Book Reviews & Extras - Christmas, Advent

My Father's World uses a Book Basket method to develop a love of learning and enrich all subjects; Independent Reading Time has different goals and methods but there is overlap in book lists and helpful hints
Post Reply
Posts: 114
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:00 pm

Book Reviews & Extras - Christmas, Advent

Unread post by Tina »

We have been reading a lot of christmas books at night. We are doing our reading, writing and arithmetic this week and next, but taking some time off from our unit study and focusing on making our christmas gifts and reading together and doing family things (one of the best parts of homeschooling!).

Anyway, I wanted to put my list forth of Christmas reads. You may be able to pick a quick one up at the library or read them after Christmas. Here are some we've enjoyed this year and in years past:

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
The Christmas Angel by Pirkko Vainio
Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble
we love Patricia Polacco and have enjoyed all of these: The Trees of the Dancing Goats; Christmas Tapestry; The Keeping Quilt
A Possible Tree by Josephine Haskell Aldridge (nice illustrations)
Bartholomew's Blessing by Stephanie S. Tolan
A Candle for Christmas by Jean Speare
The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
And it Came to Pass by Jean Slaughter (this has songs in it to sing in between telling the Christmas story....we read it everyday since last week. its nice)

...and we like the fun, not true tales:
Jan Brett Christmas stories: The Wild Christmas Reindeer; Christmas Trolls (and others by her)
Count down to Christmas by Bill Peet

Thanks for letting me share. Merry Christmas to all!
Tina, homeschooling mother of Laura (1996), Jacob (1998) and Tucker (2003) In MO
"One of the greatest blessings of heaven is the appreciation of heaven on earth. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."--JIM ELLIOT
Posts: 120
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2005 1:43 pm

Unread post by SandKsmama »

A couple that were new to us this year, but we really loved:

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck (an author introduced to me by MFW:-)
Silent Night (can't remember the author, but this is the story behind how Silent Night was written, etc. - beautiful story!)
All in the Stable (just a cute little story from the donkey's perspective)

Some others that we love every year:

Mary's First Christmas by Walter Wangerin
Lassie's Christmas
Spunky's First Christmas by Janette Oke
Amanda, Wife to a great guy since '99, SAHM to 4 fabulous kids! DD(7/96), DS(1/01), DD(8/03), and baby DS (3/09)!
Used MFW K, 1st, ECC, CTG, RTR, Ex1850, and currently using 1850-Modern!
Julie - Staff
Posts: 1054
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:52 am

Christmas read-alouds

Unread post by Julie - Staff »

Posted: Nov 2007

Author: TNLisa
"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"
"A Christmas Carol"

Author: lyntley
The Legend of the Three Trees
Gideon's Gift
One Wintery Night By Ruth Bell Graham is wonderful and beautifully illustrated; a chapter book.
You might also be interested in looking up and doing a Jesse Tree. Lots of fun for little ones as well as older littles. If you google it, you'll find a ton of info and books on the subject.

Author: Lainie
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Author: 705emily
The Legend of The Candy Cane--a beautiful book with lovely illustrations
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (Susan Wojciechowski)
A Certain Small Shepherd

Author: RachelT
Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs

Author: warriormom
Jotham's Journey was a book that we enjoyed greatly last year - though I believe it is out of print and very pricey on ebay, this year we are reading Bartholomew's Passage and next year Tabitha's Travels. Everyone I know has loved these books (thankfully I have a friend I can borrow from)

Author: Suzq
This page will give you a nice list of books for Christmas/Advent season:
www dot teachingmom dot com/features/adventbooksmovies dot html
Julie in MN
Posts: 2909
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota

Christmas books

Unread post by Julie in MN »

greenmom wrote:I was wondering if you had any book suggestions for Christmas-time? I love getting new Christmas books during the holidays and wondered if you knew of any really good ones!? Ones that can really move us to action and giving especially during this time of year...
Hi Jess,
1. Here's a thread from last year: [above]

2. Specifically for the topic of giving, we have read:
A Wing & a Prayer, about operation shoebox
Beatrice's Goat, about Heifer International (a charity, though not specifically Christian)

3. There are also some great stories from God's Word for the Nations (MFW's passion). More information can be found here:
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002+)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs
Posts: 55
Joined: Sat Mar 22, 2008 5:45 am
Location: Albany, NY

Advent books Ytreeide

Unread post by s_duguid »

I know these books have been mentioned before in archives, but I wanted to recommend them again. Maybe there is someone out there who would like to read these in future years.

I highly recommend the books by Arnold Ytreeide for Advent. Currently reprinted are Jothams' Journey and Bartholomew's Passage. We have also done the first edition of Tabitha's Travels.

We read Jotham last year and are currently reading Bartholomew. My daughter LOVES it. It is the highlight of her day.

Ytreeide is an excellent storyteller able to weave fact and fiction and even the other characters from the other books into a cameo appearance in the current one you are reading. Plus each day leaves you hanging. It is really preparing our hearts for celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

Sue, married 20 years and mother to 3 (only homeschooling one):
TJ (18), college sophomore
Drew (17), high school senior
Victoria (12) starting 1850-MOD in fall
  • completed Exp_1850, RtR, CtG, ECC, ADV
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:53 am

Re: Advent books Ytreeide

Unread post by tjkakuk »

I just wanted to say DITTO!! We did Jotham last year and it was a great experience for us. This year we are doing Bartholomew and it is just as good. My son just said last night, "Why does this writer do this to us?!! At the end of each chapter he makes it so we just can't wait to read more." I loaned out or Jotham book to a friend for this year and they also have had the same reaction as we had with it.
Tami in MI

Child of the King 8 years
Wife to DH of 15 years
Mother to DD 10, DS 8 (ECC)
Posts: 349
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:45 pm

Re: Advent books Ytreeide

Unread post by RachelT »

Yes! We are also reading Jotham's Journey for the first time this year and my son said, "This is a cliffhanger book, Mommy!" They can't wait to read it each day. During this busy time of year we have had to skip some days, but the children are happy to hear two chapters on another day! A couple of times we have had to read into the next chapter so that everyone could go to sleep and rest assured that everything would work out.

Rachel, wife to Doug ~ 1995, mom to J (17) and B (15)
MFW K (twice), 1st (twice), Adv., ECC, & CtG 2006-2010,
Classical Conversations 2010-2016,
ECC/AHL 2016-17, eclectic 2017-18, WHL & US1 2018-19
Posts: 473
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 2:40 pm

Re: Advent books Ytreeide

Unread post by kellybell »

Cliffhanger is an understatement. "More, Daddy, more" is the cry in our house.

Anyway, we've read all three and are back to Jotham again this year. They are on sale at CBD (or they were a few days ago). Tabitha hasn't been re-released but hopefully will be soon (or you can pay $100 on ebay for it). We don't have Tabitha but my friend does so she let us borrow it last year.

Great books.
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).
Posts: 32
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 9:39 pm

Re: Advent books Ytreeide

Unread post by JoyfulDancer »

We have both in-print books. We read Jotham's Journey a few years ago, and I just got Bartholomew's Passage for this year. We are really enjoying it. My 7yo ds likes it because it's about a boy. It fits right in with our RTR reading also. I hope they come out with Tabitha soon.

Between reading Bart's Passage, just finishing The Bronze Bow, and my own reading of Brock and Bodie Thoene's book Tenth Stone, I'm getting a lot of slavery, mean Romans and revolting Israelites in my head. Sometimes I get the stories and characters mixed up! But definitely learning a lot! :)
Posts: 91
Joined: Mon Dec 21, 2009 2:22 pm

O/T Book Jotham's Journey ??

Unread post by Kelly1730 »

jasntas wrote:A lot of people on this board and elsewhere have suggested the book Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent. I was thinking about getting it but I just looked at some of the reviews on Amazon that were not favorable. I expect that but the negative reviews were regarding the violence and death described in the book. For those who have read it, was this a problem or concern? How are these subjects presented? Would I need to pre-read and narrate?

We have the entire series and will be starting over with Jotham again this year. I'm guessing that means our boys were 7 when we read it the first time and nothing stands out to me as over the top. But, I do edit quite a bit when I read so I may have done that in this case. That said, our boys really enjoy the stories, my husbands joins in with us (doesn't do that with all our bedtime reading) and I looking forward to going through them again.
Mom to 6
Mimi to 8
MFW K, MFW 1st, Adventures, ECC, CTG, RTR ,EXP-1850, 1850-MOD, Ancient History and Lit 2016-17
Julie in MN
Posts: 2909
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota

Re: O/T Book Jotham's Journey ??

Unread post by Julie in MN »

Hi Tammie,
I haven't responded because I used the Jotham series with an older son. I think maybe 5th-8th grades? I'm not sure how it would play with younger kids, especially girls. I think your 10yos would love it, and sometimes younger siblings are just more used to things because of their older siblings.

Out of curiosity, I went to Amazon and clicked on the 1-star ratings. There were only 2 of them. One said the book was too conservative -- I'd love to talk with them about what that means, but alas it's all they said. The other said it was too violent and too confusing because it's fictionalized. I personally wouldn't say it was confusing because I don't remember anything "changed" -- more a matter of adding in characters and events during the unknown gaps in the Bible -- who else was there? what else happened along the journey? that kind of thing.

The Jotham series is set during the time of Jesus' birth, of course, since it's an Advent series. Each story ends at the foot of the manger. But each starts with a drama. Forgive me if my memory banks are off here, but I believe one starts with a routing of the town by Roman slave catchers, Jotham starts when he "runs away" for the night & the family thinks he died and moves on, things like that.

The main protagonist in the story is a very evil man named Decca. He is truly evil. He is basically a marauding thief who doesn't care what he leaves in his wake. He is scaring folks in surrounding towns, and ends up with other bad folks following along at times. But basically when you are reading and something bad comes along, everyone knows... it's Decca. No wishy-washy bad guy, no chance of saving this guy, he is just bad and scary. The plot often centers on avoiding, out-maneuvering when necessary, or occasionally standing up against this clearly bad guy.

And the main adult standing up against the bad guy, mostly to rescue children, is a Jewish man who is convinced that the Messiah is going to come as a babe, and soon, rather than as a King which most folks at the time insisted on. His methods of out-maneuvering Decca often involve dressing up as if he were not as smart as he really is -- as a clown or a mentally challenged man.

Despite the suspense, there are no horrific tragedies. The main characters survive despite great peril, and (spoiler alert) they all find their lost families at the end. Sometimes when you think someone has died, they haven't. Although there was maybe one minor (but good) character who did died in each book, I think?

The author writes something about the violence issue at the beginning of each book. He did not seek to sugar-coat the world that Jesus came into. His books feel realistic, representative of the times, although maybe focusing more on lengthy adventures of children than would normally be the case.

The books include many true people and events right out of the Bible, from Zachariah to Mary & Joseph to the monks copying scripture at Qumram, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. There are also things that aren't at all mentioned in the Bible, but seem realistically to flesh out the times. What would it be like at Qumram? Who would take care of an orphaned or lost boy? How often did the life of a Jewish boy run into the Roman world? Where were the Arabs in the all this? Since reading the series, we have been to a Dead Sea Scrolls museum exhibit, and we have been reading more in-depth church history in the high school program, and I haven't felt there were contradictory points. But then, we're a family who enjoys how Veggie Tales portrays the Bible, too, and not everyone does ;)

Each day's reading stopped at an exciting point. And after each day's reading, there were discussion points to talk about. There are also instructions on lighting the Advent candles along the way, which signified the "meaning" part of this series, as opposed to a regular read-aloud.

If I had read them more recently, I could probably give a more detailed narrative. I have been thinking about going back to book #1 with my now 10th grader, but we'll see how crunched we are for time this Advent season.
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002+)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:56 pm

Re: O/T Book Jotham's Journey ??

Unread post by G'smom »

Tammie, we have the set, and read one each year. My kids love them and Jotham's Journey was their favorite. Nothing in the book sent my radar up, i'll try to dig it out today and look it over again.
Posts: 467
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 6:10 pm

Re: O/T Book Jotham's Journey ??

Unread post by jasntas »

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to this thread. Long story but we will be moving the first of December. Can you feel the stress? %| :~


Thank you to everyone for your responses. I knew many people here on this board enjoyed reading them and I always take reviews from other sources, especially Amazon, with a grain of salt but I just wanted to get opinions from people I trust about the violence (even if you are all a bunch of strangers ;) ).

Julie, there was also a 2 star review that stated she preread it and felt it would give her children nightmares. I don't know why she gave it 2 stars because she had nothing positive as I recall.

I don't know why I was concerned in the first place. My dh reads the Bible from cover to cover to our kids and we all know about the violence there. And I also read Nate Saint to them without editing last year. That was probably the most graphic book I have ever read to them but also one of the most powerful.

Thanks again to everyone. I'll be ordering soon.
Tammie - Wife to James for 27 years
Mom to Justin (15) and Carissa (12)
ADV & K 2009-2010 . . . RTR (again) & WHL 2016-2017
The days of a mother are long but the years are short.
Posts: 87
Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 9:14 am

Re: O/T Book Jotham's Journey ??

Unread post by RB »

We read the Easter one last year with 2nd, 4th and 5th graders and they all loved it!
This year we are planning on reading Jotham.
We had tried the Tabitha one 3 or 4 years ago and didn't like it, but it may have been the ages of my kids and reading out of order. I do remember thinking that the Tabitha character seemed more "modern" than the time period, and I think there was something else we didn't like but I can't remember.
We are looking forward to starting at the beginning now :)
dd 15 dd 14 ds 12 ds 1
Adventures and 1st ('07/08), ECC and K ('08/09), CtG ('10-'11), RtR ('11-12), Expl-1850 ('12-'13)
Post Reply