by Elise Hamel

In the cozy glow of Christmas lights and the crisp air of anticipation, there’s a special magic found in the pages of a book. This week we wanted to share some of our treasured favorites from the CHEA staff, board, and volunteers. From classic tales that have withstood the test of time to newer gems that bring a fresh perspective to our Savior’s birth, these stories help us focus on the heart of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ and the messages of hope, love, and redemption. So, grab a cup of warm cocoa, snuggle into your favorite reading nook, and visit, or revisit, some of these holiday must-reads! 

Picture Books

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry – Christmas is here, and Mr. Willowby’s tree has arrived. There’s just one big problem: The tree is too tall for his parlor! He cuts off the top so it will fit, and soon the top of that tree is passed along again and again to bring holiday cheer to all the animals in the forest. (Amazon description)

Elise Hamel, CHEA’s Communications Assistant, says “My kids love this sweet tale of how ‘one man’s trash is another animal’s treasure’. The illustrations are so precious, and it has quickly become a Christmas time favorite!”

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale retold by Angela Elwell Hunt – Charity Silvers, CHEA’S Treasurer and Board Member, says “I’ve always loved this story because it tells of three trees that were made into objects that were instrumental in the life of Christ. One of the trees was made into a manger so that is how it ties into Christmas. This story also shows how our desires for a certain purpose can be met in ways different from what we were originally thinking.” [Editor’s Note: A Tale of Three Trees is also a great read-aloud for Easter time.]

The Crippled Lamb: A Christmas Story about Finding Your Purpose by Max Lucado with daughters Jenna, Andrea, & Sara Lucado – “This story is about a crippled, orphaned lamb, Joshua, who is often sad because he is left out from the herd. His kind cow friend, Abigail, reminds him that, ‘God has a special place for those who feel left out.’ Then one day, Joshua discovers the special purpose God has for his life, and he is grateful for his differences. This is such an uplifting and encouraging Christmas story that teaches compassion, understanding, and hope in God’s plans.” says Melisa Stark, CHEA’s Special Education Consultant.

Young Readers

Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish – Charity Silvers says “I have a small collection of Amelia Bedelia books that I have kept all these years even after our children grew up and moved out of the house. This one about Christmas portrays whimsical ideas that only Amelia can come up with! It’s also an ‘I Can Read!’ book, so it’s good for young readers to develop better reading skills.”

Berenstain Bears Christmas books (Joy of Giving, Christmas Tree, Very First Christmas, and others) by Stan and Jan Berenstain – “My daughters loved the Berenstain Bear books, and I loved that they were fun but always had a good message. They have continued to be favorites for us to give as gifts in the years since my daughters outgrew them,” says CHEA’s Events Manager, Dena Bless.

Family Read-Alouds

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Steve Murphy, CHEA’s Chairman of the Board, says “My first thought for a favorite Christmas story is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I love the story, the imagery, and Scrooge’s redemption. I suppose it’s one that everyone knows and has read/seen many times, but I love it still.” (This book was also CHEA Exhibits Coordinator Cathie Berglund’s choice!)

Jotham’s Journey Christmas Series by Arnold Ytreeide – Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, Bartholomew’s Passage, Ishtar’s Odyssey – From the author: “All four ten-year-olds — Jotham, Bartholomew, Tabitha, and Ishtar — take families on treacherous adventures as they search for their parents, fight off Roman soldiers and temple guards, escape from slavery, and face lethal deserts. Along the way they learn the true message of the Messiah, and learn to live the true meaning of the first Christmas.”

“They are written as a series of stories to be read aloud to children one per day during advent. Our grandkids love the books and can’t wait to hear the next segment.  The author is an excellent storyteller, and the books are much loved!” Steve Murphy shares. [Editor’s Note: Ytreeide has continued his series with Amon’s Adventures: A Family Story for Easter, Amon’s Secret: A Family Story of the First Christians, and coming soon in 2024: Amon’s Mission]

Adult Fiction

Two From Galilee: The Story of Mary and Joseph by Marjorie Holmes – This is the story of two real people whose lives were touched by God: two people chosen by God to provide an earthly home for His Son. Here are Mary and Joseph—a teenage girl and a young carpenter—alone, frightened, in love, and faced with family conflict, a hostile world, and an awesome responsibility. (Amazon description)

Elise Hamel says “I first read this book in college and was captured by the way it brought the Christmas story to life. It made the ‘characters’ of Mary and Joseph feel real. This story brings a new perspective to the very first Advent; a young couple awaiting the birth of their child but also the Savior of the world.”

As we lose ourselves in these stories of faith, fun, and the transformative power of love, may our hearts be stirred with gratitude for the greatest gift ever given—the gift of God’s Son. May they be more than just words on a page; may they inspire us to reflect the love and compassion that Christ brought into the world. Tell us, what books would you add to this list?