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14 Favorite Picture Books for the Christmas Holiday Season

Carolyn writes about children's literature for library, preschool, or homeschool settings. She has a BA in English Literature.

Some of my favorite children's picture books. Not pictured: King of Kings by Susan Hill.

Some of my favorite children's picture books. Not pictured: King of Kings by Susan Hill.

14 Christmas Books for Kids

Several years ago, I wanted to establish some memorable Christmas traditions with my young and growing family. My goal was to help my family stay focused on the peace, love, joy, generosity, family, and community that makes the Christmas holiday special. This can be so difficult during the holidays, for anyone really, but especially with busy families.

And so a tradition of a Christmas book a day was born. My children are now older and don't read picture books anymore, but they still enjoy pulling out the box of Christmas stories during the holidays.

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

1. An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

Set in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse in Lansing, Michigan, An Orange for Frankie is a realistic fiction piece about sacrifice and family togetherness. This story has an episodic quality and is quite lengthy, but it is based on the author's family stories and is delightful to read. It kept my four-year-old son's attention, even though it is quite long, though normally, I would recommend it for first- or second-graders who have a longer attention span. This story will definitely tug at your heart, but the story is told in a matter-of-fact manner that was typical of the times. I like that the story was drawn from the author's experience. Patricia Polacco is a master storyteller.

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall and Deborah Chabrian

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall and Deborah Chabrian

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie, by Dandi Daley Mackall, is another heartwarming realistic fiction story about a young boy and his mother who are separated from their father during the Christmas season. Set during the Great Depression, the dreary snow-scape of the young boy's neighborhood contrasts with the warmth of his mother's kitchen. The boy and his mother wish with all their hearts that they could be reunited with the boy's beloved father during the Christmas season, who is working out of state to keep their family going. This story culminates in an act of service that reminds the boy and his mother that giving to others can be a soothing balm when our own wishes, however well-deserved, aren't fulfilled.

King of Kings by Susan Hill

King of Kings by Susan Hill

3. King of Kings by Susan Hill

King of Kings by Susan Hill is one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories. This book deals with themes of aging and loneliness in a sensitive, subtle, and moving way. It is by a British author known for her novels for adult readers and, as far as I know, it is her only foray into writing for children. In this story, a lonely widower hears the mewling cries of an abandoned newborn near the steps of a church one cold Christmas Eve. He saves the abandoned infant from freezing to death by taking the baby to a nearby hospital, where he watches in awe and wonder as the baby is swaddled and nursed by the hospital staff. Mr. Heggarty and his bandy-legged dog Jack-O are unlikely characters to find in a Christmas story, but this book is subtle and sweet. This book could be considered a nativity story, but it is not overtly religious. And it may be a bit hard to come by, so if you see it somewhere, snap it up!

December by Eve Bunting and David Diaz

December by Eve Bunting and David Diaz

4. December by Eve Bunting

December by Eve Bunting is a tale of a homeless child's experience of sharing her and her mother's makeshift shelter with a mysterious visitor who could be an angel. . . or may just be another homeless person. This book is a stark departure from the other books on this list. This plot is tragically sad and depicts a young girl and her mother in destitute circumstances, but also portrays the characters' generosity in a deeply moving way, since what they have to give is very little indeed. This book is probably better suited to older children who can grasp the extreme heart-wrenching levels of poverty portrayed by the author. It gives much food for thought for family discussion in an age of Christmas commercialism.

A Christmas Like Helen's, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and Mary Azarian

A Christmas Like Helen's, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and Mary Azarian

5. A Christmas Like Helen's by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

A Christmas Like Helen's by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and illustrated by Mary Azarian has the warmth and nostalgic magic of An Orange for Frankie, but the beautiful woodcut and watercolor illustrations in combination with the high-quality writing make this a book selection you will want to buy and read over and over, even if you live in Arizona and only dream of a white Christmas. Though not everyone has ancestors who grew up on a New England farm, the sense of family that pervades this story is well-worth the regional nature of the story, and the imagery of warmth against the backdrop of a New England winter is charming.

Winter's Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan

Winter's Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan

6. Winter's Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan

This story about a widowed man who rescues a mare and her newborn foal is a unique addition to Christmas stories about animals. This story is told in a very straightforward manner, but the message is simple and clear. Christmas offers hope to everyone. Donovan's beautiful illustrations and story make this a great addition to a holiday picture book collection, and if you have a horse-lover in the family, you will want to include this as a gift. It really is lovely.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvitz and Gabi Swiatkowska

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvitz and Gabi Swiatkowska

7. Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvitz

Another heart-tugging realistic fiction piece. Little Yoon desperately wants to fit in with the other American girls who are celebrating Christmas. This story tells about how she and her newly-arrived immigrant parents adjust to the new American Christmas holiday and how they adapt the celebration to their family. This book offers an important look at a newly American family and the ways they adapt to one of the most popular American holidays.

8. The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry

The Gift of the Magi by the famous short story writer, O'Henry, is a Christmas holiday classic. This story about a young newlywed couple sacrificing their most beloved possessions to give a wonderful Christmas gift to their beloved is a must-have addition to your Christmas short story collection. This short story wasn't originally published for children, but it is still appropriate to share in a family setting. A few illustrated versions for children have been published with different illustrators.

9. The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke

This lengthy story has a loyal following among Christian readers. It is a fictional account of a fourth wise man, Artaban, who follows after the first three wise men with valuable gifts of jewels for the newly-born Christ-child, but he misses the caravan and faces delay after delay as he journeys to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. In the process, the fourth wise man gives all that he has—even the splendid jewels he reserved for Christ—to serve his fellow man. This is a story about service and sacrifice. Get out your hankies!

This story was originally published in 1895. I found a copy of the original, unabridged story in a collection of short stories by Henry Van Dyke. It's over 30 pages long!

Several picture books on the market illustrate and retell this story. One I like, called the Fourth Wise Man by Susan Summers, is an abridgment (shortened version) of the story by Henry Van Dyke. Even though it is an abridgment, it is one of the longest picture books on my list.

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Sized Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jane Dyer

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Sized Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jane Dyer

10. Christmas Cookies Bite-Sized Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse

Christmas Cookies Bite-Sized Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthall and Jane Dyer is part of a series of beautifully-illustrated books that depict virtues such as generosity, courtesy, and charity through a simple story about a child who makes cookies and shares them with her family and friends. This book blends fantasy elements with realistic illustrations to show culturally diverse neighbors sharing food around a family's dinner table.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

11. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

This book is pure fantasy, and due to the popularity of the movie version, you have probably heard of it and may possibly already own a copy. A young boy enjoys a spectacular ride on a Christmas train called the Polar Express all the way to Santa’s village. This book will hold a special appeal to any train-loving boy or girl.

Santa Calls by William Joyce

Santa Calls by William Joyce

12. Santa Calls by William Joyce

A young girl’s Christmas wish to Santa is the heart-tugging message behind a story about two young siblings, Art and Esther, who become better friends during their adventure to the North Pole. Art and his best friend Spaulding receive an unusual invitation from Santa to come and visit. Esther tags along, and their adventure in the North Pole makes this book by the author of George Shrinks a must-read. I really love the message about treating siblings with kindness, and the eye-popping illustrations are appealing to younger readers. The book comes with a pouch and a letter that may become lost. I originally purchased this book for its references to Abilene, Texas, where I once lived, but the story has much more to offer its readers.

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell and Jason Cockcroft

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell and Jason Cockcroft

13. Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell

Room for a Little One is a beautifully-illustrated concept book about the nativity. It contains little text and is appropriate for even young toddlers. The luminous illustrations steal the show in this story about the animals in the stable where the Christ-child is born. All of the animals who are known rivals set aside their disagreements and rest together in peace as they await the Little One who is, of course, the baby Jesus.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, with Jenna, Andrea, and Sara Lucado. Illustrated by Liz Bonham

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, with Jenna, Andrea, and Sara Lucado. Illustrated by Liz Bonham

14. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado is an unusual story by the wildly popular Christian book author and pastor. Told in a simple and straightforward style, this story is about Joshua, a little lamb with a birth defect who is sad because he cannot go with the other sheep into the far pasture and instead must stay in the stable with his friend, an understanding cow. But Joshua doesn't realize that he has a much greater purpose to serve and is near-at-hand to witness the birth of the Savior and to offer warmth to the newborn baby when all of the other animals have gone into the fields with the shepherds. This unusual story has a strong message about trusting in God's purpose for us, even when we don't see the big picture. I have written a full-length review of this story, which you can read by clicking on the title of this story.

© 2010 Carolyn Augustine

Comments

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on December 08, 2010:

Thank you very much. Trinsick, I hope you find some books you will enjoy for your son! Moons, thank you.

Happyboomernurse, what a kind thing to say! I do so enjoy children's books! I hope you will find some of these books to read and enjoy this Christmas. Cheers!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on December 07, 2010:

What a beautiful, comprehensive, well organized hub about Christmas books that make great family traditions.

Thanks so much for sharing this hub.

Moons on November 11, 2010:

Thanks for the hub! :) Brilliant

http://bookofdistraction.blogspot.com/2010/11/perf...

Trinsick from Cali on November 06, 2010:

We are stocking up on Christmas pictures books this year for our boy.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on November 02, 2010:

I'm glad this brought back good memories. I agree Lexe, reading during childhood is magical!

Lexe Charleston from Phoenix, AZ on November 02, 2010:

Thanks for the hub! This reminds me so much of how I used to love reading when I was a child. Everything on the pages seemed so vivid and alive. I still love reading today, but there was different sort of magic to it back then.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on October 28, 2010:

Awww, brings back great memories for me, reading aloud to my kids. Now my grandkids. I love your selections. Great hub.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on October 28, 2010:

Thanks Emma, I agree with you about books being great gifts. They are easy to ship and have a timeless quality. Plus books store rather easily on a bookshelf, even in tight spaces. DVDs have some of the same advantages. Regards!

EmmaMedu on October 28, 2010:

This is a nice list of books. A lot to choose from as book is the one of the best Christmas presents.

Great hub!

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on October 26, 2010:

Thanks very much!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 26, 2010:

You have chosen some lovely Christmas story books and in my opinion the best. Well done

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on October 26, 2010:

Thanks Dallas, about 90% of the titles are books I already own, and I was very happy to share the titles with everyone. Thanks for your comment! I hope you get some you enjoy. I noticed that several of them are extremely affordable.

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on October 25, 2010:

Thanks for the research. It will assist in my selection of great books!

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on October 25, 2010:

Thanks everyone for your comments. I plan to add the Amazon capsules Ingenira! So come back in a day or so, as it takes a bit of research to look up the ISBNs!

Lorlie, I think you have the advantage of time on your hands. At 4 months your grandbaby is a sponge. You could read poetry you enjoy to him, or play some fun music. I recommend Hap Palmer: he's a children's artist with a good selection of songs. When he gets older you will probably want to read books for toddlers, such as Goodnight Moon and the Sandra Boynton books. But for now, the sky is the limit, because you have a captive audience.

Leslie Jo Barra on October 25, 2010:

My kids loved "Christmas in the Manager." Great hub

Ingenira on October 25, 2010:

Awesome list. Wish there is amazon adv to show the price, then I'd know the budget to buy.

kimballtrombone on October 25, 2010:

Great list. I remember some of these from my childhood. We need to get more for our own kids.

Mary Krenz from Florida's Space Coast on October 25, 2010:

Thanks for the list, made it a favorite

Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on October 25, 2010:

wannabe-you have chosen some amazing titles, here. What I particularly notice is your personal collection! I am most impressed that you have such dear words at your fingertips.

My question here is what do you read a 4 month old baby? I have a brand new grandson-my first grandbaby-and I want him to enjoy the lure and beauty of words.

Early, I know, but I don't think it's ever too early, myself!

Lucas Uren from Japan on October 24, 2010:

Awesome list of childrens books. Thanx for sharing.