20 of the Best Kids Christmas Books

| November 12, 2009 | 13 Comments

The Children’s Book Review | November 12, 2009


“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”
~ W. T. Ellis

Families thrive on special moments and memories, the kind that are shared and made together. Creating family traditions is an important part of a child’s life, helping them to feel connected and important. One of the most simplest family traditions is reading a book together. Many families enjoy reading the same book each year to announce the arrival of the “Christmas Spirit”; others enjoy the act of introducing a new holiday tale to their library each year; and even more magical is choosing a holiday book to donate to a child in need, because after all … the holiday season is about giving.

Christmas is a special time and calls for special stories. I am sure you will find the magic you are looking for in these wonderful books.
The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition Elf on the Shelf Gift Set
The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition

by Carol Aebersold (author), Chanda Bell (author) and Coë Steinwart (illustrator)

Reading level: 3-8

Hard Cover: 32 pages

Publisher:
CCA & B, LLC

Holiday themes to expect: Elves, Santa

TCBR analysis: This marvelous tradition is explained with clever rhyme (I love books that rhyme), and is complimented by fun and heart-warming illustrations. It’s a great book that the whole family can appreciate!

Publisher’s synopsis: The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition™ is an activity the entire family will enjoy. Based on the tradition Carol Aebersold began with her family in the 1970s, this cleverly rhymed children’s book explains that Santa knows who is naughty and/or nice because he sends a scout elf to every home. During the holiday season, the elf watches children by day and reports to Santa each night. When children awake, the elf has returned from the North Pole and can be found hiding in a different location. This activity allows The Elf on the Shelf to become a delightful hide-and-seek game.

Each Tradition-in-a-Box™ comes with its very own scout elf, a hardbound children’s book and a keepsake box for easy storage. In addition, each shipment is marked for “Special Delivery” from Santa’s workshop.

Add this book to your collection: The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas

by Jane O’Connor (Author), Robin Preiss Glasser (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 3-6

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (November 3, 2009)

Holiday themes to expect: Holiday decorating, Christmas tree

TCBR analysis: The perfect addition to any girl’s Fancy Nancy collection! More than enough sparkle to brighten a holiday story time.

Publisher’s Synopsis: What could be fancier than Christmas?

Presents with elegant wrapping paper, festive decorations, Christmas cookies with sprinkles—and who could forget the tree? After all, there is no such thing as too much tinsel. Ooh la la! This year, Nancy is especially excited about decorating the Christmas tree. She bought a brand-new sparkly tree topper with her own money and has been waiting for Christmas to come. But when things don’t turn out the way Nancy planned, will Christmas still be splendiferous?

In this merriest of stories from bestselling duo Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser, Nancy proves once again that a little fancying up can go a long, festive way!

Add this book to your collection: Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas

The Little Fir Tree The Little Fir Tree

by Margaret Wise Brown (Author), Jim LaMarche (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 3-7

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (September 22, 2009)

Holiday themes to expect: Christmas tree, Carols

TCBR analysis: So incredibly heart warming. A moving story, matched with winning illustrations.

Publisher’s synopsis: Once there was a tree that stood in a field away from the other trees.

It longed to be part of the forest—or part of anything at all. After many lonely years, its dream came true. And the little fir tree’s life changed forever!

They put golden tinsel on his branches
And golden bells
And green icicles
And silver stars.
And soon—o shining wonder—the little fir tree was . . .
A Christmas tree

Celebrate the true spirit of Christmas with heartwarming text by the author of Goodnight Moon and exquisite, glowing paintings by award-winning artist Jim LaMarche.

Add this book to your collection: The Little Fir Tree

Rock Star Santa

by Gayle C. Krause (Author), Will Terry (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 3-7

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Scholastic (2008)

Holiday themes to expect: Santa

TCBR analysis: Kids will really enjoy the energy from this wildly fun take on Santa Claus.

Publisher’s synopsis: Santa Claus Live In Concert, One Night Only!

Are you ready to rock? Santa and his rowdy reindeer band bring down the house on Christmas Eve!

Add this book to your collection: Rock Star Santa

Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy

by Loren Long

Reading level: Ages 3-8

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Philomel; 2nd edition (October 2, 2008)

What holiday themes to expect: Carols, Christmas Spirit

TCBR analysis: A touching story, but boy-oh-boy are Loren Long’s illustrations amazing. This is a definite favorite.

Publisher’s synopsis: In a wintry little town, a drummer boy appears on a child’s doorstep. And when it is still and quiet, the drummer boy plays, boom pum pum boom pum, and warms the child’s heart. But one day the drummer boy is accidentally knocked into the trash, sending him on a journey he never imagined—a journey on which he continues to play his drum, warming the hearts of others, from a rat to an owl to a snowman. And in a touching conclusion, his own heart is warmed as he plays to his most perfect audience: the baby in a manger.

Loren Long brings this story of an unforgettable little drummer boy to vivid life with his timeless and magical art.

Add this book to your collection: Drummer Boy

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies (A Special Christmas Edition) (If You Give...) If You Take a Mouse to the Movies: A Special Christmas Edition

by Laura Numeroff

Reading level: Ages 3-8

Hardcover: 72 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (September 22, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Family time, Carols, Cooking

TCBR analysis: Lots of fun for the whole family — especially those families that have enjoyed the rest of this series.

Publisher’s synopsis: What’s more fun than spending Christmas with your family? Well, spending Christmas with your family and Mouse, of course! The creators of the #1 New York Times best-selling If You Give . . . Book series have brought their stories, recipes, songs, games, and activities to this deluxe edition of If You Take a Mouse to the Movies—a perfect way for families to celebrate the holidays together.

Add this book to your collection: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies: A Special Christmas Edition

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons

Christmas Cookies: Bite Size Holiday Lessons

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Author), Jane Dyer (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 3-9

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (September 30, 2008)

What holiday themes to expect: Holiday cooking, Holiday spirit

TCBR analysis: Who knew that you could teach a small child the meaning of “prosperity” with such ease? Amy Krouse Rosenthal has a beautiful way with words, and the illustrations are sweet and sugary.

Publisher’s synopsis: This scrumptious follow-up to the bestselling Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons captures the spirit of the holiday season. From making the same kind of cookies at the same time each year (tradition) to decorating them with lots of sprinkles (celebrate), youngsters will gobble up vocabulary words and holiday lessons in this charming dictionary of sorts.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s timeless morsels of wisdom paired with Jane Dyer’s cozy illustrations are as irresistible as the aroma of cookies fresh from the oven. Go ahead, take another bite!

Add this book to your collection: Christmas Cookies: Bite Size Holiday Lessons

The Christmas Magic

by Lauren Thompson (Author), Jon J Muth (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-7

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 1, 2009)

What to expect: Christmas theme, Santa, Reindeer, spirit

TCBR analysis: Written and illustrated with entrancing sensitivity, The Christmas Magic is a beautiful, heart-warming tale; perfect for an intimate holiday story time.

Publisher’s synopsis: Far, far North, when the nights are longest and the stars shine brightest, Santa begins to prepare for his big night of giving. He gathers his reindeer, feeds them parsnips and berries, and polishes his bells and his sled. Then lovingly, he chooses toys for every child in the world. For Santa loves them all, and he knows what each child at heart wants most. Then, with the thrum of magic that makes reindeer fly, he spreads the Christmas joy and warmth throughout the world–as he always has — and always will until the end of time.

Lauren Thompson is known for her uncanny ability to reach the hearts and minds of the youngest readers.

Jon J Muth’s luminescent watercolor strike all the perfect chords in this warm, reassuring Christmas story.

Merry Christmas, Splat (Splat the Cat)

Merry Christmas Splat

by Rob Scotton

Reading level: Ages 4-7

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (September 22, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Christmas Tree, Decorating, Santa

TCBR analysis: What a great ending, a real giggler!

Publisher’s synopsis: It’s the night before Christmas, and Splat wonders if he’s been a good enough cat this year to deserve a really big present. Just to make sure, he offers some last-minute help to his mom and, in typical Splat fashion, he messes up completely! That night Splat stays awake hoping to see Santa Claus. But when Splat misses him, he’s sure his Christmas is ruined—along with his hopes for a really big present. . . .

Everyone’s favorite furry cat is back in a Christmas story perfect for any child anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival.

Add this book to your collection: Merry Christmas Splat

Stick Man Stick Man

by Julia Donaldson (Author), Axel Scheffler (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (September 1, 2009)

Holiday themes to expect: Family, Santa

TCBR analysis: This writing and illustrating duo are one of my all-time faves, and Stick Man is splendid. Bravo, well-done!

Publisher’s synopsis: Stick Man lives in the family tree

With his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three.

But one day, Stick Man is carried off by a mischievous dog who wants to play fetch! Things go from bad to worse as Stick Man is carried farther and farther away from home. Lonely and lost, Stick Man desperately wants to get home to be with his family for Christmas. And when he helps Santa Claus out of a bind, he finds the perfect ticket home!

Add this book to your collection: Stick Man

A Pussycat's Christmas

A Pussycat’s Christmas

by Margaret Wise Brown

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (September 22, 2009)

Holiday themes to expect: Carols, Christmas Tree, Santa

TCBR analysis: The holiday season from a cats perspective. Uber-charming and a beautiful read-aloud.

Publisher’s synopsis: Christmas Is in the Air

But how can you tell?
Does the air smell of tangerines?
And Christmas greens?
Can you feel it in the wind? Or hear it in the sound of a song?

Experience the beauty and mystery of Christmas in this classic story told by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated with charming paintings by Anne Mortimer.

Add this book to your collection: A Pussycat’s Christmas

The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever

The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever

by Steven Kroll (Author), Jeni Bassett (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Cartwheel Books (September 1, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Christmas tree

TCBR analysis: A great tale about co-operation. The stickers, which are included in the book, add extra kid appeal.

Publisher’s synopsis: It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and Clayton and Desmond feel the chill in the air. The cool weather makes them think of Christmas . . . and Christmas makes them think of Christmas trees! Who’ll find the biggest one?

In the newest installment of this beloved, bestselling series, Clayton the town mouse and Desmond the country mouse team up to bring the spirit of Christmas to Mouseville-in a BIG way.

Add this book to your collection: The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever

Silent Night

Silent Night

by Joseph Mohr

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (September 26, 2006)

Holiday themes to expect: Carols

TCBR analysis: A true visual treat.

Publisher’s synopsis: Thomas Kinkade, the Painter of Light, illustrates the classic Christmas hymm.

Add this book to your collection: Silent Night

The Night Before Christmas

by Jan Brett (A poem by Clement Clarke Moore)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile; 10 Anv edition (September 11, 2008)

What holiday themes to expect: Elves, Santa

TCBR analysis: This is a true keeper. The illustrations are gorgeous.

Publisher’s synopsis: With over 600,000 copies sold, Jan Brett’s New York Times bestselling edition of Clement Moore’s classic Christmas poem celebrates its tenth anniversary with a note from Jan and an exquisitely redesigned jacket with red foil trim, making this a delectable holiday treat.

A new generation of readers will find Jan’s visual interpretation of this favorite poem, set in a snowy New England village, both familiar, as St. Nick visits a Victorian family, and surprising, with Jan’s addition of two stowaway elves from the North Pole.

Add this book to your collection: Night Before Christmas

Can You See What I See? The Night Before ChristmasCan You See What I See?: The Night Before Christmas

by Walter Wick

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Cartwheel Books (October 1, 2005)

What holiday themes to expect: Elves, Santa

TCBR analysis: Walter Wick is the master of “I Spy” books. Kids and parents alike will be very entertained!

Publisher’s synopsis: The first photograph, “The Night Before Christmas,” features a gingerbread house, Christmas cookies, candles, bulbs, and more. “Visions of Sugarplums” is an abstract composition of Christmas confections; and “Such a Clatter!” is a dynamic explosion of objects. In “It Must Be Saint Nick,” Santa is shown in shadow; and in “A Bundle of Toys,” the presents in Santa’s sack are revealed as a magnificent jumble. The final photograph, “Happy Christmas to All” is a beautiful, pastoral landscape, lustrous under new-fallen snow. The original poem is printed on the endpapers.

Add this book to your collection: Can You See What I See?: The Night Before Christmas

A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens (Author), Brett Helquist (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 5-8

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (September 22, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Christmas spirit

TCBR analysis: The classy and sometimes eerie illustrations add a vintage depth to this classic picture book version. Younger readers may need to have a bookmark handy.

Publisher’s synopsis: In this luminous picture book adaptation of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge leaps off the page to warm the soul of one and all. Be swept away in an unforgettable Christmas Eve, from Scrooge’s first “Bah, humbug!” to the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past; from the courage of Tiny Tim to the glory of Christmas morning. Brett Helquist’s art bursts with spirit, humor, and an irresistible attention to detail. Here is a treasure for the whole family to share, year after year. A merry Christmas, everyone!

Add this book to your collection: A Christmas Carol

The Nutcracker

Retold by John Cech (Author), Eric Puybaret (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 5-12

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Sterling (October 6, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Gifts, Christmas tree

TCBR analysis: Eric Puybaret is one of my favorite illustrators. His images are rich, vibrant and magical.

Publisher’s synopsis: What a special Christmas gift this will be: the beloved holiday fantasy, beautifully retold by John Cech (author of our Classic Fairy Tale series) and illustrated by Eric Puybaret, whose imaginative art helped turn Puff, the Magic Dragon into a blockbuster. Cech bases his version on E.T.A. Hoffman’s original, which features not only the story familiar to all ballet lovers, but other wondrous adventures—including the tale of Princess Pirlipat and an explanation of the origins of the Nutcracker himself.

Lavishly and elegantly packaged, this belongs under every child’s tree.

Add this book to your collection: The Nutcracker

How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Anniversary Edition: A 50th Anniversary Retrospective How the Grinch Stole Christmas

by Dr. Seuss

Reading level: Ages 6-9

Hardcover: 96 pages

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; 50 Anv edition (September 25, 2007)

What holiday themes to expect: Christmas spirit

TCBR analysis: I’m sure you already have this, right? Fabulous rhyme with an excellent message.

Publisher’s synopsis: INSIDE THIS VERY SPECIAL anniversary edition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, you’ll find the complete, original text and illustrations by Dr. Seuss, along with 32 fascinating pages of commentary, footnotes and archival images – written and compiled by renowned collector and Seuss scholar Charles D. Cohen. In chatty, conversational style, Cohen reflects upon Dr. Seuss’s changing view of Christmas over the years and traces the evolution of the Grinch, his dog Max, and the inhabitants of Who-ville. Also together for the first time are three rarely seen Seuss holiday offerings: “Perfect Present,” a poem about the fluff-footed, frizzle-topped, three-fingered Zift and why it makes the ideal gift; “The Hoobub and the Grinch,” a story about a con artist Grinch who sells pieces of green string; and the spiritually compelling painting and poem “A Prayer for a Child.”

Add this book to your collection: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Magic Tree House #29: Christmas in Camelot (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) Magic Tree House #29: Christmas in Camelot

by Mary Pope Osborne

Reading level: Ages 6-9

Paperback: 144 pages

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 25, 2009)

TCBR analysis: Nothing like a little bit of mystery to spice up the Christmas season!

Publisher’s synopsis: The Magic Tree House series has become a staple for inspiring kids to read. Christmas in Camelot is a very special Magic Tree House book. Here, author Mary Pope Osborne uses the literary skills for which she’s known to create a longer, more in-depth story featuring the characters kids have come to love. The result is magical: a fast-paced but detailed, easy-to-read story. Jack and Annie go on a quest to save Camelot, a quest that will prove to a beleaguered King Arthur that children and imagination really can make a difference.

Add this book to your collection: Magic Tree House #29: Christmas in Camelot

Secrets of a Christmas Box Secrets of a Christmas Box

by Steven Hornby

Reading level: Ages 8-12

Hardcover: 248 pages

Publisher: Ecky Thump Books, Inc; 1st edition (September 1, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Christmas tree

TCBR analysis: An original and imaginative adventure that brings life and extra meaning to christmas tree ornaments everywhere!

Publisher’s synopsis: Enter the magical festive world of the Christmas ‘Tree-Dwellers’, as Larry, a Christmas snowman, wakes up after the long sleep in the Christmas box, to find his brother is missing.

Desperate to find him before Christmas, Larry, along with his girlfriend Debbie, a newcomer Splint, and Larry’s companion Tinsel, break the laws of the ‘Tree-Elders’ and escape down the tree and away into the house, to look for clues.  Away from the safety of the tree and in an unfamiliar world, the Dwellers stumble upon a dark and sinister secret that threatens their entire world. Can Larry and the group make it back to the tree in time to warn the others, and finally uncover the truth behind the ‘Secrets of a Christmas Box’?

Add this book to your collection: Secrets of a Christmas Box

How To Have The Best Christmas Ever (The Christmas Book) The Christmas Book: How To Have The Best Christmas Ever

by Juliana Foster

Reading level: Ages 8-12

Hardcover: 128 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction (September 1, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Decorating, Cooking, Shopping, Carols

TCBR analysis: An excellent tool for any young holiday planners … okay, and older ones, too!

Publisher’s synopsis: This amusing and informative guide is full of tips and tricks for having the best Christmas ever. Inside you’ll find:

– Hints and tips for hosting the perfect holiday party.

– Yuletide stories, carols, and poems to enjoy around a roaring fire.

-Useful advice on gift-giving, shopping, wrapping, and receiving, including tips for what to do when you receive an awful present.

– Exciting Christmas games and activities that the whole family can enjoy together, and much more!

Add this book to your collection: The Christmas Book: How To Have The Best Christmas Ever

When Santa Fell To Earth When Santa Fell to Earth

by Cornelia Funke

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 176 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (September 1, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Reindeer, Santa, Christmas spirit, Elves

TCBR analysis: A magical and adventurous page-turner!

Publisher’s synopsis: Scared by a storm, Twinklestar, the least reliable reindeer, bolts–causing Santa and his sleigh to crash-land. And though Santa has dropped into a friendly neighborhood, he’s not safe: Jeremiah Goblynch, the ruthless new leader of the Council of Yuleland, is determind to put an end to children’s wishes and turn the holiday season into his own personal moneymaking scheme. As the last REAL St. Nick around, onlySanta stands between Goblynch and his grinchlike plan. With the help and hope of kids Charlotte and Ben, Santa must face Goblynch and his Nutcracker goons to save Christmas!

Add this book to your collection: When Santa Fell to Earth

A Christmas Carol (Unabridged Classics) A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

Reading level: Ages 12+

Hardcover: 96 pages

Publisher: Sterling; 1 edition (October 6, 2009)

What holiday themes to expect: Christmas spirit

TCBR analysis: Just what you would expect from an unabridged edition of this classic must have. The perfect version for the more mature readers.

Publisher’s synopsis: Beloved in Christmases past, and sure to remain a favorite into Christmases of the future, Dickens’ popular holiday tale is the perfect Christmas present. The uplifting tale follows the mysterious and magical events that transform the miserly, miserable Ebenezer Scrooge into “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man” as ever lived.

Add this book to your collection: A Christmas Carol

You may also like to check out:

Update: Since creating this list of books that showcase Christmas magic, dozens more books boasting the ideal Christmas story have made their way onto bookshelves. We think you may enjoy our Christmas Books booklist from 2013: Christmas Books: 9 of the Best New Books for Christmas.

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Category: Ages 0-3, Ages 4-8, Ages 9-12, Book Lists, Gift Books, Seasonal: Holiday Books, Teens: Young Adults

About the Author ()

The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is powered by Bianca Schulze. Bianca is a freelance writer, bookseller, aspiring author, and mother to two daughters. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, her goal is to grow readers by showcasing useful and inspiring books!

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  1. Cara says:

    This is an amazing review! We have a family tradition of unwrapping and reading Christmas books throughout the month of December. I’m always looking for new books to add to our collection as my son gets older. This is a great list!

  2. You have a fantastic tradition and I’m so happy you enjoyed the list!

  3. Barbi says:

    Great list! See some new titles we need to get for this year!

  4. Hank says:

    Has anyone heard of The Man Who Could Be Santa by Joanna Wolper? She came to my niece’s school and shared the book a few months ago and my sister told me she’s been in the holiday spirit ever since lol! Your kids may dig it too, TheManWhoCouldBeSanta.com

  5. Great list! I am planning a trip to the bookstore today and will check them out.

  6. SMcLean says:

    Nice list. Here is one that should be on the list….”Great Joy” by Kate DiCamillo a lovely story and beautiful illustrations.

  7. Hey Bianca….Any chance of “Christ’s Cake” the book reviewed back in September could make it to #21? Thanks, Carolyn

  8. Story Snug says:

    Thank you for compiling this wonderful list – Stick Man is our favourite Christmas story. This year we are also enjoying the very funny ‘Aliens love Panta Claus’ by Claire Freedman.

    Merry Christmas!

  9. Mimi H says:

    Found this one on Amazon, made us laugh. Probably best for wiener dog people like us. “Could Wiener Dogs Save Christmas” ebook.

  10. tomi says:

    i think that this is one of the best books for christmans too! I reccomend it very much..

    this book is very useful for decorating the house and for fun activities – Christmas Games: How to Draw Christmas Drawings

  11. Eileen says:

    Interesting list of books ; thanks for sharing .

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