Is there even a better time than the holidays to snuggle up and read a book by the fire? Our family is big on traditions, and one of our most favorite holiday traditions is to gift our children a few new holiday children’s books each year.
Our collection started with board books and has grown to include funny stories, historical fiction, and meaningful stories that bring tears to all of our eyes. We celebrate Christmas, but our collection also includes stories from other faiths and traditions. Our collection now takes up a whole box that is stored in the basement with all of our holiday decorations. Each year when we decorate our house, out come the holiday books to be displayed in a special basket by our fireplace. We are all so excited to read each book. Like old friends, they comfort us, warm our hearts, and get us ready for a festive season.
It was hard to narrow it down, but here are 16 of our family’s favorite holiday children’s books:
1. Oskar and the Eight Blessings
Written by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Oskar, a young refugee from Nazi Germany, is sent to America on a ship with only an address and photograph of his aunt. Oskar arrives in Manhattan and must make the long walk from the harbor to his aunt’s house. Along the way he meets many kind strangers who welcome him to his new home and give him new hope.
2. Little Santa
Written and Illustrated by Yoko Maruyama
Santa’s son spends every Christmas Eve alone while his father travels around the world delivering toys to other children. Then one year, Santa sprains his ankle, and the boy is called in to action to put on the suit and deliver the gifts. Santa surprises his son at the last house with some extra help for a child in need of a special gift.
3. Stick Man
Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Stick Man lives in a tree with his family. One day a dog carries him away in a game of fetch. Other problems take Stick Man farther and farther from home. Desperate to get home for Christmas, Stick Man helps Santa who, in turn, helps him get home just in time to celebrate with his family.
4. Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa
Written by Donna L. Washington
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
When Granna Rabbit is sick for Kwanzaa, Li’l Rabbit sets off to find her a special treat for the big feast called Karamu. When he can’t find anything good enough, he is surprised by his friends who help make his Kwanzaa even more special.
5. Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border
Written by Mitali Perkins
Illustrated by Sara Palacios
Maria, Juan, and their mother travel to the border of California and Mexico to see their grandmother. La Posada is a special day around Christmas when border control allows families to enter enforcement areas and be close to their loved ones. When Juan’s gift doesn’t fit through the fence, Maria comes up with a creative way to get it over to their grandma.
6. The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story
Written by Renee Londner
Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk
One night at the dreidel shop, the letters come to life. The heys, nuns, and shins are jealous of the gimels. They hide the gimels but then learn the story behind the dreidel and realize that Hanukkah would not be complete without all of the letters.
7. The Spirit of Christmas
Through beautiful language, rhythm, and rhyme, we learn the true spirit of Christmas is spending time with those we love.
8. Red & Lulu
Written and Illustrated by Matt Tavares
Red and Lulu are cardinals who live in an evergreen tree. One day while Red is out, the tree is cut down and hauled away with Lulu in it. Red chases the truck as far as he can but loses it and then gets lost in New York City. He almost gives up hope when he hears a familiar song that leads him back to Lulu and a beautiful new home.
9. Eight Wild Nights: A Family Hanukkah Tale
Written by Brian P. Cleary
Illustrated by David Udovic
With both humor and rhyme, this book tells the story of a big Jewish family celebrating the eight days of Hanukkah. Everyone will be able to relate to the roller coaster of craziness and joy that the holidays can bring!
10. An Orange for Frankie
Written and Illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Frankie is the youngest son in a big family. Although they don’t have much, Frankie’s family is known to help and feed those in need. Frankie even secretly gives away his only sweater to a shivering homeless man. Every year Frankie looks forward to his Christmas orange. He’s so excited that he forgets to leave it on the mantel as he’s told and loses it at church. When he comes clean about the sweater and the orange, his family is so moved by his generosity that they all share a slice of their orange, so Frankie doesn’t miss out.
11. The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
Written by Wendy Pfeffer
Illustrated by Jesse Reisch
It’s interesting to learn about the history behind the Winter Solstice in this informative book. Ancient myths and holiday origins all revolve around the once mysterious shortest day.
12. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
Written by Eric Kimmel
Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Hershel is a traveller who arrives at a village under the siege of goblins who have taken over the synagogue and challenged anyone trying to celebrate Hanukkah. With courage and bravery, Hershel out-wits each goblin one by one and brings joy celebration back to the village.
13. How Santa Got His Job
Written by Stephen Krensky
Illustrated by S.D. Schindler
This story goes way back to follow a young Santa through his first few jobs that gave him the skills he needed to be the big man in red. Children will love to see Santa as a chimney sweep, postman, and circus performer and then learn how he meets a group of elves that help him put all of his talents to use in his dream job!
14. The Sound of Kwanzaa
Written by Dimitrea Tokunbo
Illustrated by Lisa Cohen
The Sound of Kwanzaa is a simple introduction to the principals of Kwanzaa told through rhythmic language and colorful illustrations.
15. Wombat Divine
Written by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Kerry Argent
Wombat is so excited that he is finally old enough to be in the nativity play. But, at tryouts he gets discouraged as each exciting role goes to someone else. Then, as the very last decision, the director gives Wombat the perfect role for his sleepy self.
16. The 12 Sleighs of Christmas
Written by Sherri Dusky Rinker
Illustrated by Jake Parker
When the elves realize that Santa’s sleigh is in bad shape, they compete to create the best new and improved sleigh for him to use on Christmas. Teams of elves present Santa with sleighs that resemble big rigs, snow plows, floating ships, and more, but it is the littlest elf that creates the perfect sleigh for Santa.