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Charlotte Mason’s Christmas List: 5 Living Books Library Picks

What is a living book library?  Check out our interview with Emily and Liz Cottrill of Livingbookslibrary.com from November if you haven’t already.  The upshot is, though, these women are aficionados when it comes to books from the classic age of kids’ books.  And if you’re wondering what Charlotte Mason would recommend as some of the best Christmas books for kids, here’s are a few of our best guesses.

An Enduring Christmas Tradition

It is possible that in our desire to celebrate Christmas to the full, we might, in our over-exuberance attempt to include every possible Christmas tradition we’ve ever heard of. (Do you hear the voice of personal experience here?) And, while our gratitude in receiving the extravagant gift of God is worthy of all joyful celebration, doing so to the point of exhaustion or irritability is hardly a reflection of the grace and peace that has been bestowed upon us. Perhaps you have had the past regretful experience of not savoring the season and the people around you as much as was your hopeful intention.

There is one old-fashioned Christmas tradition, however, that I believe strengthens our relationships, provides rich memories, and renews our joy: family reading. Though this may be a goal most of us have every year, advent is a short season and our tendency is to let it get squeezed out of existence. There is something specially remembered about books read at eventful times in our lives. Childhood years fly by with a wink. So let me encourage you to say “no” to many, many great opportunities so your family’s Christmastime leaves lasting blessings. Read books aloud while baking cookies, making Christmas gifts, or just enjoying that rare quiet night at home with popcorn and hot chocolate. Our library is full of yesterday’s treasures, contains some priceless Christmas stories meant to be savored with those we love and reread to our children and children’s children. Here is a small sample of some of our family’s favorites for you to add to your own Christmas store of memories. All of these books can be enjoyed by all ages, at Christmas, or throughout the year. Though they may not be found at the local popular book store, they are worth having delivered to your door:

A Certain Small Shepherd (Owlet Book), Rebecca Caudill

Jamie lives in rural America and is mute, an agony which frustrates him and makes him the victim of ridicule at school. The greatest triumph of his life is being chosen to be a shepherd in the Christmas play; however, his dreams are dashed by a sudden blizzard that cancels this event. Two stranded travelers wander in to his life and have a powerful impact on Jamie. This is a beautiful story from a simpler time by a classic children’s author.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story, Gloria Houston illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Set in Appalachia at the end of World War I, a mother and daughter struggle to fulfill their duty of providing the yearly Christmas tree for their church. Complicating this strenuous task is the absence of the father who is missing and whose return from the front is uncertain. Several miracles await the reader in this simply and tenderly told tale.

This Way to Christmas, Ruth Sawyer

Written in 1916 about David left alone in the care of his childhood nurse, despairing that he will have much of a Christmas as each chapter unfolds a new tale from around the world as David meets several other lonely individuals who share their stories with him. The heartwarming outcome makes a merry Christmas for all involved. This is a book to cherish by one of the most beloved children’s storytellers ever.

The Lost Angel, Elizabeth Goudge

A small collection of stories for Christmas by the insightful and poignant Elizabeth Goudge. This collection of short stories paints a beautiful picture of Christmas and the Resurrection, and can be enjoyed all year round. The seven stories can be enjoyed separately and feature the storytelling prowess that makes Goudge our favorite author. She weaves together tales of individuals who are eccentric, plain, diverse, exceptional, and ordinary in a way that gives insight into our own lives and breeds a spirit of compassion for mankind in the reader. (Available used on Amazon.com.)

Christmas, a book of stories old and new, edited by Alice Dalgliesh

This collection of short Christmas stories recounts the First Christmas and other Christmas stories from America and around the world. It is a book with stand alone chapters to be read at bedtime or teatime, or in between times during Christmas. It gives a picture of the many ways of celebrating Christmas to delight young and old alike.

A Tree for Peter, Kate Seredy

One of our top three favorite books of all time, hands down, Christmas or otherwise. Emily unequivocally proclaims it: The. Perfect. Book. The story of poor, crippled, Peter living in loneliness and poverty in Shantytown is spun with Kate Seredy’s incomparably heart-piercing ability. The gift of an ordinary spade and offer of friendship by a stranger not only transforms Peter’s life, the lives of those in his neighborhood, but ultimately impacts the wider world. This is a true book of hope and inspiration that you will read and reread to everyone you love for the rest of your life. This is the rarest book on this list, but well worth the search—and price. Search www.used.addall.com for available copies. It was recently back in print so check your library!  (Note from EW–Here is Seredy’s page on Amazon, where she has a number of other books still in print if she sounds like an interesting writer.) ***Update: This book is back in print, as of March, 2018, and is available on amazon (affiliate link)

For the joy of reading at Christmas,

Liz and Emily

The Cottrills are a mother and daughter pair who run Livingbookslibrary.com as well as a private library serving Appalachian families with wholesome, classic literature.  You can buy recommended books on their website, and as well as find out about the first Homeschool Library Conference they hosted last spring. 

You can read more of Janie’s and my recommendations for better than average Christmas books in O Come, Emmanuel and this review of a Handel’s Messiah Advent book.  Or just flip through our Flash Christmas Gift Finder.




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  1. Rachel says

    If “A Tree for Peter” is one the “top three favorite books of all time, hands down, Christmas or otherwise” – I wonder what the other two most favorite books are? 🙂

  2. Cathy,
    It was hard picking just six – there are so many wonderful old treasures. Enjoy as many as you can.

    I am not sure Emily and I would completely agree on our top books, but Tree for Peter makes both of our top picks. (Emily’s other Top Two are Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer and Little Britches by Ralph Moody)

    There are 35 such libraries in some stage of development around the country. Maybe one will be near you?

    Emily and Liz

  3. Cathy says

    We found all but A Tree For Peter at the library and are thoroughly enjoying them! Thanks again!
    More books on my wish list….

  4. Pingback: A Christmas Curriculum | Sabbath Mood Homeschool

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