Christmas was on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved. – A Christmas Story
Now that you’ve bought gifts for the adults in your life, it’s time to turn your attention to the kids. I’m not especially interested in the holidays as an adult, but as a kid I had a few holiday books that I’d read over and over again in anticipation of the big day. I feature a few of those books in the list below, along with some other titles I know I would have loved. (Unfortunately, there is no novelization of the classic Christmas film, A Very Brady Christmas, which I watched every December 23rd on channel 26 despite my better judgement.)
My Personal Favorite Holiday Books
The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan & Janet Ahlberg
I was obsessed with the Jolly Postman books, starting with The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters. The Jolly Christmas Postman first published five years later and includes more real letters and presents for the postman to deliver. This is the perfect gift for any book-loving child you know, especially if they’re the type of kid who will take care of the delicate inserts featured throughout the book.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
The Snowman tells the story of a young English boy who builds a snowman that comes to life and flies above England. This story will always have a special place in my heart, since my favorite childhood toy was the plush Snowman (that I still have many years later) from the book.
The movie is more Christmas oriented than the book, which doesn’t actually include the visit to “Father Christmas” shown in the film. If you’re looking for a non-religious winter story, the book is a great choice.
However, to say the story’s bittersweet is a bit of an understatement: **Spoiler Alert** the Snowman melts in the end! Also, the main song in the movie is pretty, but also creepy. I realize this isn’t the most glowing review, but trust me—it’s awesome and the artwork is beautiful.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
This is another Christmas book that I always found odd, probably because I was never the type of kid who would get on a mysterious train in the middle of the night by myself. I probably also would have asked for more than a bell.
Despite the fact the book won the Caldecott Medal in 1986, the reason I recommend this title is because when the movie version came out in 2004 (when I was a senior in high school) my friend called it The Midnight Train to Someplace. And that about sums up the vibe of the book.
Other Holiday Book Options to Enjoy
Hanukkah by Grace Jones
Hanukkah is part of a series that teaches young children about the diverse and vibrant festivals celebrated around the world. This book encourages kids to learn about other religious beliefs and cultural practices through informative texts and colorful images.
The Naughtiest Reindeer Goes South by Nicki Greenberg
“She’s naught! She’s flighty! She’s silly! She’s wild!”
Ruby is the naughtiest reindeer in the North Pole, and she’s always creating mayhem. There are three other books about Ruby available so far (The Naughtiest Reindeer and The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo), but this particular tale finds Ruby leading the sleigh and getting stranded far from home. She even manages to ruffle the feathers of some local penguins. You’ll have to read to see if Ruby avoids a complete Christmas disaster.
Happy Hanukkah, Curious George by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey
Everyone’s favorite primate celebrates Hanukkah with some friends and the Man in the Yellow Hat in this festive book. The group lights the menorah, spins the dreidel, and makes latkes to celebrate. The book even includes a latke recipe and instructions for constructing a dreidel of one’s own so kids can play along.
Elizabeth Clark’s Christmas Stories by Elizabeth Clark
Elizabeth Clark’s Christmas Stories is a collection of traditional Christmas stories perfect for reading aloud. Stories include Mrs Button’s Christmas Tree, Babouschka, and The Legend of Christmas Eve. The book features illustrations by Nina Brisley, the celebrated illustrator of many children’s books.
Quentin Blake’s A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Quentin Blake
Illustrator Quentin Blake’s work is probably most recognizable to fans of Roald Dahl, for whom he’s illustrated almost 20 books, but Blake has also written and illustrated numerous books of his own. In this instance, however, Blake provides illustrations for the ultimate Christmas tale, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I think Blake’s illustrations perfectly capture the fun and essence of the story. This book will delight both children and adults alike!
The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler
The Story of Hanukkah introduces young readers to the events of more than two thousand years ago that the holiday commemorates. The book features bright and colorful illustrations that are sure to engage kids. Includes directions for playing dreidel and a recipe for potato latkes.
Where’s Father Christmas? by Danielle James
The perfect book for the kid—or adult—who always finds Waldo! Where’s Father Christmas hides Santa and his helpers in scenes across the globe—from Paris and London, to Rio and more! The illustrator hides 10 other items throughout the book to keep kids busy while mom and dad ready the house for a Christmas feast.
I hope this list has made your shopping a bit easier. We’d love to see any additional suggestions in the comments section below!