Christmas stories that warm the heart

Of course children get excited about what they will receive for Christmas, but perhaps there is too much emphasis on receiving and not enough importance placed on giving.

Christmas is a time for giving and for sharing, but not just with material things. More importantly, one of the greatest gifts any of us can give is the gift of oneself, the gift of our time, our attention, our love to the important people in our life and to those we don’t know, especially a person in need.

Today’s reviewed books feature these themes in strong, loving ways. Share them with a child; you’ll both benefit.

“The Christmas Day Kitten” by James Herriot, illustrated by Ruth Brown, St. Martin’s Press, 32 pages. Read aloud: age 3 and older. Read yourself: age 7-8 and older.

Mrs. Pickering has opened her home to a stray cat she names Debbie, who visits when she chooses, soaks in a few moments of solitude, eats a little food and then is gone. Mrs. Pickering never knows when Debbie will return, but Debbie has learned to trust and love Mrs. Pickering and that affection is clearly reciprocated.

One Christmas morning Mrs. Pickering telephones Dr. Herriot. Debbie had arrived early that day, and there is something terribly wrong. Dr. Herriot hurries to the Pickering house and discovers a bittersweet scenario. Sorrow turns to joy, however, when Mrs. Pickering receives the finest Christmas present she could ever ask for.

This superb story will cause readers to rejoice in the holiday spirit of love and giving.

“Prairie Christmas” by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Eerdmans, 2006, 32 pages, hardcover. Read aloud: age 5 and older. Read yourself: age 8 and older.

It’s Christmas Day, 1880, on the prairie in Nebraska. Emma is almost 15 years old, and instead of spending Christmas at home, she must go with her mother, a doctor, to deliver a baby. Emma can’t help but wish the baby would be born on some other day. But when she arrives at the house, she quickly comes to learn that she isn’t the only one whose Christmas has been interrupted. Two young children are waiting for their baby to be born, and they are worried. Emma decides she is must do something make the children’s Christmas special while they all wait to hear the newborn’s cry, and that’s precisely what she does.

A marvelous story about family, friendship, and the joy of giving, this selection is a wonderful story to share for the holidays or anytime.

“The First Christmas Stocking” by Elizabeth Winthrop, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, Delacorte, 2006, 40 pages, hardcover. Read aloud: age 5 and older. Read yourself: age 8–9 and older.

Long, long ago in the north country, a young girl named Claire lived with her parents in a small stone hut. Claire and her parents were very poor, and the money Claire’s mother made from her beautiful knitting help add needed income to her father’s meager wages as a coal miner. Claire sat with her mother every day and she learned to knit, doing as her mother told her, to “dream your dreams and knit them into the wool.”

When Claire’s mother died, Claire took over her mother’s job and she knit beautiful stockings. A wealthy woman heard of Claire’s stockings and came to Claire’s door two days before Christmas, promising to pay her handsomely for three pairs of stockings for her children. Claire worked day and night to fill the order, but on her way to deliver the stockings, she came across a boy in rags, freezing in the snow. Clearly the boy needed her stockings more than the rich woman and her children, and the ramifications of her act of kindness had greater impact than Claire or her father could have ever imagined.

An extraordinary tale perfectly supported by lush illustrations, this selection is rich.