December 14, 2016

5 Christmas Picture Books to Inspire Acts of Service

There's nothing like a beautiful story to teach kids what their service can mean to someone else, whether that person is a member of their own family, a friend, or someone they don't even know in person. Just so you know, most of these are tearjerkers!

Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck
Illustrated by Mark Buehner

A young boy wants to get his Dad the perfect Christmas present, but he doesn't have enough money to buy anything. Then he realizes that his Dad has never gotten to see he and his siblings open their presents on Christmas, because Dad has always been out doing the chores. Then he knows what his gift to his Dad can be.

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We don't have this version, but I plan to get it! We just have the text in another compilation. This is one that makes me cry every. single. time. Er--um...I get a little something in my eye. Yeah. We lived on a big dairy farm in Idaho when I was little and I have vague memories of my Dad and older brothers going out super early on Christmas to get the cows milked before all the festivities. So I can picture every bit of this and how much the Dad would appreciate his son's gift. Okay. I'm getting a little teary just thinking about it. Moving on...

A Christmas Dress for Ellen, by Thomas S. Monson
Illustrated by Ben Sowards

A desperately poor, struggling family in Alberta, Canada will have nothing for Christmas this year. The mother, Mary Jeppson, has written to her family in Idaho, but though they have checked the post office (a several-hour horse ride away) several times, nothing has come in. They go to bed with sore hearts.

Meanwhile, the post master receives several large crates for the Jeppson family, late in the day on Christmas Eve. Though it is blizzard conditions outside and he is nearly blind, he and his son load up the crates and deliver them to the little family. It is a Christmas miracle.

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This is one of my favorite Christmas stories, and to have it as a picture book, with the gorgeous illustrations by Ben Sowards, is just the icing on the cake. The best part is--it's a true story! I have to say though, this is one my children don't pick very often, probably because I cannot read this book without full-on crying. Not just a little misty-eyed. Oh no. Tears running down my face. They've stopped asking why. Consider yourself warned.

Christmas For a Dollar, by Gale Sears
Illustrated by Ben Sowards

The Kamp family has had a hard year, with their Mom passing away and little brother's polio treatments. They're not expecting much for Christmas. One day in December, their father comes home with a dollar for the children to use to buy gifts for each other. They draw names and each one gets to work to make or buy something special for their sibling. Though the gifts are not fancy, the love put into them makes it a wonderful Christmas.

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We had this one as a short movie, but just recently received the book from my in-laws. I think Ben Sowards must be the go-to illustrator for these touching Christmas books. (Not that I'm complaining--his artwork is beautiful.) 

I like this one for talking about gratitude, first of all, and reminding our kids how blessed we are. Then secondly, to spark their ideas for presents of love or service they can make or do for each other.
Sweet story. On the crying scale, this is at the lower end for me. If anything, I may get a little misty-eyed.

Christmas Oranges, by Linda Bethers
Illustrated by Ben Sowards

You are probably familiar with this story: a little girl in an orphanage is about to receive her first orange--the one Christmas gift the children receive. Then she breaks a small rule and her punishment is severe. Not only does she not get the orange, but she has extra chores to do and doesn't get to even be with the other children all day.

Her friends at the orphanage feel very sorry for her, but then come up with a wonderful plan. Each saves a small piece of their orange to share with her at bedtime. The shared oranges are the sweetest they've ever had.

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I used this one with my preschoolers last week, but I didn't try to read the whole thing. This particular retelling is beautiful, but quite long! So I just summarized as I showed them the pictures. Then we had oranges for our snack.

(The title link is to the paperback version. Amazon doesn't have the hardcover and the used options are outrageously expensive.)

The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree, by David Rubel
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Told through the eyes of an older man, reminiscing about his boyhood in the Great Depression. His family was poverty-stricken, living in a ramshackle house without much to eat or wear. One Christmas his father decided to sell Christmas trees in New York City. At the end of the day, they end up giving a tree to a group of construction workers.

Well, guess who shows up the next day? It's the workers, with tools and supplies in hand to build this family a new house. Later on, a mighty evergreen that has grown next to the house is chosen as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Apparently, after Christmas is over, the tree is milled and the wood used to build a home for a family in need through Habitat for Humanity. So it all comes full circle.

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This is a neat story that shows how we all are sometimes on the receiving end of kindness, then have the opportunity to be on the giving side of things at other times. Touching, but it doesn't make me cry. :)

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What would you add to this list? Are you a crybaby like me when it comes to certain stories?


  1. These all look like great additions to my classroom library! I love children's Christmas books. Do you know An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco? (Or just about anything by that author?)

    1. That's one of hers I haven't read! I'll have to find it at our library. I've really liked what I have read of hers. I like how many of them are suitable for elementary-aged kids that may think they've grown out of picture books. :) (Never too old for picture books!)