If you’re like me, you probably already have your favorite holiday picture books. Cherished books from your own childhood, or newfound classics that come out of storage every December. Christmas picture books are some of my most treasured material possessions. In our home, we usually do some version of a book advent each year. However, we often have to triple up on each day just to get through our collection.
Want to make this holiday season a memorable one centered around reading? Here are four simple tips: 1.) Put your reserves on hold at the library EARLY (I suggest no later than November 15th). 2.) If you want to grow your home library, ask relatives/Santa for specific titles or purchase books after the holidays. 3.) Make the books accessible to your kids. A basket on the floor, $10 IKEA picture ledges, or these floating acrylic shelves usually do the trick. 4.) Make reading time together fun! Build a fort, have special snacks, host a family read-a-thon, add a book related craft, anything you can think of. While these tips will certainly enhance your reading time together, being genuinely present with your children for 15-20 minutes each day is honestly what they’ll remember most during the hectic holiday season. Here are 15 of our favorite holiday books to get you started. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.
Ps. Don’t miss the nonfiction book on this list and the special bonus collection at the end!
By: Rod Campbell
Santa is on a mission to deliver the perfect gift, but each of the gifts he wraps doesn’t seem quite right. Little fingers will love the interactive aspect of this compact book. With lift-the-flap pages, all of Rod Campbell’s similarly styled books are a good bet with babies.
By: Sandra Boynton
It’s Christmas Eve and the snow has started to fall, and Pookie and Mom are getting ready to make a garland, bake cookies, play in the snow, and sing together. A rhyming series that’s just right for Little Pookies the world over.
By: Maryann Cocca-Leffler
“The homemade ornaments are my favorite,” says Momma. At that, Rosie suggests making Christmas gifts for one another. Soon each family member plans what presents to create, but Luca struggles. He tries various methods and means to make his gifts, yet each attempt results in failure. Finally, Luca finds a way to give a gift that will enable his family to increase their time together throughout the year. A story with a heartfelt and timeless message.
By: M.E. Furman, illustrated by Susan Gal
Christmas is a time for giving. All over the world, children of various customs and nationalities leave treats for Santa during his yearly pilgrimage. he recipes and anecdotes of excited children, combined with layers of colorful texture created from charcoal on paper, make this book an especially delectable read for both budding chefs and globetrotters alike.
By: Nancy Tafuri
On the first spread readers see a little girl opening her advent calendar. This is followed by subsequent days filled with crafting, sending letters, mixing and baking, wrapping, and creating meaningful ways to share and give to loved ones. With expansive images and simple text, this book will very likely feel familiar to many families with similar traditions.
By: Yasmeen Ismail
Two sisters. One chatty. One quiet. One fast, fast, fast. One slow and deliberate. One older, one younger. Greta takes the reins and rules the roost, always directing Gracie how to be and what to do, but Gracie, with her observant nature, has a surprise for Greta on Christmas morning. These two rabbit sisters, each with opposite personalities, will undoubtedly steal your hearts.
By: King James Bible, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
"Come celebrate Jesus' birth!" On a winter afternoon a small family sets out to experience the wonder of a live nativity in their neighborhood, recounted through biblical verse from that first Christmas so long ago. For those looking for a religious picture book, this is one of the best we’ve encountered.
By: Maudie Powell-Tuck, illustrated by Karl James Mountford
Mia races out of school, excited to send a Christmas letter to her Grandpa; however, her Mum worries it won’t reach him in time. At The Christmas Market Mia spots a mysterious post box. Once she turns the knob, she finds herself on an unexpected journey, traveling by Reindeer Post. Mia mounts the reindeer, then the two gallop into the air, fly over boats on the water, and rush past colorful cityscapes and moonlit rooftops. At last they land at a small, isolated lodge and Mia is finally able to hand-deliver her letter to her Grandpa.* Filled with interactive elements and lush images, this one is bursting with quintessential holiday magic.
By: Aaron Blabey
Pig is feeling festive, giggling with glee, determined that all the presents will be for him. With a list as long as a railroad track, Pig plans to stay up to catch the jolly gift-giver himself. But when Santa only leaves a small pile of presents, well, Pig’s ire is ignited. A tale of greed and goodness, told in rhyme with Blabey’s signature bug-eyed characters. Definitely a perennial favorite in our house.
By: Marla Frazee
“No one knows more about kids than Santa Claus. He is the world’s number one kid expert.” Throughout the year Santa takes lots of notes and works long hours (getting by with mug after mug of candy cane infused hot cocoa), checking his inventory and testing the toys to make certain they are fun to play with. The long hours are all part of a job he loves, one that enables him to give the right gift to the right kid (with a 99.9% success rate). With ebullient illustrations, this classic book is a wonderful read-aloud.
By: B. B. Cronin
Bold neon colors steal the show in this intricate seek-and-find book, the third in a series. Follow Grandad and his two grandchildren as they search for missing ornaments before they can decorate the Christmas tree. Take note of the key at the beginning of the book and pay particular attention to the details of each item, as many look-alikes will undoubtedly try to deter your search.
By: Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Luisa Uribe
It isn’t often that a nonfiction Christmas picture book comes around so this one feels extra special. Follow young Charlotte who, from a young age, had an affinity for nature and making the world more beautiful. Though she wasn’t much for what others considered noble interests, Charlotte left her country of origin (Germany) to marry King George III and establish a new life. When England prepared to enter a new century (1800), Charlotte decided to host a gala event with 100 children to celebrate. But to make it extra special she had an entire tree cut down and brought inside the palace ballroom, where it was trimmed in a most joyous fashion. Indeed Queen Charlotte is to thank for this festive seasonal tradition. A splendid tale with a brief biography included at the back of the book.
By: Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
With festive endpapers that showcase old-fashioned holiday ornaments, a jolly Santa covered in soot, and images that evoke a feeling of a cozy holiday home, this classic poem set to Duvoisin’s vintage illustrations makes this chimney-shaped book an absolute must-read on December 24th.
By: Elly MacKay
Follow a young girl as she experiences the ballet with her grandmother for the first time, all whilst seated next to a young boy (and his father), who is similarly experiencing the holiday performance with wide-eyed wonder. Expressive moments are shared as the two youngsters are dazzled by sound and stage. With whimsical paper-cut-outs and vibrant color, this wordless picture book is a beautiful addition to any holiday collection.
By: Linda Bailey, illustrated by Genevieve Godbout
As a baby, Santa didn’t merely laugh, he boomed loud enough to shake the windows. His favorite color was red and on his birthdays he gave away all his presents. Fascinated by chimneys and inclined to the cold, Santa was a peculiar child. His parents, however, marveled at his creative and mysterious ways, each wondering what he would be when he grew up. A jubilant picture book that is also available as a board book.
By: Joe Wheeler (Compiler)
For as long as I can remember, every year on Christmas Eve my mother read aloud to us "The Candle in the Forest" by Temple Bailey from a tattered typed copy she had received from a neighbor decades earlier. Originally published in 1925, this old story has nearly been forgotten, but I will forever hear the gentle cadence of my mom reading beside the fireplace as we drowsily listened, bellies full after a gourmet dinner, mesmerized by the tree lights and comforted by the warmth of family. With seven additional stories in this compilation, you are bound to find one that captures the spirit of the Christmas season.
Miranda Rosbach Bio
*The UK version of Last Stop on the Reindeer Express has Mia sending a letter to her Dad, while the US version changes her Dad to Grandpa.
Miranda Rosbach is a librarian turned children’s book reviewer and freelance writer. In her spare time she likes scouting new restaurants and colorful murals. She also loves reading middle grade novels and memoirs. She lives in St.Louis with her husband and two daughters. You can find her book reviews on her blog or on Instagram as @bookbloom.