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Children's Picture Books for December Storytime Themes

I've written over 50 articles about children's literature for library, preschool, or home settings. I have a BA in English Lit from BYU.

Mittens, snowmen, gingerbread, and playing in the snow are the themes you'll find in this article.

Mittens, snowmen, gingerbread, and playing in the snow are the themes you'll find in this article.

December Preschool Storytime Themes

December is usually a busy month with holiday preparations, school breaks, concerts, and plays. Fitting in a quality library story hour can be a scheduling challenge, but it's easy to put together a special presentation with these winter suggestions. I often based my children's story hour themes on well-known nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and popular Christmas songs.

December Storytime Themes

  1. Snowmen
  2. Mittens
  3. Playing in the Snow
  4. Gingerbread

Read through to see book and activity recommendations to go with these themes.

Snowballs by artist/writer Lois Ehlert is a classic winter collage storybook with a simple storyline and lots of fun collage pictures made from quirky objects.

Snowballs by artist/writer Lois Ehlert is a classic winter collage storybook with a simple storyline and lots of fun collage pictures made from quirky objects.

Snowman Theme

Snow has provided the inspiration for so many children's writers that I have created two themes from snow-related books. This first one focuses on making people from snow, and the other is about playing in the snow.

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert

Snowballsby Lois Ehlert (ISBN-10: 0152162755) is a must-read book for its creative collage art. Ehlert builds an entire family of snow people (even their dog Spot) using layered collage papers and everyday objects that she skillfully photographs. Her quirky uses of everyday items like washers and ticket stubs paired with more unconventional things (like a colorful Peruvian scarf) make this book a fun read for a variety of age groups. Try reading this book through during the story hour, and then if you have time, have the children look for items in the book. If you'd like more information, you can read my full book review for this story.

This version of the book The Snowman  has text by Raymond Briggs

This version of the book The Snowman has text by Raymond Briggs

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

The Snowmanby Raymond Briggs (ISBN-10: 0394839730) is a wildly popular, wordless children's picture book that tells the story of a boy's adventures with a snowman in a comic strip format. This book has been made into a popular movie that often airs on television during the Christmas holiday season.

All You Need For A Snowman is a great pick.

All You Need For A Snowman is a great pick.

All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle

All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle (ISBN-10: 0358087015) is a simple rhyming book about children building a snowman. On each page, Schertle adds just one more thing you need to build a snowman. This a a wonderful book for storytime because it builds anticipation and you can encourage group participation by asking kids to guess what comes next.

Mittens Theme

A storytime program using a winter clothing theme can be lots of fun for young children. A surprising number of books feature mittens as a key element in the storyline. For toddlers and preschoolers, the nursery rhyme "Three Little Kittens" can be used. Be sure to print out any nursery rhymes or song lyrics for children's parents. Parents usually enjoy singing along and singing with children is a great way to promote early childhood literacy at home.

Mitten Matching Activities

  • For an activity, I suggest a mitten matching game. Bring six or seven pairs of inexpensive mittens and choose volunteers from your audience to help you match the pairs of mittens together by choosing the correct match from a basket or paper bag.
  • A variation of this idea uses stuffed animals each wearing one mitten from the pair. Arrange your stuffed animals in an attractive grouping and let children select one of the remaining mittens to try on a stuffed animal. Just for fun, you could also include an assortment of hats to go on the stuffed animals. This activity could be used to reinforce children's knowledge of colors and patterns.
  • The first year I used this theme, I made about 8 different oversized paper mittens with different colors of felt applied to a sturdy cardstock background. Each colorful felt mitten had a mate that was an exact match. I posted these on a large bulletin board and mixed them up. The title on the bulletin board was "Mitten Match." You could also purchase several pair of real mittens from a dollar store where these are readily available and arrange the mittens on the bulletin board.
The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale is retold by Jan Brett

The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale is retold by Jan Brett

The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt

I enjoy sharing two versions of the same Ukrainian folktale; both are called The Mitten. The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt (ISBN-10: 0688510531) and illustrated by Yaraslova was published in 1989. It has simple line art illustrations and a blue and red color scheme that hearkens back to the 1960s. This book is the story of a boy who loses his mitten in the snow. The mitten becomes shelter for woodland animals who squeeze into the mitten to get warm. This is a humorous folktale that can be read, used as inspiration for a live retelling, or acted out.

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I also really like this version of the Ukrainian folktale. The illustrations have an appealing, commercial art quality.

I also really like this version of the Ukrainian folktale. The illustrations have an appealing, commercial art quality.

The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett

The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett (ISBN-10: 0399231099) is a playfully illustrated rendition of the same folktale. It uses Jan Brett's Scandinavian-inspired artwork with wonderful illustrative touches. Jan Brett is known for her busy illustration style that features lots of little stories within the story. If you liked The Mitten, you may also enjoy The Hat. This story is an enjoyable addition to the Jan Brett repertoire of tales about winter clothing.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits is a sequel to My Name is Yoon. Another book in the Yoon series is Yoon and the Jade Bracelet.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits is a sequel to My Name is Yoon. Another book in the Yoon series is Yoon and the Jade Bracelet.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits (ISBN-10: 0374386889) has a different tone. It is a sincerely written book about the title character's Korean immigrant family and how they adjust to the American Christmas traditions while retaining their own cultural identity. This book is a must-read for older kids (at least older than preschool).

One Mitten is a rhyming book that describes the imaginative ways a child can play using a simple yellow mitten.

One Mitten is a rhyming book that describes the imaginative ways a child can play using a simple yellow mitten.

One Mitten by Christine O'Connell George

One Mitten by Christine O'Connell George (ISBN-10: 0618117563) is another mitten tale that will appeal to a preschool and kindergarten age crowd. The rhyming text and the theme of imaginative play would make a great lead-in to an imaginary walk in the snow.

Annie needs to find the missing mitten she lost. Where will she find it? A great predictive story.

Annie needs to find the missing mitten she lost. Where will she find it? A great predictive story.

The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg

The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg (ISBN-10: 0803725663) is a revamped version of a book he published in 1974. This book tells the story of a girl who is trying to find her lost mitten by retracing her steps. The conclusion of the tale is a heart-tugging moment—literally. You'll have to read this book to see what I mean. Kellogg is the author of The Giant Tadpole and other fanciful and far-fetched tales. I like his illustrations, but his real talent is pulling together a unique and entertaining story. Don't miss this one.

Add this math book to your mitten mayhem. Funny farm animals lose their mittens too. This book teaches the concept of odd and even numbers.

Add this math book to your mitten mayhem. Funny farm animals lose their mittens too. This book teaches the concept of odd and even numbers.

Missing Mittens by Stuart J. Murphy

Missing Mittens by Stuart J. Murphy and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (ISBN-10: 0064467333) is a story that introduces math concepts of even and odd. Seems Farmer Bill and all of the animals are missing a mitten. Who could be the culprit? A billy goat who loves to feast on clothes.

A Mountain of Mittens by Lynn Plourde

A Mountain of Mittens by Lynn Plourde (ISBN-10: 1570915857) is the story of the lost-and-found mitten pile and what happens when all the children at school try to reclaim their lost mittens all at the same time. This silly tale will have your audience giggling.

Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone

Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone (ISBN-10: 0899197965) is a retelling of the traditional nursery rhyme that is perfect for reading during a library story hour. This story will be a fresh change of pace from some of the other stories in this set, and it has some humorous illustrations that parents will appreciate.

The award-winning book by Ezra Jack Keats has been an important children's favorite for many years.

The award-winning book by Ezra Jack Keats has been an important children's favorite for many years.

Playing in the Snow Theme

Let's begin with a classic.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (ISBN 10:0670867330) is a timeless classic published in the 1960s. This simple tale is the story of a young boy's day of playing in the snow. The simple text and illustrations show the author's understanding and ability to express what it is like to be a child and to discover the wonder and awe of playing in the snow: dragging a stick through the snow, making a snow angel, and yearning to join in a snowball fight with older children. If you'd like more information, you can read a complete review of this wonderful book. This has been my 3-year-old son's favorite storybook for over a year.

A Perfect Day is a book about playing in the snow. A perfect day for what? The simple answer is at the end of the story in a pull-out poster.

A Perfect Day is a book about playing in the snow. A perfect day for what? The simple answer is at the end of the story in a pull-out poster.

A Perfect Day for It by Jan Fearnley

This book by Jan Fearnley (ISBN 10: 0152166343) features a playful group of animal friends who make a perfect day of sledding down a snowy hillside. You will enjoy the playful story, the bright and appealing illustrations, and the sense of anticipation—the building storyline will capture your audience's full attention. The hardcover edition by Harcourt is the version I own.

This book tells all the items a child needs to play in the snow. Young children can read along with the pictographs.

This book tells all the items a child needs to play in the snow. Young children can read along with the pictographs.

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel (ISBN-10: 0688045871) is a book to share with your emergent readers and pre-readers. The book uses pictures of the clothing items in place of some of the text, so children can read along with you during your story presentation. Children love being able to participate in reading a story. I recommend that you review the word pictures with the children before you begin reading with them.

Gingerbread Theme

December always gets me thinking about gingerbread. You can give this theme a thorough exploration because so many books have been written based on the traditional gingerbread man folktale—in fact, Jan Brett has authored two. (And don't forget Hansel and Gretel, and a few others.)

Gingerbread Activities

  • You may wish to decorate gingerbread cookies or make a paper bag gingerbread ornament as part of your children's story hour.
  • If you are very brave, you might even attempt a live retelling of the gingerbread man story. This story is very easy to remember and retell, and with a little practice, will hold your audience captive, even if you are a first-time storyteller.
The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone is an excellent traditional version of the gingerbread story.

The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone is an excellent traditional version of the gingerbread story.

The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone

The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone (ISBN-10: 0899191630) is at the top of my list of gingerbread stories. Galdone is the go-to author for a clean, traditional version of just about any folktale or fairytale. His stories are unapologetically traditional, which I appreciate. It's also fun to mix up stories, but helpful to introduce young audiences to a topic for the first time.

The Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett

Jan Brett's Gingerbread stories include The Gingerbread Baby (ISBN-10: 0399241663) and Gingerbread Friends (ISBN-10: 0399251618). Each of these stories stars a cute young boy named Mattie who brings an appealing human element to the traditional folktale. Jan Brett's illustrations are especially delightful, with gingerbread-style trim on all the village houses. If you are unfamiliar with her body of work, I encourage you to visit Jan Brett's website. She offers many freebies such as coloring pages and games that she has created from the characters that appear in her stories. You will find that Brett's body of work is huge.

This version of the Hansel and Gretel story is 40 pages long!

This version of the Hansel and Gretel story is 40 pages long!

Hansel and Gretel retold by Cynthia Rylant

Hansel and Gretel retold by Cynthia Rylant (ISBN-10: 1423111869) with illustrations by Jen Corace is a popular retelling of the original tale by the Brothers Grimm. The text of this particular version of the Hansel and Gretel story isn't as lengthy as some of the others, but the book is 40 pages long, which is 8 pages more than the typical 32-page children's story.

The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth.

The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth.

The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock

The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock (ISBN-10: 0590972197) is another popular version of the gingerbread story. This story has the rhyming text "No! No!/I won't come back!/I'd rather run/Than be your snack!" which is original but easy to read aloud.

The Gingerbread Cowboy is a "Wild West" version of the gingerbread man tale.

The Gingerbread Cowboy is a "Wild West" version of the gingerbread man tale.

The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires

I wouldn't be any kind of Western girl without mentioning a fun change-up of the traditional tale: The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires (ISBN-10: 0060778636). In this rendition, the gingerbread man encounters a wily coyote instead of a fox. The Western elements in this story make for an entertaining and spicy remix of the gingerbread tale, with all kinds of details straight from the Old West.

The Gingerbread Girl serves up a healthy dose of girl power.

The Gingerbread Girl serves up a healthy dose of girl power.

The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst

The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst (ISBN-10: 0525476679) promotes girl power with the smart gingerbread girl outfoxing the fox himself. This smart retelling received high reviews—except some parents and teachers found the author's word choices objectionable in a few places. You should decide for yourself, as this is a cute and original retelling of the story.

Ginger Bear by Mini Grey is original and funny.

Ginger Bear by Mini Grey is original and funny.

Ginger Bear by Mini Grey

Ginger Bear by Mini Grey (ISBN-10: 0375842535) is my last book recommendation for this article. It is a quirky revisit of the gingerbread story with the family dog being the culprit instead of a fox. This story has a busy, almost frenzied feel, and offers some delightful surprises (like when Ginger Bear decides to make a few friends). The resolution of the story is completely unique and ironic but also somehow is true to the original tale. You must read this story and decide if you want to use it in your story hour.

© 2009 Carolyn Augustine

Comments

Cheri Schultz on October 04, 2009:

Beautiful - Thank for sharing...

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 04, 2009:

A lovely collection of lovely children's stories. Thank you for your hub

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