not done that will shape our children. The biggest faith affirming things we can do, is live like Christ for and with our children. Pray together, and talk about your faith whenever the opportunity comes up, and most importantly, let your children see you making your faith a priority.
For me though, that doesn’t mean going to every Bible study, talk, or Advent devotion and tradition I can find. I enjoyed those things once upon a time, and hopefully there will be time for them again one day, but right now, it needs to be simpler. In our busy schedule, we try to make time to be together and do things together often, maybe not on set days, or a set routine, but we do find time to read together.
Enter beautiful Christmas books into our lives. Some of my older kids read these books before I got to them. Then when I read them aloud, they told me they loved these books, and they intently listened again. Our kids have a yearning in their hearts just as we do that can only be filled by Jesus. The solution to that is not more busyness, but quality time. When we have a free evening, especially during Advent, but truly all year, a good book can help us enter into meaningful conversations with our children where we can share our beliefs with one another and help guide our children to a deeper understanding.
Joseph’s Donkey by Anthony DeStefano is a beautiful story that follows Jesus’ life through the perspective of a donkey. I love the way this book is written. It has a beautiful flow and rhythm. The character of the donkey is an exemplary one, teaching the beauty of a virtuous life in the background of the tale, while highlighting important Biblical moments. This is a real treasure I am so glad I have had the privilege to read for myself, and for my children.
Sometimes when book mentions something, I question how it fits Biblically, and I think that affords us an opportunity to discuss these things in our families. One item for Joseph’s Donkey is the concept of animals going to Heaven. DeStefano does bring that up, and honestly from a Catholic Christian’s perspective that is not what I have been taught. I loved everything about this book so much though, I couldn’t dock it points for that.
In Joseph’s Donkey, the donkey also understands and cries at the thought of Jesus suffering at Calvary, so I think it is pretty easy to explain that there is an element of make believe with this one if the idea of animals heading to Heaven concerns anyone. It was such a beautiful read that touched my heart like I don’t think another other child’s book has. It gave me an opportunity for reflection about the Holy Family right alongside my with children.
The Beggar and the Bluebird
The second book by Anthony DeStefano also deals with personification of an animal, this time a bluebird. The Beggar and the Bluebird is beautiful in text and illustration, but does convey a message that you may want to preview prior to sharing with your children. Self-sacrifice is a big topic. My kids didn’t have an issue with it, and maybe I am being too sensitive.
The Beggar and the Bluebird is a modern-day fairytale in the tradition of Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm Brothers. A little bird is about to fly south for the winter but stops to help a street beggar with various strange requests. The beggar asks the bird to take bread to a homeless man, money to a widow and her children, and a gold cross to a boy laying sick in the hospital. Because he fulfills these requests, the kind bird is caught in a blizzard. Everything seems dark, until the surprising identity of the street beggar is revealed.
If you are looking to talk about how sacrificing to serve others brings you joy, The Beggar and the Bluebird is great for that. The virtues of this little bird are definitely inspiring, and certainly beautiful conversations will come from this treasure.
The Christmas Light
The Christmas Light by Claudia Cangilla McAdam is a nice journey to help you picture yourself in the scene of Jesus’ birth. It seemed odd to me to think of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of a young girl, but as many readers themselves may be young girls I think it has a place in a Christian bookshelf. The depiction of the Holy Family certainly does remind us of how amazingly full of grace, love, joy and faith they would have been.
Hopefully our own encounters this season and throughout our children’s and our own lives will touch our lives so thoroughly as they touched this young lady ‘s life in the story.
Celebrate the Season with a Story
The Christmas Light is the most specific to Christmas. The Beggar and the Bluebird takes place at Christmas time, but Joseph’s Donkey could be read and enjoyed at anytime of year. Any of these books would be beautiful gifts for St. Nicholas Day (to enjoy during the Advent season) or for Christmas (to reflect on during the Christmas season).
A few of our other favourite Christmas books include:
- The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook
- The Legend of St. Nicholas: a Story of Giving
- The Vatican Christmas Cookbook
- The Night the Saints Saved Christmas
What are your favourite Christmas books?
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