Monitor picks

Once the Grinch's heart has grown three sizes and Tiny Tim has blessed us, every one, here are five other stories that easily fit beneath a tree. Chosen by reviewer Yvonne Zipp.

'The Nutcracker,' by E.T.A. Hoffman

Hoffman's 1816 fairy tale about a girl who frees her favorite present from an evil spell is now more famous as a ballet, but the original story still retains its wonder. Appropriately enough, National Medal of Arts winner Maurice Sendak designed sets for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker" before illustrating this 1983 version.

'A Child's Christmas in Wales,' by Dylan Thomas

This reminiscence of a Christmas is so slim you can read it in a night, and so lyrical you'll come back to it every year. Bonus points: Get the audio version, read by the poet himself.

'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,' by Barbara Robinson

This 1972 book rivals Jean Shepherd's reminiscences ("A Christmas Story") for title of Most Likely to Make You Choke on Your Cocoa. As a child, I howled with laughter as the Herdmans, widely regarded as the worst children in the history of the world, bullied their way into control of the local Nativity play, and, in the process, changed themselves and their town.

'Little Women,' by Louisa May Alcott

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," Jo grumbles in the opening line of the 1868 classic. There might be better ways to spend the season than with Marmee and her four girls, but I can't think of any.

'Christmas Day in the Morning,' by Pearl S. Buck

A farmer's son wants to give his dad something that will show him how much he loves him. So he gets up at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning to do the milking. Artist Mark Buehner created beautiful paintings of the farm, lit by stars and lantern light, to turn Nobel Prize-winner Buck's touching 1955 story into an illustrated classic.

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