Books,  Faith,  Gifts

a quiet, working-mom christmas book on my mind

Our Thanksgiving was a lonely one and this time is terrible and I can’t wait, my children can’t wait, until we’re back to not having overflowing hospitals and exhausted nurses. I’m following the vaccine news a bit and I feel optimistic about April (my birthday month!).

And I’m including a photo of our graham cracker houses from last year but Joe built these, I did not. I made the royal icing, which was really fun to make with dangerous egg whites, but I did not cut graham crackers  precisely, with an exacto knife. Just so you know. 

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones was given to me when I was pregnant with our first daughter. I have read it aloud to all of the girls through the years, but perhaps more importantly, I’ve played the audiobook for on repeat over the years. The audiobook is wonderful. The cds are often included in the purchase of this illustrated Bible (look for “with CDs” in the listing). The storytelling approach and enthusiasm in this retelling is the best.

So when Sally Lloyd Jones, author of the Jesus Storybook Bible, says that she wrote up a list of favorite Christmas books, I pay attention. The woman knows her Advent books. She just updated her list this week. And updated her Advent playlist (Spotify). And released a printable pdf with coloring pages and ornaments. Thank you for your dedication to your internet audience, Sally!

Sally updating her list caused me to update my list, which has grown since I last wrote about it here. I do think holiday books are worth purchasing, new or secondhand. It’s nice to keep a box of them in storage and take them out with the season. They read well. They age well. I’m building my list on bookshop because bookshop is giving 10% of each purchase to local bookstores and 75% of profits to authors/publishers/bookstores. yup yup yup.

(I don’t have Holly & Ivy on my list. It’s not an omission; I don’t like it. It reads slow!)

There are so many favorites to highlight from my list but the one that’s been sitting on my mind to mention to you is Before Morning. An illustration from it above.^^ It is is the story of a mother preparing to go to work, and then plans (planes) are cancelled with a snowstorm. I always tear up when reading this incredibly simple, poetic story aloud. It’s bravery in the small things, the everyday things, but euphoric glee in the unexpected. You see the mom at her household tasks. You see the child hoping. You see the partner supporting. You see some people sleeping, and others at work. All this, illustrated with woodcuts, accompanied by a slowly incanted poem.

I think this particular book is on my mind because this year we will be explaining ourselves to our children, trying to show them our cards, sweeping the curtain of the moment to the side so they can glimpse the bigger picture with us. Casting it all as temporary, but acknowledging that loneliness and disappointment are lifelong elements to see and walk with.


  • Anna

    So fun, Rachael. I just requested my advent books from the library today! I remember loving the idea from you long before I had Phea.

    Also, I love Holly and Ivy! But only for myself! I read it at night before I go bed. ✨

    • Rachael

      Thank you Anna. As I think you well know, I always write little thoughts like that in the hopes that someone will disagree with me! Love hearing that you savor it on your own.

  • Susan Magnolia

    Thank you for the recommendations, I requested a bunch from the library. We like Lighthouse Christmas (based on a real tradition of a flying Santa) and the Dolls’ Christmas (it’s a bit over the top but my daughter’s favorite!). We also enjoy revisiting Christmas chapters in beloved books on our shelves at home (like Children of Noisy Village and Laura Ingalls). You are not the only one to find Holly & Ivy a slow read. I have read other books by Rumer Godden and they are sweet but very repetitive.

  • Teresa Coda

    I think my favorite part of this (altogether excellent and wonderful) post was that opening paragraph, which brought tears to my eyes as it resonated so strongly with me. I feel so isolated in so many ways right now; it’s helpful to remember that others — who, on the face of things are carrying on magnificiently — are lonley and can’t wait. And it’s also helpful to remember that we can carry on despite our lonliness and impatience.

  • Taylor Norris

    Hahaha! I had to laugh about Holly and Ivy! That’s how I feel about “Christmas Day In the morning.” No thank you. We looove our advent books. Also everything by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I’m with you, friend, the times suck. Throwing caution to the wind and declaring full optimism for spring over here. My winter plans include coffee and so much reading that my house gets dusty.

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