What children’s books should you read around Christmas time? There are so many good ones! Here are all my recommendations for Christmas children’s picture, chapter, and activity books. I think you’ll find these be sweet, meaningful, funny, and inspiring.
Below you’ll find:
- World traditions
- Secular stories
- Chapter books
- Activity books
I’ve moved all the Christian picture books to a new list because this list was getting so long. Find my best Christian Christmas picture book list here.
Biggest, Best List of Children’s Favorite Christmas Books
Christmas Picture Books (Secular)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Before you watch the movie, read the book! It’s fabulous with a captivating plot, memorable characters, and a beautiful message.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
This is a BEAUTIFUL book — the illustrations, the storyline, it’s all amazing. You probably know the movie but this is a not-to-be-missed picture book.
Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Little Blue Truck is delivering Christmas trees to his friends. Practice counting — one to five and back again. You are going to read this story again and again.
The 12 Days of Christmas by Greg Pizzoli
Trust me, you’re going to LOVE this book. The illustrations are to die for! Pizzoli tells the story of an exasperated father elephant as the mom keeps giving him more and more gifts. By four calling birds, he’s downright annoyed. What’s even funnier is the little kid elephant is having the time of his life while his dad is getting more and more annoyed. Soon the room is filled with ladies dancing, pipers piping, turtle doves, and all the gifts. Hilarious!
The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Cale Atkinson
HILARIOUS! Santa is very suspicious that Harold is not even REAL. So Santa decides to wait on Christmas morning and see if Harold is really real. A new Christmas favorite around here!
Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
If you like your Christmas books to be funny and clever, and especially if you’re a fan of Mother Bruce, you won’t want to miss this new picture book. Bruce is a grumpy bear who wishes he could just stay in bed all winter long and skip Christmas. But his animal family wants fun, festivities, and family time. To make matters worse, the other forest animals are sure that Bruce is actually Santa Claus. But he’s NOT. This assumption grows and grows making life worse for Bruce and funnier for us, the readers. Finally, Bruce gives in and becomes “Santa Bruce.” And everyone (except Bruce) is very happy!
The Santa Shimmy by Christianne Jones, illustrated by Emma Randall
Get moving with this too-cute rhyming board book! “Shake it fast. Shake it slow. March. March. March. With a ho, ho, ho.”
An Invisible Thread Christmas Story by Laura Schrod and Alex Tresniowski, illustrated by Barry Root
This is a powerful true story about a woman who befriends a young homeless boy. When he reveals that he’s never celebrated Christmas, she invites him to share Christmas with her. The message is powerful: acts of kindness can make a difference in someone’s life. Read more about their life-changing friendship in the book An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny.
Little Elfie One by Pamela Jane, illustrated by Jane Manning
“Way up in the North . . . ” begins each page in this Christmas counting picture book. Each group (stars, mice, carolers) is one more starting with the one little elfie and ending with ten kittens. I love the repeating rhyme scheme and the illustrations!
How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish
A brother and sister share their best tips for catching Santa in this hilarious Christmas picture book.
The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna
Gloomy Mr. Fish is worried that he won’t find gifts for his friends in time for Christmas. Like me, kids will love the familiar repeated stanza and help from the lovely Miss Shimmer who teaches Mr. Fish that the best gifts come from the heart.
Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares
Red and Lulu are birds who live together in a beautiful evergreen tree until the tree is cut down and moved into New York City for Christmas. Unfortunately, when the tree is moved, Red gets left behind. He searches and searches until he finally finds his beloved Lulu in the now festively decorated Christmas tree. Together they enjoy the holidays, then find a new place to live in the city afterward This lovely story and illustrations capture the beauty of Christmas in NYC and how love prevails.
Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Modugno, illustrated by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer
What a delightful Nordic Christmas version of the Three Bears! Only in this tale, Goldilocks is Santa Claus who finds the “just-right” pudding, chair, and bed.
The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds
Roland’s excitement for Christmas morning is ruined when he sees a very tiny present. He wishes for something bigger — much bigger. But, it turns out that maybe bigger isn’t better. Maybe the best gift is the family who loves him.
Gifts of the Heart by Patricia Polacco
A sweet story about two children who are spending their first Christmas without their beloved Gramma and with a new housekeeper, Kay Lamity, who rocks their boat in lots of good and wonderful ways. The siblings learn that most unforgettable gifts come from your heart. Amazing.
The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert and Per Breiehagen
Beautiful photographs accompany this story of young Anja who leaves her Nordic home with hopes to be one of Santa’s elves. She skis north and encounters many animals along the way.
The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup
As you count the days of Christmas, it’s fun to see the peek through pictures, each page adding more of the gifts from calling birds to piper’s piping. This beautiful book gives kids lots to discover and uncover.
If You Ever Want to Bring a Pirate to Meet Santa, DON’T by Elise Parsley
A funny twist on the bearded guy stories! Because this bearded guy is a pirate. At the mall. In line for Santa with you… In a silly cause-and-effect series of events, if you teach the pirate not to pillage and plunder, he won’t make anybody walk the plank. (Or will he?) Then when you suggest singing to pass the time in line, he will sing pirate shanties that scare the other people in line. What will happen when you get to the front of the line to Santa? The pirate will make Santa will walk the plank which means you better put him in time out. On a chair. Where Santa used to sit…
Presents Through the Window: a Taro Gomi Christmas Book by Taro Gomi
Santa peeks through the window and figures out the creature and the best gift. But sometimes he doesn’t quite get it right. Not to worry. Sharing and happiness abound and all have a merry time.
The Christmas Crocodile by Bonny Becker, illustrated by David Small
It looks like an old-fashioned Christmas — all except for the Crocodile present. What will they do with him? First, they lock him in the basement. The next day when the family wakes up in the morning, they discover that the Crocodile has EATEN every single present. NO! Now, what will they do? Very funny, you’ll love this one.
The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Jerry Pickney
Hannah is a poor woman who finds one boot while gathering wood. She’s so happy and wishes for the other boot to match. Not only does she get her wish but she learns that Santa Claus is missing his boots. When she returns his boots, Santa gives her new boots, mittens, and a dog to keep her company. I’m a big fan of Pickney’s illustrations, how about you?
The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup
We ADORE this picture book story — where no Pirate cookies are harmed . . . Jim and his mother make gingerbread pirates and leave out the pirates for Santa. Jim keeps Captain Cookie on a plate next to his bed. Captain Cookie worries about his crew – where are they and will they be eaten by the cannibal Santa Claus? When Captain Cookie meets Santa, he learns the meaning of Christmas, when Santa makes him a real toy and gives him his own ship.
Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker by James Mayhew
We’re big fans of Ella Bella and thoroughly enjoyed Ella Bella’s magical trip into the Nutcracker story – and as a parent, I appreciated how Mayhew made the story kid-appropriate and beautiful.
The Berenstain Bears’ Old-Fashioned Christmas by Jan & Mike Berenstain
This Christmas will be old-fashioned like when Gramps and Gran were little — with no TV. They’ll be singing carols, cutting Christmas trees, hanging ornaments, baking gingerbread people, and spending time with each other. If you’re wondering what to do for Christmas activities, read this Christmas book.
Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin
“At Christmas we give, so give it your all” is the jingle you’ll be singing after reading this new Pete the Cat story. When Santa falls ill, he calls Pete the Cat who delivers the gifts in a VW bus pulled by reindeers. So groovy.
The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
These Christmas moments of quiet from the author of The Quiet Book feel deeply soothing. Some of my favorites are “Bundled up quiet,” “Cocoa quiet,” and “Listening for sleigh bells quiet.” Illustrator Renata Liwska’s muted colors perfectly complement the book’s peaceful mood.
North Pole Ninjas Mission: Christmas! by Tyler Knott Gregson and Sarah Linden, illustrated by Piper Thibodeau
The North Pole Ninjas led by Santa’s sensei do good deeds. And, in this sweet, warmly-illustrated book that comes with a plus sensei, the ninjas choose YOU to be on their team, too. You’re now a North Pole Ninja and your task is to be kind and do good! Love the message and the spirit of this book.
Picture Books About Christmas Traditions Around the World
Babushka A Christmas Tale by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Amanda Hall
Warm illustrations showcase this Russian folktale. When the three wise men invite Babushka to join their journey, she declines so that she can finish all her chores. When she finishes, she can’t catch up so she finds needy children along the way and gives them gifts — a blanket, a shawl, and so forth. My kids were fascinated!
A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman, illustrated by Susan Gal
Starting at Christmas Island, see how children around the world welcome Christmas and Santa. In Australia, Santa uses a magic key to open the front door. Kids leave him crispy, fruit-filled “White Christmas” treats with a cool glass of milk or beer. In Indonesia, children put their shoes near the door and leave him nastar cookies filled with pineapple jam. Read about the various traditions in South Africa, Malawi, Egypt, Russia, Norway, Ireland, Puerto Rico, and many more countries. Then, find delicious cookie recipes to make that will give you the taste of countries around the world. YUM! I can’t wait to try these recipes.
Walk This World at Christmastime by Big Picture Press, illustrated by Debbie Powell
Who doesn’t love a lift the flap book? This doesn’t just have flaps to lift with information underneath, it’s the coolest global book about how different places celebrate Christmas from Canada to Brazil, Holland, the Philippines, and more. The illustrations are busy but overall this is an interesting glimpse into other cultures’ celebrations.
Christmas Chapter Books
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig (ages 8+)
Despite being poor and lonely, Nikolas is a kind Finnish boy whose pursuit of his dad leads him to the North Pole. When he finally arrives at the Elf village, he’s imprisoned by mistrustful elves but Nikolas’ magic helps him escape. Not only does Nikolas save the kidnapped elf child and regains the elf’s trust, but he decides, after years of living there, to make Christmas very special for all children. Just how special? Well, I think you know! I couldn’t believe how much I loved this book. Well-written and quite charming. Almost fairy tale like.
The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig (ages 8+)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
In a word: HILARIOUS. The Herdman siblings aka. the worst kids in the history of the world are participating in this year’s Christmas Nativity pageant. But they’re not familiar with the story and it’s a hilarious interpretation of events — along with some unexpected disasters and miracles.
Christmas Nonfiction and Activity Books for Kids
Santa on the Loose! A Seek and Solve Mystery! by Bruce Hale
Are you seeing red? Because Santa’s toys have been stolen — and this picture book is filled with red. Mr. Claus and you must find the clues hidden in each page to find the culprit in this engaging Christmas themed search and find book. We’ve done it several times and love the challenges!
The Christmas Creativity Book
Another fantastic activity book from Barrons.
My Beastly Book of Tangled Tinsel illustrated by Christine Roussey
“140 ways to doodle, scribble, color and draw” says the cover of this Christmas book but it seems like more. This book has a little bit of everything from a “Christmas Every Day! Petition” to reindeer outfits to color to dot to dots. I can’t wait to steal this from the kids and do myself.
Christmas to Color by Mary Tanana
Lovely, intricate (aka. challenging) black-and-white Christmas designs adorn each page just inviting you to color. Which one will you choose first? (And where are my reading glasses?)
Mary Engelbreit’s Color Me Christmas Coloring Book by Mary Engelbreit
Filled with Christmas-themed Engelbreit’s classic stylized images for kids to color.
The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book 15 Designs to Spread Holiday Cheer by Chris Mcveigh
Step-by-step picture directions skillfully show how to create these wonderful LEGO ornaments. Ornaments such as a poinsettia, wreath, gingerbread house, and lantern. My kids are so excited to make these projects.
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