Every year as Christmas approaches I begin the enjoyable task of gathering together our collection of Christmas books. We fill the basket that sits next to our fireplace with the very best of them, so they’re easier to enjoy all season.
I’m so excited to share a couple of our Christmas favorites with you as part of my Story Time series!
Please note that this post includes affiliate links. They’re boring, but you can read my full disclosures here if you want.)
Today we’ll read one of the very best of all our Christmas books, ‘The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey’.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
“The tale is unfolded with such mastery, humor, and emotional force that we are entirely within its power.” —The New York Times Book Review
Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, yet he always looks gruff and unkempt. Most folks in town are afraid of him, and the children call him Mr. Gloomy. No one knows about the mementos of his lost wife and child that he keeps in an unopened drawer.
But one early winter’s day, a widow and her young son approach him with a simple request. They have just moved to town and they lost their precious nativity in the move — could Mr. Toomey carve them a new one before Christmas?
Thomas and his mother come to know Mr. Toomey as he works on their new nativity. Thomas sits quietly by his side and describes each piece to help Mr. Toomey carve the nativity set just right. In the end, all those involved experience a joyful Christmas miracle.
After we read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, my kids desperately wanted to carve their own Nativities. Oy! That sounded SO not-fun to me! So I let them try their hand at soap-carving (instructions below) instead.
Each of them quickly realized that it was going to be very difficult to carve Nativity characters out of soap, and they resorted to making letters and fish.
But they were disappointed because they had been looking forward to a Nativity that would be fun to play with. We do have a Fisher Price Nativity set, but most of the pieces have been lost over the years. So I thought up the Nativity below.
Literature Activity: Make Your Own Nativity
You probably have a pretty nativity at your house. One the kids aren’t allowed to touch? Years ago, when our older kids were little, we bought a Little People Nativity to leave out on the coffee table, just so they would have a nativity they could play with.
Over the years, most of the pieces have been lost. So we’re going to make another nativity for all the kiddos to play with. This one is super easy to make, plus it’s sturdy enough for the chubbiest of hands to love on.
My kids were able to cut wood blocks with our radial arm saw, and stain them, while I drew Nativity characters. They then colored, cut out and mod-podged the characters onto the wood blocks.
And tada! A practically indestructible Nativity set that can be played with!
Literature Activity: Soap Carving
In the book, Thomas asks Mr. Toomey if he can sit quietly to watch him carve because he wants to become a woodcarver himself. How would you like to learn to carve?
We carved our bars of soap while watching The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey on DVD.
Before you start your project, be sure to discuss knife safety and keep reminding your kiddos to cut away from themselves, even when using a plastic knife.
Use either a plastic knife (smooth edges work better than serrated) or a craft stick cut into a point if your children are small. My kids mainly used butter knives.
To start your project, use the point you made on the craft stick to draw a basic shape on one side of your bar of soap. Then, using the edge of the craft stick, slowly begin shaving pieces of soap away from the shape you drew.
As you get close to the shape you want, you can begin using the point of your craft stick to add details.
Soap Carving Tips:
- A simple pattern is best.
- We used soft, homemade soap, but Ivory soap also works well for soap carving because it’s soft and easy to carve.
- There will be a lot of soap shavings when you are finished. If you work over a paper plate or a plastic tablecloth, it will make cleanup a whole lot easier. You can also melt the shavings back down into a new bar of soap.
Literary Snack: Molasses Cookies
Each time Thomas and the widow come to visit, they bring a gift for Mr. Toomey. The first time, they brought a loaf of cornbread. Other times they brought molasses cookies, raisin buns and a lovely decoration made from pine bows.
My kiddos unanimously decided they would like to make molasses cookies — a favorite treat at our house. And I had to laugh about how they thought the table decoration sounded like a lousy gift for a man. Lol!
- 3/4 c. butter, melted
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c. molasses
- 2 c. flour
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. cloves
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/2 c. sugar for rolling the cookies
- In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar, and egg until fluffy. Stir in the molasses.
- Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; thoroughly stir into the molasses mixture. Cover, and chill dough for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll dough into small balls, and roll them in the remaining white sugar. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until tops are cracked. Cool on wire racks.
Literature Activity: Watch The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey movie
You could carve soap or bake cookies while watching The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. Your family might like this tender, sweet movie so much that it will become a tradition.
Pin for later!
Thank you for joining us today as we read ‘The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey’! I hope you enjoyed our storytime. Check out my other fun storytime selections, each with educational activities and yummy snacks.