Top 10 Christmas Books for Children

There are many great Christmas picture books out there, but these are 10 of the best. Photo: Susan Jeffers

SILVER SPRING, Maryland, December 9, 2012 - As much as story time is a staple in many households, adding a holiday theme can be an equally important.   

Our list ranges from almost 200 years old to brand new, from traditional to twists on the familiar. Regardless of whether you prefer a traditional Christmas story or want to start a new tradition, there is something for you here.

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers ISBN: 9780060743864

The story of The Nutcracker is familiar to most adults. The story told in the ballet of a little girl, named Clara, who sneaks out of bed on Christmas Eve to find her toys is a tale that most can relate to as they themselves may have been tempted to do the same as a child. However, this little girl is met with an expected surprise when they toys and the decorations come to life. It starts with a battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker. After defeating the Mouse King, the Nutcracker transforms into a prince and carries Clara through the forest into the land of sweets, where they are crowned king and queen.

Just as all dreams ends, the characters slowly disappear, and Clara wakes up under the Christmas tree. However, she finds her crown and the nutcracker next to her. There are many adaptations of the story told in the ballet for children, but Susan Jeffers illustrations and abridgement of the tale are well-suited to the attention of young children. With bright colors in the drawing the pictures clearly illustrate the main points of the story that will entertain your little one.

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner. ISBN: 9780803729957

This winner of the Oppenheim Best Book Award is a tale that explores the imagination. The story follows a snowman built by a little boy on Christmas Eve. A little boy imagines what the snowman does after the rest of the world has gone to sleep.

After the people are in bed, all the snowmen wonder the streets and gather for a party in the center of town complete with snow treats, dancing, and decorations. The snowman Kris Kringle brings snow toys to all the little snowman then flies off in his snowdeer-pulled sleigh.

The snowmen end their night singing carols around a big tree before returning to their yards by dawn.  This imaginative tale is good for children who love Frosty the Snowman, or other similar tales.

Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg ISBN: 9780395389492

In this classic, a young man tells how his belief in Santa was brought to life. After being told that “there is no Santa,” the Polar Express comes to take him to the North Pole This visit reinvigorates the boys belief.

The narrator is then chosen by Santa to receive the first gift of the year. The little boy doesn’t want a big grandeous present, but rather chooses a bell from Santa’s sleigh, whose ring can only be heard by those who believe.

After more than 20 years, this Caldecott winner has withstood the test of time and deserves a space on the shelf.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz ISBN: 9780762433056

If your children cannot get enough of Charlie Brown, this is the book form of the classic television special. The special has been around since 1965 and has been aired every year since.

As Christmas roles around, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed by the over commercialization of the holiday. In an attempt to get Charlie more involved, Lucy suggests he direct the school nativity play. Charlie arrives at the play but is unable to control how the other kids want to modernize the production. Charlie is determined not to make the play commercial and decides the production needs a Christmas tree.

He finds the smallest tree on the lot and after some help from the rest of the cast, decorate the tree in the holiday spirit.

If you do not want to wait for the annual air date to roll around, or have a child who loves the story or characters, this picture book is a good option. It is an illustrated version of the complete story, and so as far as picture books go, it is more wordy and therefore better suited to older children with longer attention spans.

The Happy Elf by Harry Connick Jr, illustrated by Dan Andreasen. ISBN: 9780061288791

Eubie the happiest elf wants to be on Santa’s sleigh team but gets put on the naughty or nice list. He finds an entire town that has not a single nice child and he uses his magic hat to visit the town to spread Christmas cheer.

After initially failing, with some encouragement from his fellow elves, Eubie returns to the town and is able to spread holiday cheer and is able to get the entire town off of the naughty list in one day.

In the end he is rewarded by Santa who allows Eubie on the sleigh team because the elf showed true kindness and honored Santa’s most important rule “to put others first.”

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore illustrated by Tom Browning  ISBN: 9781402754845

This is the ultimate Christmas story. Originally called “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” and published in 1823, this story is largely responsible for many of the images and associates that we make with Santa today

 “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” These opening lines are ones that many people know by heart having heard them over and over as children. The story follows a father who is roused from his bed in the middle of night by the sound of hoof beats on the roof.

He sees Santa in his sleigh with his eight reindeer. Then he sneaks downstairs and watches as Santa fills the stocking and leaves presents under the tree.

Then Santa returns up the chimney and calls on his reindeer by name to carry him off to deliver more presents to other boys and girls.

While there are countless illustrated editions of this story, this is our favorite current edition.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss ISBN: 9780394800790

Originally published in 1957, this is another classic that has been around for generations. While many other books focus on Santa bringing toys to the boys and girls, this book tells the tale of the Grinch, a Scrooge-like character, who is irritated by Christmas and all the cheer that goes along with it.

The Grinch concocts a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos in Whoville by dressing up like Santa and stealing all the presents and decorations.

He almost succeeds, but at the last house is met by little Cindy Lou Who, who melts the Grinch’s frozen heart. The Grinch gives back everything he tried to steal.

The story was made into a popular children’s animated special in 1966, and a feature film in 2000.

But there is nothing like the original illustrations of Dr. Seuss.

The Mitten by Jan Brett ISBN: 0399252967

This Ukrainian folktale about named Nicki who wanted new white mittens has become a holiday staple. His grandmother cautions he will lose them in the snow, and sure enough before long one is dropped outside.

The woodland animals come, one by one, they squeezed inside because it was so warm. Even though these animals would never have gotten along otherwise, they were nice to each other so they could stay warm in the snow.

Eventually the mitten is stretched so large with so many animals inside, that when one sneezes they all get shot out and the mitten shot into the sky. On his way home, Nicki saw the mitten falling back to the ground. He caught it and returned home with both mittens, even if they were now different sizes.

Jan Brett’s illustrations are wonderful, and this serves a good book throughout the winter. 

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus by Chris Plehal illustrated by James Bernardin ISBN: 9780062001733

Based on the events that prompted Virginia O’Hanlon to write The New York Sun asking if there was a Santa Claus (in 1897), and the editor’s response. Times were hard and the winter was especially cold. Virginia loved Christmas and Santa Claus.

But an older girl declared Santa could not be real because no one could travel the entire world in one night and told Virginia that there was no Santa Claus. Virginia set out on a quest to find proof that Santa was real. She went to the library, asked the street corner Santa, and asked her father.

Finally, she decided to write the newspaper to ask. It ends with the editor’s reply: Santa is real.  This is a great option for older children starting to question the veracity of Santa.

Santa Kid by James Patterson illustrated by Michael Garland  ISBN: 9780316000611

This is a Christmas story that brings Santa forward to modern times. It is the story of how Christmas almost did not happen and how it was saved by a little girl named Chrissie. Chrissie just happens to be Santa’s daughter. When she asked her dad how he manages to deliver presents to all the boys and girls in a magic sleigh, he told her “you have to believe in something bigger than yourself.”

One year, the Exmas Express delivery company wanted to buy Christmas and the North Pole. Everything began to change as the Exmas Express moved in and started to take over. With the company unable to make enough toys for all the children, Chrissie ran to tell Santa, but he said he did not believe in Christmas any more.

Exmas express trucks replaced Santa, the sleigh and the reindeer. On Christmas Eve a big storm came to the North Pole and all of the trucks got stuck. So, Chrissie loaded up Santa’s sleigh and hauled out all the toys the elves had made before the company took over. Because she believed in Christmas, something bigger than herself, the reindeer flew and carried her and the sleigh to every boy and girl’s house. But she did something different, she talked to every kid and told them Christmas is not about getting presents but about believing.

With all the other holiday traditions you create with your children, why not add a holiday favorite as a tradition? Any of these are books that they will enjoy reading year after year and can be another thing to look forward to the other 11 months of the year.

Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times. Find more reviews of children’s picture books at Big Reads For Little Hands.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


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