2017 Christmas Book Favorites

I am so excited to share that my dear friend, Kim, with @talkwordytome_ and I put together a Christmas picture book list! We’ve come up with the perfect list of 12 classic and new Christmas picture books to add to your collection. This year I searched for my favorite Christmas classics that were easy for a child to engage in and understand, but that also captivated me with their beautiful illustrations.

p.s. if you want to check out many more of my Christmas favorites that I posted last year, click here. There are just so many that I love!!❤️

JULIE’S PICKS:

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

This unedited version of “The Night Before Christmas” stays true to the original poem from 1823. It completely comes to life with the illustrations of renowned children’s book illustrator and award-winning artist, Charles Santore. The traditional art form captured in this telling of a classic poem is unparalleled. The Santa Claus portrayed in this book, is quite literally the Santa Claus of my childhood, the one I’ve always envisioned in my mind’s eye. The large book format with large, easy-to-read words for display and storytelling make it a quick choice for an eager audience ready to listen about the magic of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, retold for young readers by Adam Mckeown

I fell in love with this retelling of  “A Christmas Carol” because it is one of the best retellings of the Dickens classic I have found for my children. It is uncomplicated and manages to keep the voice and spirit of  Charles Dickens alive throughout the story. A great way to introduce this timeless classic to your young readers!

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers

Although I have a few favorites of this classic story, this particular one moved right onto my list this year. Author Susan Jeffers wondered what more she could bring to the table of retelling this world-famous story. She realized that she never came across renditions that included the ballet portion, which is what many of us think of when we think of  “The Nutcracker.” She decided she had two main goals to create her own version: First, that it would follow the story of the ballet, and second, that it would actually speak to a child.  It is so beautifully illustrated and as we read it as family my daughter pointed out all the different characters and costumes of the Nutcracker Ballet. This is a wonderful version for young readers without lengthy text.

The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by Laurel Long

I am completely smitten with the breathtaking illustrations in this book version of the famous Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The illustrations are rich, vibrant, detailed, and full of imagination and life. To make this stunning artwork even more enjoyable for the whole family, the illustrator has hidden in the elements that were mentioned in previous verses on each page. Be ready to be on the lookout out for turtle doves, golden rings, ladies dancing, and of course a partridge in a pear tree on each intricately detailed page!

The Story Of  Christmas illustrated by Pamela Dalton

This is the story of Christmas from the King James Bible. This particular book has a very special place in our hearts and home. This book is the one we read to our children each Christmas Eve as we recount the birth of the baby Jesus. Working with the medium of Scherenschnitte which, in German, means “scissor cuts,” illustrator Pamela Dalton has created unique and astounding artwork that  follows the events of the Nativity. I never tire of its vibrant, life-giving colors set against the stark contrast of midnight black pages. Most importantly, it is the story of the birth of Christ that holds the most value to me at Christmastime.

The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman

“That’s when the Spirit of Christmas smiled. ‘Remember, this all began with a child. Because it took nothing but love to begin it, it’s not really Christmas if love isn’t in it.’”

Although this book is not a century-old classic,  I had to include it in my list. This book is about catching the spirit of Christmas. In one word, this book is about love. Nancy Tillman, a brilliant author and illustrator, has a mission while creating her books. That mission is to “convey to children everywhere that you are loved.” She has done a phenomenal job with both her artwork and her rhythmic verse.  All to remind us that the magic of Christmas is about spending it with those we love, celebrating what is meaningful to us, and the creation of fond Christmas memories.

 

KIM’S PICKS:

I had so much fun scouring library shelves and stores for the best Christmas picture books. I went to my friend Julie Bristow, who has a knack for finding the best traditional Christmas books, to add to my list of new favorites. Here are our top 12 picks! We love the idea of wrapping these up and opening one a day with your family for the 12 days of Christmas. Merry Christmas and happy reading!

 

A Little Christmas Tree by Anthony Merrill

This one brings tears to my eyes. It is my 3rd-grader’s new favorite Christmas book. She begged to read it to her class, and her sweet teacher was crying by the end of it. It is a beautiful story of a little tree and his mother’s refrain that one day he will bring the true meaning of Christmas to someone’s home. This is one of those books my kids will grow up with and remember with fondness when they have their own homes.

Red and Lulu by Mark Tavares

This is an endearing story (with breathtaking illustrations) about two birds whose favorite time of year is Christmas. We follow the story of how the birds get separated when their tree is cut down and how they find each other again. I love the birds-eye view of Christmas in New York.

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

This enchanting book is all about the tradition of picking and decorating a pine tree. The illustrations and rhythmic text make it a perfect Christmas tradition.

A Bunny Christmas by Rick Walton

This was written by my professor at BYU who taught a children’s book class. But that has nothing to do with why I’m including this book. I just love how the words and illustrations make me feel like I’m in a cozy Christmasy scene. There’s something nostalgic and calming about it that keeps me reaching for it all December.

When Santa was a Baby by Linda Bailey

There are a lot of deep and meaningful picture books in the Christmas category, so it’s nice to mix in a more playful one here and there. This one is so clever and fun. Santa’s parents are enamored with their baby, just as any parents are. He has some quirks: Like his loud “Ho ho ho,” his inclination to give all of his birthday presents away, and a fascination with chimneys. He also trains his hamsters to pull a miniature sleigh. My kids think it’s hilarious.

I Believe in Santa Claus by Diane Adamson

This is a new favorite that feels like a classic. After I picked it up at Costco (for $9.99) and quickly added it to my list of favorites, Julie told me she is neighbors with the author! Small world. The words are so understated but the meaning is poignant. The book draws simple, but poignant parallels between Santa Claus and Jesus Christ in a very sweet way. This is one we will keep forever to remember the true meaning of Christmas and the symbolism of Santa Claus.

 

Depression and Anxiety: My story

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There I was, 16 years old and not a care in the world. I was happy, content, and I enjoyed life. I was a good kid and, for the most part, I felt good from the inside out.  That is, as much as you can when fumbling through those teenage years of life.  I got really good grades, had many wonderful friends, was the president of my high school junior class, and loved to make others laugh and be silly. Life was good. However, I had always been a worrier and a very sensitive person. I had deep thoughts and intense emotions.

Somewhere between the age of sixteen and seventeen, between my junior and senior years of high school, depression crept into my life. It crept in without an invite and without warning. It gradually spread out it’s bleak, heavy blanket, choking out the light, the life, and the joy from my once vibrant self.  I had no reason to be depressed. No trauma, no unpleasant situations or experiences.  No environmental factors. My life had been pretty golden. Why, one day, could I not get out of bed? I still don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that depression and anxiety run heavily in my family. My Dad still fights it to this day at age seventy-one and he first experienced it when he was the exact same age as me, seventeen. I enter my senior year of high school and basically can’t get out of bed. I miss my morning classes and sometimes full days. My friends tease me that I have “senioritis”. I laugh with them, while simultaneously feeling hurt and confused inside. I don’t know how to explain to them what’s going on because I myself don’t know what’s going on. I’m just reacting to this strange, new way of being as it comes creeping in day by day. My mom takes me to a counselor despite me throwing an epic fit of protest.  I scream, cry, and yell at her. I tell her I don’t need medicine and that if I just have enough faith and believe in Jesus Christ enough, that he can heal me. She tells me that Jesus put doctors and medicine here on the earth so that the sick could be healed. So begins my journey with medicine, psychiatrists, counselors, the whole trifecta.

That was nearly twenty years ago. I am now thirty-six, with a wonderful husband and three beautiful children. However, the battle of this illness continues every single day.

I got through college and graduated by a miracle. Part of that particular miracle was the American Disabilities Act. After missing so many classes and finding it nearly impossible to focus and study with the raging depression and anxiety I went to the disabilities office on campus and asked what I needed to do to qualify. I needed a note from both my counselor and psychiatrist. Done and done. Now I was on the “disabled” list which meant I had extra time to get my homework in and extra time to take tests or turn in projects. I don’t think I would have graduated college without that. But I did, I graduated college.

Entering the full-time workforce was no easy task. I had had some type of  job ever since I was fifteen years old. After the depression and anxiety kicked in, there wasn’t one job or employer that I had, where I didn’t get reprimanded for tardiness. It was always so humiliating. Mornings are my enemy. What a relief bedtime is, or even a nap, when I can finally drift off to sleep and let the crushing weight of the illness leave by simply being unconscious with sleep.  Unfortunately, waking up the next day to the realization of going through another day feeling it all over again is paralyzing. Mornings scare me. One day I hope mornings and I will become friends again. There is so much anxiety triggered in the morning time, that the simple act of the sun coming up triggers a Pavlovian-like response in me of paralyzing fear. I am shocked when I meet people who have never felt what I feel each day. What is life like without this heaviness, this burden, this constant inner turmoil? I can’t remember because now I have had this illness longer than I have not.

Enter Jared. I meet Jared while we are both counselors at a church camp. We start dating and fall in love. I tell him two months after we are dating about my depression and anxiety. He stays with me. He supports me. He loves me. He’s a good man, good to the core. We date for a little over a year and are married when I am twenty-five.  Life is still hard. Spouses and marriage aren’t there to save you or rescue you from your problems. Jared and I learn little by little what our new normal looks like and take it day by day. I am lucky to have him and I know that.

We decide we are ready for children when I am twenty-seven years old. We struggle with the heartbreak of infertility and other health issues.  Eventually we are blessed with three miracle children. Life is even harder now, but I desperately wanted my children. I fought hard for my children and I will never forget that fight. When taking care of only myself, waking up and showering used to be a “good day” for me, a feat to be overcome. Heck, if I brushed my teeth it was a GREAT day. Now I have four people who depend on me. I am a mother and wife of a family of five. Often I still feel inadequate to take care of myself, let alone my home and my family. Yes, the feelings of self doubt, inadequacy, and guilt are there and are very real. But I’m here and I’m doing it. I have a good husband by my side. I have the support of family and friends when I need it. And I really don’t know how, but by the grace of God I am plugging along one day at a time.

I should mention I still take medicine 20 years later, I see my psychiatrist every 2-3 months. We often change things around. Adding this, taking away that, or trying something entirely new. I’ve tried going off medicine too and that is not an option right now. I crash every time and I really cannot function. I am thankful for modern-day medicine to take the edge off even if it doesn’t fully take away my symptoms. No one treatment has ever really worked for me. I still go to counseling intermittently and I still need all the support and help I can get.  I’ve been on so many medicines and combinations of medicines I’ve lost count.  You name the medicine and I’ll say “Oh yeah, I’ve been on that!”. Not something I’m proud of, but more importantly not something I’m ashamed of either, simply my reality. I’ve always thought that my main diagnosis was Clinical Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder and more or less that’s what it is. However, I asked my psychiatrist  the other day what it said on my chart.  “Just curious, but what do you have down for my actual diagnosis?” I said.  He glanced at the chart and said “I’ve written, ‘Treatment Refractory Depression and Anxiety.’”  “What does that mean?”, I say. “It means that conventional methods of treating depression and anxiety don’t work for you. With you we have to think outside the box.” “Huh…okay.” I think I mumbled.

I guess that’s why 20 years later I’m still fighting.  My Dad’s fight has been 54 years long, so far, and other members of my family have also struggled. We are not alone and we are not broken. As with any physical illness, we continue to seek treatment for our brain. We don’t know why it stopped functioning optimally. It wasn’t caused by anyone else’s actions, or by any fault of our own. I’m not sure why the serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in my brain isn’t balanced. I don’t know why the synapses and neurotransmitters are not doing their job. I really don’t know. What I do know is how I feel. I do know how it feels to be severely depressed, to have debilitating, paralyzing anxiety on a daily basis. I do know what it feels like to want to be in bed all day, every day, year after year. But I also know that this is my fight to fight. I’ve accepted that and I’m trying my best to show up for life each day that I can. And through showing up for life each day that I can and fighting my illness, the glimpses and feelings of hope and joy are becoming longer and more lasting.  I have hope. It is often the knowledge of hope, not necessarily the feeling of hope that carries me through.  Not hope that this trial will be taken away from me permanently, but hope that I can continue to endure it, endure it well, and find joy amidst the pain.

2016 Christmas Book Favorites

There is something absolutely magical about quality children’s books. The gentle words paired with beautiful illustrations often transport my children and I into another world. I grew up in a household of children’s picture books. When I say “household”, I’m talking about literally thousands of books. My mother, otherwise known as “The Book Lady”, has had a private business selling children’s books for about 30 years. I actually used to be bothered by all the many books around. Now I see what a treasure they are, especially as I have children of my own.

Not only is my mom “The Book Lady”, but she has been a school teacher and a librarian, only recently retiring in 2012. She is the ultimate children’s book expert! She has cultivated the most beautifully classic, quality, handpicked selection of children’s books over the years. I have fond memories of many books she has read and shared with me and have since built my own personal library with her help.

Below is a list of my favorite children’s Christmas books. If you were to ask me just one, it would hands down be “Why Christmas Tree’s Aren’t Perfect” by Richard H. Schneider. The message moves me to tears every time without fail and  my children love it too. To me, it is what Christmas is all about. There are many, many others, though. It was actually hard for me to narrow it down to just fifteen! Hope you enjoy the list I’ve compiled and perhaps you will come across something new you’ve never heard of before. Most books below are linked to Amazon in their hardcover copies. You will usually be able to buy a cheaper version by selecting paperback if you so desire. Merry reading!

Book

Author

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect Richard H. Schneider
Mr Willowby’s Christmas Tree Robert Barry
The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt and Tim Jonke (Illustrator)
The Polar Express Chris Van Allsburg
The Mitten 
Jan Brett
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree Gloria Houston and Barbara Cooney
Snowmen at Night Caralyn and Mark Buehner
The Legend of the Candy Cane Lori Walburg
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey    Susan Wojciechowski
The Hat Jan Brett
The Christmas Wish Lori Evert
The Crippled Lamb Max Lucado
The Birds of Bethlehem Tomie dePaola
Gingerbread Baby Jan Brett

Fall Fun

I whole-heartedly agree with L.M. Montgomery when she wrote in Anne of Green Gables: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Fall is full of splendor! One of our family’s favorite Fall activities is going to “CornBelly’s” located at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. The event and attractions seem to grow larger in both quantity and scale each year. Canvassing the whole area in one evening can be pretty daunting, but oh so fun! Here are some of our highlights of our evening spent there.

       

Grotto Falls and Payson Lakes

We escaped to the great outdoors for at least one last hurray before winter sets in here in Utah. One thing I have been very remorseful about is that I have not taken more advantage of the majestic mountains. A new world, hidden in the mountains has literally been minutes away from me my entire life. We do not get up there nearly enough.

As we hiked up the Grotto Falls trail, the kids were running circles around us. They loved pretending to be tight-rope walkers as they balanced on fallen tree logs that created the switchbacks for the trail. The hike was very relaxing and quite beautiful. You would think we struck gold the way the children reacted seeing the hidden waterfall at the top of the trail.

Next we ventured further up Payson Canyon to Payson Lakes and walked around the largest lake that has a paved walkway around. The sun was getting lower in the sky and the vistas were absolutely stunning. The kids ran, explored, collected bits of nature and squealed with delight. Such a rewarding thing for parents to watch. I loved slowly pacing behind them with my hand in Jared’s hand. There is something truly transcendental about getting away from your everyday surroundings, into nature, and finding yourself. I am always inspired being in that kind of godly beauty. About this day I hope never to forget the innocence, eagerness and excitement of my children, the companionship of my husband, and our experience as a family.

                 

Classic meets Vintage: My Style

 

I love classic fashion and I love vintage inspired clothing. My kids have become my human dolls for me to dress up in things that I love. Now and again I may share some of the looks, outfits, and styles I love.

 

 

Trouser skirt: Hum Stitchery Leotard top: This Tribe of Three


Trouser Skirt: Hum Stitchery, Leotard top: This Tribe of Three

     

Big Springs Adventure

The last day of September, I took the kids on what we call “adventures”. Adventures are usually when I’m trying to get something done and need to bring them along with me, (which is pretty much all the time as a mom, right?) but we make the most fun out of the situation. The adventure for that day was to scout out a place for professional family photographs that we were having taken the following day. We headed up Provo Canyon to a park called Big Springs. The moment I stepped out of the car, my breath was taken away and I knew this was the place. We just simply had to capture memories of our family here. On one side there was this big open field with streams running through and lined with the most colorful of trees. On the other side of where we parked,  there were also little rivers and streams, pathways into groves of aspen trees, mossy covered rocks, and trails leading to magical wooded places. It was heaven. The kids were in their element. Nature had captured us and breathed new life into us. The leaves were at their very prime for the Fall season. Magnificent oranges, reds, yellows in all directions.  It was so stunning. As I followed the kids around I had a chance to photograph some precious moments while I myself tried to practice my own photography skills, which are incredibly amateur, but something I hope to develop some day.

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Wild and free
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Discovery at every turn

 

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The colors!!!
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Searching for treasures
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This boy, this picture. Melts my heart. Look at that background!
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Sisters
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They had to have a stick in hand wherever they went!
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Follow the leader
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Sibling meeting
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Oh, hello beautiful!
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Molly was so fascinated with the different layers of bark on a tree
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Happy boy.
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Ring around the aspen tree
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Wherever you go, I will follow.
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JUMP!
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Lucky they are mine
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Contemplation
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My tribe
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My Molly girl
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On a mission
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All Stars
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Determination wherever she goes
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Overalls and Nature