Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

December 6, 2013

7 great holiday stories for season's readings

By Joe Hadsall
CNHI News Service

— Holiday-themed movies and TV shows get the most attention during this time of year.

But there are just as many, if not more, beloved books that contain cherished Christmas stories -- some of which get shared across generations. With an impending winter storm on the horizon, this may be the best time to find the Christmas spirit between the covers of a good book. These are some of our favorites that are easily found at a bookstore or library.



'The Night Before Christmas'

This poem is a classic in every sense of the word. First written anonymously in 1823, Clement Clarke Moore eventually claimed authorship of the story that talks about a visit from the legendary St. Nick. Some argue that the poem is responsible for some of Santa's iconic wardrobe and stature.

But our favorite part of the tale is how many times it has been told and illustrated. The Joplin Public Library had two versions in stock on Tuesday, and both featured dramatically different illustrations.

The tale is timeless and a perfect story for sharing the magic of Santa and Christmas morning with kids.



'The Polar Express'

The movie adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's "The Polar Express" is legendary for some of the creepiest computer animation to ever be featured in a movie -- all the more reason to share this tale with kids.

While kids will appreciate the story's exciting trip to the North Pole to witness Santa's departure, parents will get a bit nostalgic near the book's ending, which deals with how Christmas changes as we grow up.



'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!'

Unlike "The Polar Express," the 1966 animated adaptation by Chuck Jones has become just as beloved as the book. The Jim Carrey movie of 2000? Not so much.

But the book is where the magic of this tale starts. Dr. Seuss' catchy poetry and creatively written rhymes make this story a joy to read out loud. The story talks about what means the most during the holidays -- and it has nothing to do with presents.



'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'

We can't think of a single kid who didn't want to be one of the rotten Herdmans -- six kids who did whatever they wanted and showed up at church only because they heard there would be snacks.

When the Herdman kids get involved in the church's annual pageant, all kinds of craziness breaks loose, but somehow the message of Jesus' birth gets communicated.

Barbara Robinson's 1971 story has been adapted into plays and movies. Perfect for older readers, the house will echo with fits of giggles triggered by the Herdmans' antics.



'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever'

Jeff Kinney's combination of diary writing, hilarious cartoons and middle-school life have made the "Wimpy Kid" series popular -- especially with boys, a group that's always tough to get reading regularly.

"Cabin Fever" features a Christmas disaster: As Greg struggles with Santa's surveillance system, his mother introduces a doll similar to the Elf on the Shelf -- only to have it corrupted by his older brother's paranoia-inducing placements.

The action accelerates from there, until everything comes to a screeching halt when a blizzard knocks out power, leading the family to get hungry and bored.



'Angel Pig and the Hidden Christmas'

A common Christmas stressor is brilliantly addressed in Jan Waldron's tale of a helpful pig. When some little piggies get sad about how they can't afford a trip to market for Christmas gifts, a heavenly ham arrives and shows the kids how to make gifts for everyone.

Beautifully illustrated by David McPhail, "Angel Pig" can motivate kids of all ages to think of inexpensive yet thoughtful gifts that will be cherished even more than the stories listed here.



'Olive, the Other Reindeer'

A relatively new holiday hero, Olive is a Jack Russell terrier who mishears a key lyric in "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." When the song gets to "All of the other reindeer," Olive hears her name instead and answers Santa's call for help.

Whimsical illustrations by J. Otto Seibold make this story perfect for sharing.