5 holiday stories with discussion questions.

Five Big-Hearted Christmas Tales

Read & Reflect to Grow Big Hearts

We invite you to check out these five stories as a way to inspire kindness, compassion, and hope during the holiday season. Each of these picture books is beautifully illustrated with a well-told story that is wonderful to read aloud. While Christmas is the holiday backdrop for each story, the spirit of generosity, hope, and kindness is broad enough to apply to any day of the year.

Take some time to start a big-hearted conversation about the issues of homelessness, poverty, friendship, hope, generosity, and perseverance as well. Each of these big ideas is brought up in this small collection of stories.

Get started with these questions.

  • What would your holiday be like if you didn’t receive any presents?
  • What would it feel like to receive holiday gifts from a stranger instead of family and friends?
  • What kind gestures have others done for you over the holidays?
  • What are some ways you can show others you care during the holidays?

1. Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo

This is one of the sweetest, most elegant books of the season. Great Joy is the tale of an organ grinder, his monkey, and the little girl who worries over whether he has a place to go in the storm.

2. The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell

What do you get for the friend who has everything? Nothing, of course!

Pactrick McDonnell’s The Gift of Nothing is the light-hearted tale of one dog’s quest to find just the right nothing to give his special friend.

3. December by Eve Bunting

Simon and his mom don’t have much–the cardboard house they built for themselves, a tiny Christmas tree, and a picture of an angel pinned to one wall. On Christmas Eve they take in a frail stranger who needs a place to keep warm, and the next morning Simon wakes early to find that the woman has vanished. Instead, he sees December, the angel from the picture, with her wings fanned out over their cardboard house. Could she be real?

If you liked Eve Bunting’s Fly Away Home, you’ll find this to be equally poignant but also accessible for young readers.

4. Gus and Grandpa and the Christmas Cookies by Claudia Mills

When Gus goes to Grandpa’s house to bake Christmas cookies, they discover that they don’t have any sprinkles. On the way to the store, they pass a Santa collecting money for the poor. Gus contributes two quarters and is rewarded with a “God bless you.” Returning home, Gus and Grandpa are visited by three neighbors, each bringing two dozen cookies. What are they to do with so many cookies? Gus knows!

5. Christmas Soup by Alice Faye Duncan

Every year the Beene family dreams of a Christmas feast, but every year they get the same old watery soup. The true meaning of Christmas is revealed in this touching picture book with poignant illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. While Mama is making the traditional Christmas soup her children wish for more. When Baby Fannie prays ‘Bless our home with something more’— and that ‘more’ turns out to be two hungry strangers to feed, it seems as if things can’t get much worse. But the soup—a true feast for the hungry pair—is shared, and the Beene children learn a lesson about giving they won’t soon forget.

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