11 Great Holiday Books Every Child Should Have
With the winter holidays approaching and time off from school, families have more time to read together. We all know the great Christmas classics (i.e. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Polar Express), but there are a slate of relatively new beautiful Christmas and Hannukah books that bring the magic of the holidays to life for our children. Some of our family favorites are described below in order of age appropriateness.
So, snuggle up by the fire, and get ready to read!
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson (ages 2-5)
Author Karma Wilson’s books about Bear always teach young children what it means to be a good friend. This time, Bear’s animal friends try to keep him from hibernating through Christmas so that he can experience it.
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by John Muth (ages 4 and up)
Jon Muth’s illustrations seem a part of the magic that Santa waits for as he prepares his sleigh on Christmas Eve. It provides kids with a sweet, quiet moment watching Santa.
Santa’s Book of Names by David McPhail (ages 4 and up)
This might be my favorite Christmas book, and any parent worried about a child having trouble learning to read will find themselves teary-eyed by the end. Edward “is good with numbers” but still cannot read. When Santa accidentally leaves his book of all the children’s names in Edward’s house, the young boy ends up on a Christmas Eve adventure. And when the old man loses his glasses, someone has to be his eyes… and read the names.
Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantschev (ages 4-8)
Exhausted from all his Christmas preparations, Santa gets discovered sleeping in the forest by a group of worried animals. Has he given up on Christmas?! As Santa tells the animals the story of the first Christmas, his energy and passion for the holiday gift-giving is restored.
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown (ages 5 and up)
A very silly story about a latke, who survives the fry-pan and tries to explain his role in Hanukkah to some very Christmas-centric characters including a tree, a candy cane and some colored lights.
The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (ages 5 and up)
Set during the Great Depression in a small southern town, this story is about learning to share. When seven year old Nella receives a doll, she is so excited that she keeps it all to herself. But as Christmas Day progresses, she realizes no toy – not matter how wonderful – can replace the fun and love she shares with her sisters.
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco (ages 6 and up)
Every list of great books for children should include at least one by Patricia Polacco. Most are based on family traditions, and carry with them a beautiful view of the world and of history. I always read her books to myself before reading to the kids, though, to be prepared for any tough questions or necessary tissues. This one is about her grandmother’s youngest brother and the Christmas Eve that he thought his father was lost in a blizzard.
Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco (ages 6 and up)
Another beautiful story – and a tear-jerker – by Polacco that brings together two faiths. Having recently moved to a new town, and frustrated by a leak in his preacher-father’s new church, Jonathan purchases a beautiful tapestry that brings about the reunion of an elderly Jewish couple separated during the Holocaust decades before.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (age 6 and up)
A wonderful Hanukkah story about a family preparing for the Festival of Lights, when they learn their Christian neighbors are suffering from scarlet fever and will not be able to celebrate Christmas. Unable to enjoy their Hanukkah feast knowing that their neighbors are sick for the holidays, the family decorates trees for each one. A great celebration of the giving spirit that embodies both religions.
When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke (chapter book for ages 8 and up)
When Santa’s caravan crashes in the quiet neighborhood where Ben and Charlotte live, they must band together to help him battle the greedy Jeremiah Goblynch and his Nutcracker bullies. Otherwise, Christmas will be lost forever. While fantastical, at its heart, this tale is really about a young boy who finds friendship and courage at Christmastime.
Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce and Laura Geringer (chapter book for ages 7 and up)
This is the second book in the Guardians of Childhood series, which may one of the best children’s series currently on the bookshelves. A brilliant swordsman seeking adventure and treasure ends up fighting for an old wizard and his idyllic village, Santoff Clausen. There, as apprentice to the wizard, North discovers that his heart is pure and good, and he is soon forced to defend the village and children he has come to love from the Nightmare King. A fun before-Santa-was-Santa story!