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We all have our vices, and this is mine: I want to buy all the books. All the books, all day, every day. Forever. I would live in a bookstore if I could. Pitch a tent right next to the bookstore café, and hey, I’m set for life. I like to justify my addiction with the rationale that it’s good for my children. They need the books! It’s good for their brains and their development and their literacy. It’s good for their future. Yup, I do it for the children.
Except that I don’t actually want to buy all the books. Because let’s be honest, some children’s books are weird as heck. The Poky Little Puppy, for example, is supposed to be some great classic. But did anyone else find the ending a little odd? I kept wondering what exactly the point to that story was. Disobey your mom and you can sneak the entire dessert for yourself after everyone else has gone to bed? Yeah, we got rid of that one. That’s not exactly the message I want to send my children.
I have learned through experience that pe-reading books before buying them is a must. What’s that old adage? Oh yeah, you can’t always judge a book by its cover. The saying goes both ways – good or bad. You can usually find the best prices on books online, but you can’t exactly pre-read books online. You can go peruse them at the book store or the library and then order them online if you’ve decided they’re worth the purchase, but then book buying becomes an ordeal.
So I’m starting this series of posts of children’s book reviews to share with you the books we just can’t put down. And with Christmas just days away, The Night Before Christmas was a natural choice. My list of favorites includes first, two different versions of the original telling of The Night Before Christmas, and second, three crazy fun variations of the poem.
The 5 Best Versions of Variations of The Night Before Christmas
1. The Night Before Christmas (Book & DVD), by Clement C Moore, Illustrated by Jan Brett
Recommended age: 5-8 years
This is an original telling of the famous poem by Clement C Moore. Like many of Jan Brett’s other books, this version of The Night Before Christmas is filled with beautiful, detailed illustrations with a Scandinavian influence. She is one of my favorite children’s authors, specifically because of her style of illustration. Many of the illustrations are surrounded by intricate frames that include windows into other scenes of other characters in the story.
2. The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C Moore, Illustrated by Charles Santore
Recommended age: 5-8 years
Another original telling of the poem, this is the quintessential version of The Night Before Christmas. This version is filled with beautiful, realistic illustrations with deep, rich colors and includes a breath-taking two page fold out. If you’re looking for a classic version of this iconic Christmas tradition, this is the book you want.
3. The Knights Before Christmas, by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Recommended age: 5-8 years
This is hands down my favorite variation on this poem. The book is filled with silly puns, conversation bubbles, and snippets of Christmas carols. These three knights, Brave Knight, Polite Knight, and Silent Knight, all have good hearts and a strong sense of duty to guard their castle, but they make the occasional well-intended blunder in doing so. They take things a bit too literally at times, and they mistake Santa Claus for an intruder and try to protect the castle from his assailing gift-giving. Santa has to resort to a Christmas tree-turned catapult to deliver these good knights their Christmas gifts!
4. A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas, by Philip Yates, Illustrated by Sebastia Serra
Recommended age: 3-6 years
My husband and I have so much fun reading this book with our daughters. We’ve definitely discovered who would make a better pirate. <Hint: It’s not me!> This is a fun variation on the original poem, where Santa, or Sir Peggedy as he is called, lives under the sea and drives a team of eight seahorses with names like Salty, Scurvy, and Sinbad. The illustrations are bright and busy. The book includes a glossary in the back in case your little buccaneers want to learn to speak like a pirate too. This is a book even my husband and I don’t want to put down!
5. Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean
Recommended age: 4-8 years
Another fun variation on the poem, Santa gets sick right before Christmas and Pete the Cat fills in delivering gifts on Christmas Eve. A very groovy re-telling, Pete drives a mini bus instead of a sleigh. The illustrations are bright and simplistic. In addition to rhyming, this variation also incorporates repetition. My daughters enjoy joining in chanting the repeating chorus-like verse.
Reading tip: Did you know rhyming and repetition in childrens’ books helps improve early literacy?
For more children’s book reviews, see my post 8 Must Have Children’s Books About Art.
Books make an excellent gift idea for children. For more great gift ideas, check out my post 7 Gifts for Kids that Won’t Create Clutter.