Book Lists Book Reviews Holidays Picture Books

The 24 Best Christmas Picture Books

One of my favorite November rituals is going through our Christmas picture books, visiting my local Barnes and Noble to scope out new releases, and requesting a million titles I haven’t read from the library to find the best Christmas picture books.

24 of the best Christmas picture books that you and your children will love this year!

And then my favorite December ritual is reading them over and over again with my girls.

Every year, I think “THIS is the best list ever.”

And then every year, I discover new titles that are are so good I can’t possibly love them any more.

So, until 2018, this is the list of the very best Christmas picture books.

As always, I try to mix new and old, religious and secular, funny and sweet. I hope you’ll find a few new ones to add to your collection this year!

24 of the very best Christmas picture books that you and your children will love throughout the whole holiday season, including new and classic titles, picked by a children's librarian and mama of four!

  1. Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares. This might be my favorite new Christmas book this year. It’s about a pair of cardinals who live together in a giant tree in a family’s yard. And when that tree is chosen to be the tree for the Rockefeller Center, the birds are separated. The illustrations on this one especially are just to die for.
  2. Santa Rex by Molly Idle. My girls have long been obsessed with Tea Rex, so it’s no surprise they were thrilled by a Christmas installment.
  3. The 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by‎ Jake Parker. You probably know Sherri Duskey Rinker from her wildly popular book Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, and this one is another perfect choice for vehicle lovers. In this one, Santa’s sleigh is in need of serious repairs, so all the elves come up with twelve different kinds of alternate sleighs.
  4. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, illustrated by‎ Sarah Massini. This is a classic, but I’ve never particularly thought of it as a Christmas story until I got this spectacular new edition as a gift.
  5. Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda. This one was a favorite in our house last year, about a little bunny who takes up skiing and you move the book around to create hills and slopes. Perfect for anyone who loved Press Here (aka everyone).
  6. The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen. What if you woke to jingling in the night and found a little lost reindeer in the woods? It’d be pretty magical, that’s what.
  7. Walk this World at Christmastime illustrated by Debbie Powell. I can’t tell you how many hours we spent last year poring over the details in this gorgeous lift-the-flap book that shows how people celebrate Christmas in different parts of the world. 
  8. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. I’ll admit that I’m wary of holiday editions of very popular books, but someone how the Little Blue Truck ones nail it every time (the Halloween one is also a favorite at our house).
  9. Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. This one has all the makings of a new classic, from the story to the illustrations, and I love how it brings the focus on how to help others, not just presents, presents, presents.
  10. Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dwedney. If you have a child who can get overwhelmed by all the excitement and events of the holiday season (I have one of those children!), this is a perfect book to gently discuss the heightened emotions and expectations of Christmas and what really matters.
  11. Presents Through the Window by Taro Gomi. This might have been the most popular addition to our collection last year. Santa keeps peeking through the window and dropping in a present, but he guesses wrong every time and the presents are all wrong for the recipients!
  12. A Little Christmas Tree by Anthony Merrill and Michael Bast, illustrated by‎ Dan Burr. I have pretty much NEVER recommended a self-published book on my blog, but this one is so gorgeous and the story is just the sweetest, about a tree who wants to be part of someone’s perfect Christmas, but when his branch is broken on his way down the mountain, it looks like he’s destined for the garbage instead.
  13. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Dennis Nolan. This book doesn’t have any of the trappings of your standard Christmas story – no snow, no Santa, no stockings. And neither did the first Christmas.
  14. Maple and Willow’s Christmas Tree by Lori Nichols. Maple and Willow forever, basically. I love these sweet sisters and I love the clever solution when one of the sisters turns out to be allergic to their perfect Christmas tree.
  15. Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee. Marla Frazee can do no wrong in my book. And this one, about how Santa tests all the toys, getting everything ready for the big day, is no exception to her genius.
  16. When Santa was a Baby by Linda Bailey, illustrated by‎ Geneviève Godbout. My girls are OBSESSED with this clever tale about what Santa was like as a baby and how he grew up into a famous toy giver. 
  17. The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrated by Tim Jonke. I remember this gorgeous book from my childhood and I love every page of it, especially with its focus on Jesus from birth to death.  
  18. Samurai Santa: A Very Ninja Christmas by Rubin Pingk. This one just delights me every time. It’s so clever and fun and I love a good ninja.
  19. Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer. I have been dying to get my hands on a copy of this for YEARS and my sister-in-law bought it for me last year and it lived up to all my high expectations. It’s funny and then it’s so incredibly sweet.
  20. The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Cale Atkinson. Harold isn’t sure he believes in Santa. If only he knew that Santa isn’t sure he believes in HAROLD.
  21. I Believe in Santa Claus by Diane G. Adamson. This life-long favorite of mine uses sparse text to identify similarities to Santa and Jesus, and I just love it so much.
  22. The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Matt Tavares. It’s great to be a gingerbread cookie. It’s not so good when you know Santa is going to show up any minute and eat you.
  23. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Alison Jay. This book filled with tiny details to find is perfect for those last few anxious days before Christmas morning and is perfect for snuggling up with a cup of cocoa and taking your time over. (I also love I Spy Christmas and Can You See What I See? Night Before Christmas by Walter Wick).

P.S. If you want more recommendations, here’s the 2016 list, 2015 list, 2014 list, the 2013 list and the 2012 list, and there’s very little cross-over between them!

And if you’d like to follow along on Instagram, I’ll be sharing more Christmas titles all through December!

24 of the best Christmas picture books that you and your children will love this year!

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19 Comments

  • Reply Elaine Doolittle November 28, 2017 at 5:09 am

    A few of my favorites are Kristina Rodanas’ Little Drummer Boy, Peter Spier’s wordless Christmas, Tomie De Paola’s Friendly Beasts (I learned the song as a child), and Hisako Aoki’s Santa’s Favorite Christmas Story.

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw November 28, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      I LOVE that Peter Spier book – I need to find a copy since I think it’s out of print now!

      • Reply Elaine Doolittle November 30, 2017 at 3:36 pm

        I ordered There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve on your recommendation. It looks beautiful.

  • Reply Kate @ Mom's Radius November 28, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Thanks! I just reserved a ton of these books from the library. 🙂

  • Reply Paige Flamm November 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    The Llama Llama series is one of our favorites!

  • Reply Heather Cook November 28, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    This post came just in time! I just ordered when Santa was a Baby and the Kate DiCamillo book. They’ll be here Dec 1st which is perfect because it’s a tradition for my kids to open our new Christmas books on that day. Thanks for the recommendations!!

  • Reply Heather Cook November 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Oh, and I’m glad you liked the Humphrey book from last year.

  • Reply precious mae November 28, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    Loving this list! The kids in the family would definitely enjoy the Holidays!

  • Reply Heather November 29, 2017 at 5:01 am

    Your picture book recommendations are always the best!! We found this one on the shelf at the library this year and we are loving it so far! https://www.amazon.com/Bears-Merry-Hidden-Things-Seek/dp/0062570781 It would be similar to your last choice here – kind of where’s waldo-ish 🙂

  • Reply Carla Tippets November 29, 2017 at 10:54 am

    A new to me one this year is A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea (whose artwork is just gorgeous). I loved the message of a simple christmas, and that the christmas spirit can soften even the crustiest person.

  • Reply My Favorite Christmas Tradition November 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    […] you are looking for more Christmas book recommendations, I highly recommend checking out Everyday Reading  for her amazing lists (which I have used since 2013). Also don’t forget classics such as The […]

  • Reply Britt Wilkinson November 29, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I love my library… except for when I go to put books on hold from your lists. They just don’t have many newer books! Boo hoo!!

  • Reply Sam December 1, 2017 at 8:07 am

    We love Humprey’s First Christmas too – I’d forgotten we have this but will have to dig it out of my son’s bookcase! I’m currently highlighting some more diverse Christmas book options at https://beyondthesnowyday.blogspot.com/. I can’t with the Llama Llama books – the character is so bratty!

  • Reply Heather Whitehead December 1, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I have been so excited for this post, it is one of my favorites all year. My library had some of these on the shelf today. I’m excited to try out some new ones, like Red and Lulu. Thanks so much for compiling this list.

  • Reply Kristen Kwisnek December 2, 2017 at 8:44 am

    I’ve had a tradition with my dad that I buy him a new Christmas book each year as a Christmas gift, so this list is super helpful. Thanks!

  • Reply Katie December 4, 2017 at 8:20 am

    I bought The 12 Sleighs of Christmas as a gift after I saw it on your Instagram… the illustrations are so great! My personal favorite Christmas book is Who is Coming to Our House. I loved it as a kid, and it’s my favorite now to give as a gift.

  • Reply Stacey Werly December 7, 2017 at 6:35 am

    Which ones come as board books?

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