I’ve discovered that I’m extremely picky about holiday books for kids.
This list has been in the works for a while, and I combed through dozens of lists, pulled every book with a Christmas sticker off the shelf at the library, read hundreds of Amazon reviews, and made multiple trips to Barnes and Noble to examine their holiday exhibits.
It’s hard work, but someone has to do it (also, my girls love the train tables at Barnes and Noble, so this is pretty much the perfect way to burn up a chilly afternoon).
Some of these Christmas holiday books appeared on last year’s list, and some are new. Either way, I’m really super excited about this list.
I’ve tried to make it a good mix of secular and religious, classic and new, silly and still. I wrote a little blurb about each book this year because when I look at last year’s list, some of them really run together in my mind. Plus, when I look at OTHER book lists, I much prefer the ones with a little explanation. I figured you might too.
Also, I wrapped each book up last year. This year, I’m skipping that – I want the book to be the exciting thing, not the unwrapping (you can guess which was the most exciting part last year. . .). Also, I’m getting a basket to hold all of our holiday books so I can keep track of them.
So, ta-da! Here is this year’s list of 24 books to read from December 1st to December 24th!
24 of the best holiday books
Little Santa by Jon Agee.
I don’t always love Jon Agee’s books, but this one, about Santa’s backstory, totally delighted me.
Christmas from Heaven by Tom Brokaw, illustrated by Robert T. Barrett.
I read (and loved) The Candy Bomber a couple of years ago, so I was delighted to see a picture book version of the story. A WWII story is a nice addition to this collection.
My Pen Pal, Santa by Melissa Stanton, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell.
I was dubious, very dubious, about this book. But it charmed the socks off me. A year worth of letters between Santa and a little girl.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle.
This was probably the very most popular book from last year’s list at our house. We read it dozens of times. Of course, I think the little button in the back that played music probably had SOMETHING to do with that.
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers.
So many Nutcracker retellings are way too long. This one is perfect (in fact, it’s the first one I’ve ever managed to read all the way through).
A Creature was Stirring by Clement Clarke Moore, illustrated by Carter Goodrich.
There are so many versions of “The Night Before Christmas” but I think this one, about a little boy who sneaks out of bed, is the very best. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law recorded an audio copy for us with each of them reading one part.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry.
This book is a classic, about a tree that’s too tall. The top is lopped off and it becomes a tree for a smaller house. Where’s it also too big, so they chop off the tip-top. And so on and so on, until that tree gives Christmas to many families, human and animal.
Oliver and Amanda’s Christmas by Jean Van Leeuwen, illustrated by Ann Schweninger.
I’ve loved Oliver and Amanda Pig my entire life, but this year, as Ella has become a big fan too, I’m just so enamored with these sweet stories. I can’t wait to pull our copy out in a couple of weeks.
Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft.
This was Ella’s other favorite last year, and it’s so sweet, about the Kind Ox in the stable’s inn who makes room for one animal after another, until Mary and Joseph appear, hoping for a little room for them and their expected baby.
Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer.
Ah, Olivia. I love you so much. Preparing for Christmas is just the job for this little piggie.
Bears Stays Up by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman.
Bear is having the hardest time staying up for all of the Christmas celebrations, but realizes that giving is one of the best parts of Christmas!
Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Diane Goode.
I can’t ignore a book by Margaret Wise Brown. This simple nativity book has bits of familiar carols woven into the text.
The Watchmaker who Saved Christmas by Bruce Whatley.
This one I actually haven’t read because it’s a little hard to procure, but every review of this book about a little deaf boy who gives up his hearing aid to fix Santa’s magical watch (which helps him slow down time and deliver all the gifts) have been so glowing that I can’t not include it. (And I ordered my own copy).
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman.
A little mouse goes looking for a new home and thinks the manger looks just right. Until he hears the Christmas story and realizes who belongs in the little creche.
On This Special Night by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Simon Mendez.
After a mother cat and her kitten watch many animals travel by, following a bright star, they decide to see where everyone is going for themselves.
Peter Spier’s Christmas! by Peter Spier.
We had his wordless book Rain when I was growing up, and I love having a wordless book in this collection. Plus, his books are just gorgeous.
The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter.
Ella has really loved Beatrix Potter this year, so I’m excited to pull out this tale of the mice who save Christmas for their sick tailor by making a coat for his customer.
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney.
If there is going to be a WWII book on this list, there had better be a WWI book. This one is a classic about a little girl who always goes with her father to bring home a tree from the mountains to donate to the town. But this year, he is off at the war.
Finding Christmas by Helen Ward, illustrated by Wayne Anderson.
A little girl is on the hunt for the perfect gift for her baby brother, but before she can pick a present from a toy shop, Santa swoops in and takes all the gifts.
A Christmas Goodnight by Nola Buck, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright.
This is a perfect Christmas bedtime book, as the book bids goodnight to all the members of the nativity story.
Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode.
A book about old-fashioned preparations for Christmas in the Appalachian mountains.
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera.
Sophie has always wondered about her aunt, who loves Christmas, but disappears on a business trip every year during the big event. When Sophie smuggles herself along in a box, she discovers some surprising secrets about what her Aunt is up to.
I Spy Christmas by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Walter Wick.
love the I Spy books (we had tons of them when I was young) and I think this is perfect for those last days before Christmas when little kids are SO WOUND UP.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Woodcarver Jonathan Toomey has been silent and cold since his wife and daughter died, but things change when a little boy and his widowed mother ask him to build them a nativity set.
And if you’d like a printable copy of this list that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!
I have a stack of Christmas books by Madeleine L'Engle that I use as Christmas decorations because the covers are so pretty, and of course, I love flipping through them when I pull them out:
Dance in the Desert: This is a sort of fantastical story of the Holy Family's flight to Egypt. The illustrations are lovely.
The Glorious Impossible: Illustrated with beautiful Italian frescoes
Wintersong: These readings are a nice way to reflect about the Christmas season.
The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas: More of a short chapter book, and it's super cheesy (as per usual with the Austin family), but I throw it in the mix anyway. Same goes for A Full House.
Meg C says
Love this list! I'm really picky about holiday books too, so I'm excited to see some new suggestions here.
A very nice list.
We have a 3-D Advent calendar of the Peter Spier Book as well as the book itself.
Great list! Even though my 2 favorites – How Little Porcupine Played Christmas (Joseph Slate) and The Doggonest Christmas (Richard Lynn Stack) are missing! Definitely a few on there that I want to check out.
Thank you thank you! I have been wanting to make a list like this for several years and now I have one. Now to see how many are at my local library since my husband doesn't believe in buying books.
Great list! I've been compiling my own Christmas Countdown books, but have put nowhere near the amount of thought and research into it that you have 🙂
Lins - Domesticated Working Woman says
Check out Snowflakes Fall. Not exactly Christmas, but Steven Kellogg wrote it as a tribute to Sandyhook. Very sweet.
Do you know Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck? It is such a sweet yet powerful Christmas message. Plus I love the illustrations. It is one of my favorite picture storybooks for Christmas. Love your list. Love the side bar photos of your girls and seeing the surroundings of your new home. Miss you!
Love this list! Thanks for compiling it!
Love this list! Thanks for compiling it!
Good list, but missing a really amazing book, "The Story of Holly and Ivy"
Thanks for the list! It makes it easy for busy mom's to make the holiday's special. I've now maxed out both my library cards reserving limit and ordered all the others from Amazon. I appreciate you doing the leg work so I can enjoy reading with my girls!
Bless you for compiling this. Did you know that while at BYU my mom lived at the home of the candy bomber and his wife. Roommates with their daughter I believe. I've met them both and love them. I need to get a copy of that picture book but it isn't in my library!
Janssen, if you don't mind, I'm going to share this book list with my RS ladies. I was asked to make a presentation on good books for the Holiday season and immediately thought of your list. I'll be sure to give you credit. Please let me know if you are okay with this… Thanks!