Between the lines: Christmas stories can't come soon enough for some
Our Christmas tree has already been delivered and decorated. While many bemoan shopping malls for starting the festive season earlier each year, I like hearing holiday tunes and seeing Nativity scenes and Santa displays for as long as possible.
Here is a selection of Christmas stories for children. We got a head start in our home, and have been reading some of them since Thanksgiving, along with singing Christmas carols since Halloween.
Raymond Briggs' The Snowman is a classic tale about a snowman that comes to life and visits the home of the boy who created him. It is an easy book to "read" because it is wordless. Briggs tenderly conveys the emotions of the characters through his poignant illustrations and an ending that is open for interpretation.
Children who are knowledgeable about their nursery tales will be captivated by The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. The postman delivers a variety of mail to well-known characters.
The picture book contains pages designed to look like stamped, addressed envelopes, with a bound-in pocket at the back, each containing a detachable piece of mail inside.
For the Three Bears, the postman delivers an apology letter from Goldilocks, in a little girl's handwriting complete with spelling mistakes. For Cinderella, there is a cover letter from her publisher about the first draft of her biography. The letter is typed like a business letter, and there is a mini-book telling the story of Cinderella.
The Ahlbergs' The Jolly Christmas Postman continues the interactive fun with holiday letters and gifts for a new coterie of nursery tale characters, including "Mr H. Dumpty".
Oscar-winner Emma Thompson tried her hand at writing a new story based on her beloved Beatrix Potter character Peter Rabbit, and her resulting The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit became a bestseller.
She has followed up with the newly published The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit. The story is inspired by a real turkey named William whom Thompson met on Beatrix Potter's farm in Britain's Lake District. The book includes a CD with a recording of the story read by Thompson.
Christmas Stories is a collection of four original stories by Michael Morpurgo, one of Britain's best-loved writers. Each of the master storyteller's tales is accompanied by illustrations by a renowned illustrator.
Morpurgo has written more than 100 stories for children and young adults. They are usually set in the mid-20th century, with children who grow up around animals and rural scenery.
This old-fashioned setting allows him to explore timeless values, which he executes superbly in Christmas Stories. The writing is simple and direct, but the messages contained in these stories are enchanting and philosophical.
Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol can be enjoyed year after year. A popular edition is the final volume in the Charles Dickens collection at the Everyman's Library, which has classic illustrations by Arthur Rackham. This charming volume contains four other Victorian Christmas tales from Dickens, and makes a beautiful keepsake.
Another well-loved edition of A Christmas Carol is the one with some richly emotional illustrations by contemporary artist P.J. Lynch.
Lynch is best known for his award-winning illustrations of another festive best-seller, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski.
Annie Ho is the board chairwoman of Bring Me a Book Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving children's literacy by reading aloud to them bringmeabook.org.hk