20 favorite Christmas books for kids

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Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and writer at Steady Mom

Last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we followed our usual tradition of chopping down our Christmas tree.

But there’s another tradition we always follow on that day as well, and I was reminded of it when one of my children asked:

“When will we get the Christmas books out?”

It wouldn’t be the holiday season without a selection of special titles to read and share together, would it?

So here’s a list of 20 favorites–most of these reside in our personal home library, but a few are new-to-me popular titles I’ve heard about online. Enjoy!

Board Books

* A Child is Born by Margaret Wise Brown (Out of print, but so special I had to include it!)

* Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck

Picture Books

* Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble

* Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

* A Christmas Carol (picture book edition) by Charles Dickens (I’m excited about using this edition to introduce my three to this classic!)

* The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Woljciechowski

* The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson (Love these illustrations by Eloise Wilkin–you’ll recognize them from her other Little Golden Books.)

* God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa T. Bergren

* How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

* The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats

* The Nativity by Julie Vivas

* The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin

* The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

* Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

* Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki

* Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner

* The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

* Mr Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Chapter Books

* The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

* Little House Christmas Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Takes the holiday chapters out of each Little House book and combines them into one treasury. We read them each year!)

Have another holiday favorite in your home library? Share it with us in the comments!

Originally published on November 29, 2012

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. We love Apple Tree Christmas and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. I’ll have to get the Little House one for my daughter to read to my granddaughters.
    Southern Gal’s latest post: Wordless Wednesday

  2. Love this list, Jamie. A couple of new ones for me that are already on reserve at the library. 🙂

    We love the Gingerbread Baby, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, and way more than I can write here.
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: Clutter free gift ideas

  3. What a great list–and quite a few I haven’t read. I’m especially intrigued by the Margaret Wise Brown board book–we love her! My little guy is just 3 so we don’t have many favorites…yet! He has been enjoying The Grinch who Stole Christmas. I’m looking forward to reading some of these titles with him, as well as what we find at the library, to see what our favorites are!
    Lynda @ Rhody Reader’s latest post: The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner

  4. We love An Orange for Frankie and A Christmas Tapestry both by Patricia Polacco.

  5. This is one of our favorite traditions, too. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, A Certain Small Shepherd by Rebecca Caudill, The Stable Where Jesus was Born by Rhonda Gowler Greene, Papa Panov’s Special Day adapted by Mig Holder, and The Best Christmas Book Ever by Richard Scarry are also must-reads around here.

    • Melissa L. says:

      A Certain Small Shepherd is a favorite from my childhood! I was lucky to find a used copy to buy for my kids (not sure what happened to mine; I have others from my childhood. I’ve not met anyone who remembers this book.

  6. A favorite from when I was child is Santa Claus and His Elves by Mauri Kunnas. I rented the book from the school library so many times that my mom hunted down a copy (it was long out of print). It is one of the most cherished books in my library. http://www.amazon.com/Santa-Claus-Elves-Mauri-Kunnas/dp/0517558181/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354196989&sr=8-1&keywords=mauri+kunnas

  7. So many of the books on your list were the very same ones that we pulled out just last week. One of our very favorites that wasn’t on your list is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Barbara Cooney. This is the story of a little girl named Ruthie, preparing for an Appalachian Christmas while her father is away at war. In perfect Barbara Cooney style, the feelings of a by-gone era become vivid and tangible to readers. A perfect book to snuggle up to!
    Kristina’s latest post: Book Train Rolls Out of the Station!

  8. Oops! I meant The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, written by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Sorry!
    Kristina’s latest post: Book Train Rolls Out of the Station!

  9. I just got done buying 25 books for advent – and I’m not sure how I missed some of these! Hmn. Maybe we’ll do more than one a day(?). 🙂 I love reading what other people are using, especially not-all-Santa-oriented people. Thanks!
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  10. Oh these are wonderful! I didn’t know about the Little House treasury. That made my day!

  11. Last year we read “The Family Under the Bridge” by Natalie Savage Carlson. WONDERFUL story! It’s a short chapter book, comparable to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in length. It offers a very different perspective on life at Christmas time than any other Christmas books we’ve read. Can’t recommend it enough!
    Ashley’s latest post: For the Drab Days

  12. The Fourth King by Ted Sieger is an absolute must, must, must read. I discovered it quite by accident at our public library a number of years ago and go back to it every year. Beautiful story with charming, whimsical illustrations. I routinely get choked up when reading it to my kids.

  13. I absolutely must share Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It’s beautiful. http://www.amazon.com/Song-Stars-A-Christmas-Story/dp/0310722918

  14. thanks so much for this list! i just placed most of these books on hold at the library. i appreciate you taking the time to compile this list! super helpful. 🙂
    rachel’s latest post: Pre-travel crafting extravaganza!

  15. Thanks for the list! I just ordered a bunch of them from Better World Books! So great!!! Can’t wait to read The Best Christmas Pageant again! It was one of my favorites as a child!

  16. Man – wish I’d seen this list BEFORE I banned myself from any more holiday books this year (I already bought about 10 picture books). Adding them to next year’s list!
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm’s latest post: Questions to Ponder: Reading Goals

  17. I still love Santa Mouse from when I was a child.
    Emily @randomrecycling’s latest post: Making Eco-Friendly Choices Even During the Holidays

  18. Love the post–(and everyone’s else’s additional suggestions)–thank you! I’ve also recently discovered one called The Third Gift, by Linda Sue Park.

  19. Great list, thank you!
    Kerry @ Made For Real’s latest post: Clean & Scentsible {Day 4}

  20. You might like this! http://www.amazon.com/Newbery-Christmas-Martin-H-Greenberg/dp/0385304854
    There is such a lovely story by Madeleine L’Engle.

  21. I love “S is for Star: A Christmas Alphabet” by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds and illustrated by Pam Carroll. It is one of the many wonderful themed alphabet books by Sleeping Bear Press. My kids (2 & 4 yrs) enjoy the beautiful illustrations and alphabet-oriented rhymes about the various aspects of Christmas, and I enjoy the detailed information in the side bar on each page about the historical, cultural, and/or religious significance of the various Christmas traditions. Merry Christmas to all! “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” ~Matthew 1:21

  22. Our favorite is called “The Christmas Tree”

  23. I just posted a list of our favorites as well.
    Patience @ Savvy Homeschool: Christmas picture books and read alouds
    Patience’s latest post: Winter Lapbook Ideas

  24. Melody Bartley says:

    One of my kids favorites was “Thingamajig’s Christmas”. My kids favorite part was always when they walk the fish.

  25. John Dent says:

    “Little Bunny finds Christmas” was a favorite of our three year old last year.

  26. Was thinking about Christmas reads yesterday too. Currently having lots of fun reading a Maurice Sendak illustrated version of The Nutcracker – maybe a bit more suitable for older children, but my boy is having lots of fun hearing about all the toy soldiers.
    Alison’s latest post: A Christmas Carol: daily readings

  27. Here are some great Christmas books: Christmas in noisy Village , Have you seen Christmas?, Saint Nicholas the real story of the Christmas Legend, Christmas around the world ( Us borne), Pine Tree Parable, Night before Christmas ( Tasha Tudor version- so beautiful), The Story of the Lost Star, An unexpected Christmas Gift.

  28. Sorry, last one was An Unexpected Christmas Guest.

  29. The Three Gifts of Christmas! by Jennie Bishop (who wrote the princess and the kiss). Just read it again to the girls tonight.

  30. Teresa Hilliard says:

    The Polar Express is one of our favorites. We also liked Closing the Book on Santa Claus by Ron Chandler. It is about a father who tries to save his daughter’s holiday celebration after it is cancelled at the local school. He organizes a rally at city hall, but unexpected calamity prevails. My daughter made me read it to her twice.

  31. Thank you so much for this list! I was able to find all but one or two at our local library! Will be wrapping these and opening one (or two!) a day leading up to Christmas! Hooray!

  32. What a great list! I love this time of year, especially for these kind of special, quiet read aloud times. One that we read every year is The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot. It’s wonderful and makes us all tear up every time!
    Erin’s latest post: An Illustrated Pride and Prejudice

  33. Have to chime in with one more we love: The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall. It’s a simple read, but very sweet and poignant.
    Erin’s latest post: An Illustrated Pride and Prejudice

  34. You will love the following meaningful Christmas Stories:
    Why Christmas Tree’s Aren’t Perfect – Schneider, The Gift of the Magi-O.Henry
    Christmas in the Trenches-McCutchern, Legend of the Candy Cane-Walburg

  35. Dance in the Desert by Madeline L’Engle! Awesome illustrations too.

  36. I would add Song of the Stars to this list! It is the most beautiful story about all of creation getting ready for the coming of the newborn King. And it has amazing illustrations. Even my husband usually tears up when he reads it to the kids!

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