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Modern Classics: Great Books for Children This Christmas

Published by Kiyoko Sciortino

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This holiday season, create magical moments when you give a child a classic children’s book. Whether they read on their own, or you share the stories aloud, these kids’ books are a lasting Christmas gift for a special child.

Homer Price – Robert McCloskey

Originally published in 1943, Homer Price is an unforgettable collection of short stories about young Homer Price and the good folks of Centerburg. Accompanied by his pet skunk, Aroma, Homer Price finds himself in a series of unusual events and near disasters (including a memorable battle with an unstoppable doughnut machine). The stories celebrate a simpler time, and the value of community – even when that community might be a touch off-kilter. Homer Price is a laugh-out-loud funny story for kids and adults, perfectly complemented by McCloskey’s pen and ink illustrations of Homer’s antics.


Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

The story of Wilbur the pig and his friendship with the remarkable spider, Charlotte, is about as perfect as a story gets. Contrasting love and loyalty with the harsh realities of life on a farm, Charlotte’s Web weaves a magic spell over readers from opening line to final sentence. E.B. White’s beautiful writing style and imaginative power combine effortlessly in this 1952 classic. Like his spider, Charlotte, White knows just the right words to use to make us believe in this impossible story. With perfect prose and touching illustrations by Garth Williams, Charlotte’s Web continues to delight readers.

The Night Before Christmas – Clement Clarke Moore, illustrations by Jan Brett

This classic Christmas poem is a must read for kids and adults each holiday season, and it is made all the more special with illustrations by Jan Brett (G.P. Putnam’s 1998 edition). Brett’s detailed images will draw children in, while Clement Clarke Moore’s rhythmic poetry sings out to readers of all ages. This wonderful edition is a perfect way to share this classic story on Christmas Eve.

James & the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl

Orphaned when his parents are eaten by a rogue rhinoceros, James Henry Trotter is left in the care of two wicked relatives – Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge. All seems lost until a mysterious stranger provides James with a magic remedy. James botches the magic a bit, resulting in his unusual escape aboard a gigantic peach in the company of several magical insects. Roald Dahl’s 1961 classic is a surreal adventure across the globe with more than a few strange encounters. The rich imagery and imaginative language makes this book a delight to read aloud. There are some potentially frightening passages, however; the book is more suited to children ages 8 and older.

Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrations by Garth Williams

In September 2010, Harper Collins released the 75th Anniversary Edition of this remarkable tale of pioneer life. Drawing on her own experiences, Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the adventures of her life as a young girl living on the prairies, moving from Wisconsin to Kansas and creating a home and community in challenging pioneer circumstances. Although this pioneer way of life is far removed from today’s reader, the story is as fresh and lively as any modern reader could wish. This beautiful story is a perfect armchair read to share with kids on winter nights.

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale of three unlikely friends is set in Victorian England, but the story certainly does not feel old or fussy. This elegant classic is as fresh as a modern reader could wish. The story centers on Mary Lennox, a spoiled orphan girl who is sent to England to live with her uncle. Left to her own devices in a Gothic old manor house, Mary uncovers the house’s secrets – including another child living in the manor – and a secret garden where she learns the value of all living things. Soon, with the help of her friends and her new appreciation for living things, Mary grows and blooms like the Secret Garden itself. Mysterious, magical, and a celebration of new life, this classic is an enchanting tale to share with children this holiday.

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