It's finally officially the Christmas season!!! Bring on the lit trees, cheery music, and thick eggnog! Amidst the bustle of present-finding and holiday parties, I hope you're finding times to chat with your kids about why we celebrate Christmas and how we can serve others to share the true Christmas spirit. Once again, we'll be highlighting three Christmas books about service. to help in those conversations. Click here for last year's featured books.
For our 2016 Christmas books, I want to highlight those that address homelessness. We've talked about it a lot this year (here and here) as well as helped in many ways at different Little Hands Can events. Our last community event was helping prepare the Thanksgiving feast at the Eugene Mission, our local homeless shelter.
We are again making Christmas cards for each and every bed at the Eugene Mission this Christmas Eve. Join us at our December 5 Happy Helpers or on December 17 at the Springfield Public Library to help make the Christmas cards. Or have the kids make some and bring them to any event this December. Any of these three books would be wonderful introductions to making those cards.
And now, without further adieu, the three books about helping the homeless at Christmastime.
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
A compassionate girl sees an organ grinder and his monkey on the street corner and wants to know where they go at night. Her mother has other things to think about than her daughter's curiosity toward the stranger but the little girl is determined to find out where they sleep.
She wants to help and is able to find a way to do so by inviting them to a Christmas pageant.
I love this story because at first glance the mother seems severe and cold but in reality she sounds like a lot of us at Christmas, too busy going from thing to the next to care about the little things that matter most.
The ending is charming and the illustrations by Ibatoulline are darling. A must-read this Christmas season.
The Gifts by Regina Fackelmayer
Mia has everything she needs for a splendid Christmas except a tree. Once she secures that, she heads home but runs into an old man in need of help on her way. She does what she can to help then hurries home only to find that she's forgotten her tree. She goes back out in search of it only to run into someone else in need.
I'll let you read the story to find out the ending but it's got the perfect open-ended twist to cause kids to wonder who that old man really might be. We never really find out how old Mia is but for our purposes we can picture her as a child (who happens to live with only her dog and cat). And the two people in need might have a home but that's only briefly mentioned too. Basically, you can easily make this a book about a little girl caring for the homeless if you want.
First published in Switzerland, this book is whimsically European with mention of a Christmas marketplace and illustrations of tall rowhouses, a great addition to any Christmas reading list.
The Christmas Angel by Pirkko Vainio
Maria sees a homeless man, is scared, and runs away.
Later she and her grandmother take out Christmas decorations and talk about how angels need to do a good deed to earn their wings and how those angels might need help to do that deed. They see the homeless man again and Maria is able to have a conversation with her grandmother about the man, asking questions about if he has a home and how he eats. Maria decides to give a gift to the man, placing it in his lap and then running away. Again, I can't spoil the ending so I'll stop there but please, please find and read this book with your kids.
This is my favorite of the three books because it's so real. It addresses how kids can see homeless people as kind of scary, but it didn't stop Maria from doing a good deed for the man. That in itself is a great conversation starter for you and your kids. Did Maria really need to run away from the man? No... It also shows how doing a good deed can be a bit of a sacrifice if what you're giving would have been for yourself. Another book first published in Switzerland, I'm beginning to think the Swiss know well what Christmas is all about.
Enjoy these reads! And may this Christmas season be filled with your good works!