Our Favorite Christmas Picture Books For Kids – These holiday picture books are a perfect way to add a little magic to the season!
Many families, it seems, have a tradition of reading picture books around Christmas. Sometimes that means 24 wrapped books under the tree that you unwrap one at a time each day leading up to Christmas. Sometimes that’s a 12 days before Christmas thing, or a handful of special favorites out all season long.
We love keeping our Christmas picture books out all season long to read and enjoy. We have SO many fun memories of snuggling up by the Christmas tree in mountains of blankets reading Christmas books, and it’s so fun to “catch” my kids on the couch flipping through book after book.
We’ve been doing this for about 6 years now, and have lots of favorites to share. (Note: I skipped things like The Grinch and The Polar Express, simply because they’re so well known). Here are some you may not have heard of yet, plus lots that will become family classics in no time!
This has been our favorite for the last few years–we LOVE traveling around the world to see how children celebrate Christmas Eve + to see what cookies or treats they leave out for Santa. The art is beautiful, and there are even some recipes in the back if you want to try baking something new!
All the Maple & Willow books are darling–these two sisters have an adorable bond and tend to stick together, but this Christmas book is probably my favorite. What do you do when you discover one of you has a Christmas tree allergy? Maple and Willow team up for a spectacular solution.
For the little adventure-seeker in your house, this twist on the favorite carries the same rhythm and tempo as the traditional Night Before Christmas story, but with a lot of funny (and pun-y) add-ins as the knights try to defend their castle against and unknown invader. Except that jolly invader is Santa himself. Watch Santa penetrate the knight’s best defenses and both sides win the battle in this very excellent holiday tale.
This has been a really different year for me Christmas books-wise and I totally credit my adventure-loving children. Both my kids loved this story of gingerbread cookie pirates who have to navigate Santa, find their ship, and figure out what this Christmas business is all about.
This is Sophie’s favorite this year. It’s a sweet story of a mouse who finds a great house just his size to move into. The problem is, there are all these little statues inside! No matter how many times Mortimer moves them out, someone keeps putting them back in. Then, one night, Mortimer hears the story of who these little statues really are. It’s a great little discussion for the Nativity story. We really enjoyed it.
6. Samurai Santa.
No one is more surprised than I am that this book made the list. It was a surprise find–after Gingerbread Pirates and Knights Before Christmas, this one kept popping up. This was in the same family as our other Christmas adventure books, and Sophie just loved it. Like, a lot. We typically keep all our (many) library books in the living room book area so they don’t get lost, but Sophie begged and begged us to let her take this one up to her room. We let her.
The main character, a boy named Yukio just wants to have an epic snowball fight, but all the other ninjas don’t want Santa to think they’ve been bad this year. So, Yukio decides to set a trap for Santa, raising the intruder alarm when he arrives. What happens? Well, let’s just say everyone’s Christmas wishes are granted.
This is one of my very favorite Christmas books of all time, and I don’t say that lightly. I actually laugh every time I read it. The illustrations are that good. The book takes place during the Great Depression when the main character (a boy who’s sort of lost the magic of life) is sent to stay with his Aunt Violet. Aunt Vi does her best to make the season special, but Red isn’t having any of it. Spying some suspicious behavior near a neighbor’s house, our little hero decides to investigate. What he finds is a tired old man with a lot of elvish friends. Does little Red dare let himself believe? Even those with the hardest of holiday hearts will soften a bit at this mostly-true Christmas tale with a surprising (and very satisfying) photo at the end.
We’re big-time Blue Truck fans, and this was one of our favorites last year. The story follows the same pattern as the other Little Blue Truck books but with some fun holiday add-ins. Plus, the book lights up at the end, which more or less made my children’s lives.
One thing I love about Olivia books is that they’re enjoyable on a few levels. My kids love the simple, silly story, and Michael and I get a kick out of the little details (the parents’ exasperation, the “Ski Gstaad” poster in Olivia’s bedroom) in the background. Definitely a good one.
I’ve said it before, but our kids LOVE bear books. This Christmas picture book is one of our favorite picture book series and it’s just as charming as the others. Simple rhymes, cozy illustrations, and just the right thing to read while sipping a mug of cocoa or crunching on warm popcorn.
My mom gave this Christmas picture book to us a few years ago, and we LOVED it. It’s a story of pass-along Christmas cheer as each character finds someone to share a Christmas tree with. The drawings are very nostalgic and my kids really liked this story.
Santa’s traditional sleigh is a little worse for wear, and his elves want to make him something new. Time’s ticking as the countdown to Christmas continues, and the elves start a contest to create the most spectacular holiday sleigh around. Little vehicle lovers (and kiddos with a funny bone) will get a kick out of the elves’ creations!
13. Dream Snow.
In our minds, Eric Carle can do no wrong. This book features a Santa lookalike farmer who falls asleep and dreams everything is covered in snow. The illustrations are beautiful as always, but they also come with transparent pages that overlay snow onto the drawings. You can uncover the snow-covered animals one by one, and it’s even got a secret button in the back you can push to play a twinkly song at the end. Two thumbs up.
14. The Nutcracker
The New York City Ballet brings the magic of their live performance to a picture book! This gorgeous Christmas picture book tells the traditional Nutcracker tale, complete with dazzling illustrations, graceful movements, and a lot of fun! (Note: it is a bit wordy, but you can easily summarize or gloss over details for shorter attention spans.)
If you’re somewhat familiar with the tale of the Nutcracker (see the last book for a refresher!), you’ll love this Jazz-inspired retelling set in the height of the Harlem Renaissance.
16. Silent Night.
This gorgeous book puts beautiful illustrations to the traditional Christmas carol lyrics. It’s sweet, gentle, and lovely.
We’ve heard stories of kids who stop believing Santa is real, but have you ever read one where SANTA stops believing a kid is real? Santa’s got a sneaking suspicion that everyone’s been trying to trick him about Harold. Turns out, Harold’s not sure if everyone’s been tricking him about Santa. Laugh your way through the funny illustrations and find out how they each learn the truth in this funny Christmas picture book.
This sweet little story about a bird who thinks of others will quickly get kids in the giving spirit. (Maybe follow up your reading with a holiday service project–donate old toys or buy new ones for a family in need, gather pantry goods for a food drive, or drop treats off to neighbors!
This book is GORGEOUS!! It’s a new read for us this year, and the fun peek-throughs and creative pages will draw you right in as you follow Mia on her way to deliver a card to her grandma.
We have LOVED this Construction Site series from Sherri Duskey Rinker, and this Christmas version is as sweet and fun as the others. If you’ve got a vehicle lover at your house, this is a must-read.
These crayon books are so funny! A group of big-personality crayons that belong to a little boy named Duncan are back to celebrate the holidays! I love that this funny book includes pull-outs, activities, and pockets filled with fun surprises to make the story more interactive. Your kids will love this silly Christmas picture book!
22. Santa Rex
Nothing says Christmas quite like…dinosaurs? Molly Idle makes the BEST illustrations. Your littles will love this fun and funny story of Cordelia’s (cretaceous) Christmas party.
This story is a 3-in-1: Ivy (an orphan) longs for a family of her own. Holly (a doll) wishes for a child to bring her to life, and Mr. & Mrs. Jones are hoping for a son or daughter to share their holidays with. You’ll love how these stories come together!
New for 2020, this Christmas picture book is so pretty! I ordered it immediately after seeing it on Here Wee Read’s Instagram. It’s even better in person! This little book walks you through all the colors of Christmas–red for candy canes and sleds, etc.–but also touches on blue, white, gold, and brown. I love how all the colors come together so sweetly.
The Peanut Butter & Cupcake series from Terry Border is made of photographs and miniatures and my kids get such a kick out of it! This book tells the story of Peanut’s journey to visit his grandma on Christmas Eve, and all the friends he meets on his way.
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What are YOUR favorite Christmas books?
p.s. if you’re going to go the book-a-day route, Simple As That has these cute printable advent tags that would be perfect!