45 Christmas Books for Kids to Make the Season Merry and Bright

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The holidays are upon us and there are myriad ways to celebrate the season, ranging from family-friendly Christmas games to Christmas movie marathons. But when the young people in your life are in need of a quieter kind of yuletide celebration, it’s time to fade out the jolly carols and hit the books. Whether your child has graduated to chapter books or is still lifting (i.e., ripping) the flap in board books, there’s something for everyone in our roundup of the best Christmas books for kids.

The 30 Best Christmas Songs for Kids of All Ages

1 the nutcracker by e t a hoffman
Viking Books for Young Readers

1. the Nutcracker By E.t.a. Hoffman

Even the tiniest tots can get in on the yuletide cheer with this ultra-abridged version of everyone’s favorite holiday ballet. The story is short and sweet (not that you’d ever rush through story time…) and the artwork features eye-catching renditions of a diverse cast of characters.

Best for ages 0 to 2

2 little blue truck s christmas by alice schertle
HMH Books for Young Readers

2. little Blue Truck’s Christmas By Alice Schertle

If you have a preschooler at home, you have probably heard of (and memorized) The Little Blue Truck already. This festive twist on the little kid favorite features the same lively, sing-song verse and all the familiar characters, but with a cheerful Christmas theme that’s sure to fill your tot with holiday spirit.

Best for ages 0 to 3

3 llama llama jingle bells by anna dewdney
Viking Books for Young Readers

3. llama Llama Jingle Bells By Anna Dewdney

The draw of any Anna Dewdney book is clearly the meter, which is simply delightful to read aloud. In fact, your kid will likely know this one by heart after only a few reads, so take advantage of the fill-in-the-blank, word recognition opportunity...or just enjoy the positive message about generosity and general Christmas cheer.

Best for ages 0 to 3

4 dream snow by eric carle
World of Eric Carle

4. dream Snow By Eric Carle

A farmer dreams of a white Christmas in this beautifully illustrated lift-the-flap book from beloved children’s book author Eric Carle. Read this one with even the tiniest tot for an experience that captures the magic of Christmas while offering an uplifting message that dreams really can come true.

Best for ages 0 to 3

5 a silly milly christmas by sheri wall
A Matter of Rhyme

5. a Silly Milly Christmas By Sheri Wall

Bold and colorful, the cartoon-like illustrations in this book about the antics of a Great Dane at Christmastime will be a big hit with young kids—and the use of rhyme and repetition makes for great early learning material as well. And sure, the content is rather lacking in substance (so it may not be a grown-up’s favorite read-aloud), but it’s quick, easy and festive so it’s hard to complain.

Best for ages 1 to 4

6 christmas parade by sandra boynton
Little Simon

6. christmas Parade By Sandra Boynton

A cute board book from the author of The Going to Bed Book. Full of Christmas spirit, repetition and all the high-energy you’d expect from a book written for the really little ones.

Best for ages 1 to 4

7 the littlest reindeer by brandi dougherty
Cartwheel Books

7. the Littlest Reindeer By Brandi Dougherty

Eager preschoolers will relate to this story about the little reindeer with a big desire to help Santa on Christmas day. Cute and decidedly easy to digest, this empowering story will inspire the little kid in your life—hopefully not with delusions of grandeur at tree decorating time (because a precocious kid on a ladder is just bad news).

Best for ages 2 to 5

8 construction site on christmas night by sherri duskey rinker
Chronicle Books

8. construction Site On Christmas Night By Sherri Duskey Rinker

Fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and construction truck enthusiasts in general will be over the moon to hear that a Christmas version of this favorite exists. This story combines lovely artwork with simple storytelling to convey the excitement of Christmas in a way that’s relatable and fun.

Best for ages 2 to 5

9 oliver elephant by lou peacock
Nosy Crow

9. oliver Elephant By Lou Peacock

This sweet story—brought to life with breathtaking pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations—is about a young boy’s devotion to his favorite stuffed toy and the tension that arises when he thinks he has lost it amidst the familiar chaos of a whirlwind Christmas shopping trip. (Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending.) The narrative is sure to resonate with little kids, and the Christmas context serves as a gentle reminder to parents that the holiday bustle can easily get out of hand.

Best for ages 2 to 5

10 bear stays up for christmas by karma wilson
Margaret K. McElderry Books

10. bear Stays Up For Christmas By Karma Wilson

Karma Wilson’s beloved bear character gets dragged out of hibernation by his woodland pals in this lyrical, easy-reading picture book. Fortunately, our furry friend is a good sport and ultimately reaps the rewards of taking one for the team: The pay-off? Bear gets to enjoy all the festivities with his buddies in what can only be described as the best Christmas ever.

Best for ages 2 to 8

11 the snowman s song by marilee joy mayfield
Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream

11. the Snowman’s Song By Marilee Joy Mayfield

A modern reimagining of the Frosty the Snowman story, this one is about a snowman who sets out to find a voice so that he, too, can sing Christmas carols. The narrative is full of positive messages and poesy that promises to engage young audiences from start to finish.

Best for ages 2 to 10

12 the animal s santa by jan brett
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

12. the Animal’s Santa By Jan Brett

Yep, animal’s celebrate Christmas and they have their own Santa Claus to boot. (Hint: he doesn’t have a beard or a little round belly.) Kids will love playing along in the animals’ scheme to discover Santa’s identity—just make sure your own child doesn’t try to take a page from this book, so to speak, and do the same.

Best for ages 3 to 5

13 5 more sleeps til christmas by jimmy fallon
Feiwel & Friends

13. 5 More Sleeps ‘til Christmas By Jimmy Fallon

Catchy, rhyming prose captures the excitement kids feel as they wait for Christmas Day to finally arrive. The storyline is simple, and the artwork is vibrant—read this one with a preschooler and it will quickly become a holiday favorite.

Best for ages 3 to 6

14 little mole s christmas gift by glenys nellist
Beaming Books

14. little Mole’s Christmas Gift By Glenys Nellist

Little mole’s mission is to find the perfect present for his mother, and he does: a pristine button mushroom. Alas, Little Mole’s good instincts to share the treasure with all his friends result in him returning home empty-handed and feeling low, until he realizes that it really is the thought that counts. Make this one a story time pick for the happy ending with a straightforward and endearing message about spreading cheer.

Best for ages 3 to 6

15 the sweet smell of christmas by patricia m scarry
Golden Books

15. the Sweet Smell Of Christmas By Patricia M. Scarry

It’s hard to beat the novelty of a scratch-and-sniff book—and the element of sensory interaction seems particularly appropriate during the holiday season. From candy cane to Christmas pine, kids of all ages will delight in both the festive smells and the sweet story about holiday tradition in equal measure.

Best for ages 3 to 6

16 the little reindeer by nicola killen
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

16. the Little Reindeer By Nicola Killen

A sweet story about a little girl who sneaks out at night only to have a magical encounter with one of Santa’s reindeer. The prose is sparse (think, one short sentence per page) but sometimes less is more. Ultimately, the minimalist narrative style and enchanting black-and-white illustrations—complete with charming cut-outs—create a quiet kind of magic that feels like...well, Christmas.

Best for ages 3 to 7

17 pick a pine tree by patricia toht

17. pick A Pine Tree By Patricia Toht

For little kids and grown-ups alike, the lead-up to Christmas is the most enchanting part of the holiday season—a few weeks of festive fun that are often commence with the picking of a Christmas tree. The simple rhyming language of this story is as easy on the ears as the illustrations are on the eyes, and the whole package conveys the pure, childlike joy that this holiday ritual inspires.

Best for ages 3 to 7

18 sneezy the snowman by maureen wright
Two Lions

18. sneezy The Snowman By Maureen Wright

A goofy book about a snowman who’s sensitive to the cold and the disastrous outcome of his efforts to warm himself up—this one is guaranteed to get a laugh from the under ten set (and anyone who appreciates the kind of comedy Olaf brings to Frozen). It’s not all silliness, though: The group of kids who help restore Sneezy back to his snowman form convey the importance of kindness and generosity.

Best for ages 3 to 7

19 the crayon s christmas by drew daywalt
Penguin Workshop

19. the Crayon’s Christmas By Drew Daywalt

This book has a ton of bells and whistles—a pop-up Christmas tree, games, ornaments—to ensure an interactive and entertaining reading experience for the little kid crowd. Plus, it also boasts the signature humor and big personality that make Oliver Jeffers’ picture books such a big hit across the board.

Best for ages 3 to 7

20 mr willowby s christmas tree by robert barry
Doubleday Books for Young Readers

20. mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree By Robert Barry

What do you get when you pick a Christmas tree that’s too big for your pad? The basis of a charming story about spreading cheer in the community—and an understated environmental message to boot.

Best for ages 3 to 7

21 snowmen at night by carolyn buehner
Dial Books

21. snowmen At Night By Carolyn Buehner

Playful and clever, this lyrical book about the secret life of snowmen is bound to be a hit with the preschool crowd. Best of all, it might even help your little kid come to terms with the tragedy of a disappearing snowman—a scenario that might otherwise inspire a mini meltdown.

Best for ages 3 to 7

22 the tree that s meant to be by yuval zommer
Doubleday Books for Young Readers

22. the Tree That’s Meant To Be By Yuval Zommer

The illustrations that accompany this heartfelt story have a cozy, classic feel and the narrative, which promotes both acceptance and togetherness, is kind and quiet. In other words, pull this one off the bookshelf when a soothing, but festive bedtime story is in order.

Best for ages 3 to 7

23 the christmas wish a wish book by lori evert
Random House Books for Young Readers

23. the Christmas Wish (a Wish Book) By Lori Evert

Little Anja travels across a snow-white landscape by hitching a ride with several forest animals so she can fulfill her dream of being one of Santa’s elves. This magical story is told with understated prose and stunning photographs (in place of illustrations) promise to captivate the young imagination.

Best for ages 3 to 7

24 red and lulu by matt tavares

24. red And Lulu By Matt Tavares

Red and Lulu share a nest in a pine tree and are always together until a twist of fate separates them for the holidays. This big city Christmas story, told from the perspective of birds, is replete with positive messages and culminates in a miraculous reunion—an ending that will make readers of all ages feel merry.

Best for ages 3 to 7

25 pete the cat saves christmas by james dean

25. pete The Cat Saves Christmas By James Dean

No kid can resist the charms of Pete—a super cool, guitar-playing, beatnik feline—so this one is a no-brainer. Fun to read and full of both humor and adventure, this holiday themed book from James Dean’s Pete the Cat series is a Christmas reading list shoo-in.

Best for ages 3 to 8

26 if you ever want to bring a pirate to meet santa don t by elise parsley
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

26. if You Ever Want To Bring A Pirate To Meet Santa, Don’t! By Elise Parsley

Funny and full of personality, this humorous story is about a little girl who, after noting a couple similarities between the two, decides to bring a pirate along when she goes to visit Santa. If you’re looking for a silly and light-hearted read with festive flair, you just stumbled upon a winner.

Best for ages 3 to 8

27 never let a unicorn meet a reindeer by diane alber
Diane Alber Art LLC

27. never Let A Unicorn Meet A Reindeer By Diane Alber

Diane Alber taps into the young imagination with ease in her quirky picture book about a little girl that asks to borrow one of Santa’s reindeers for her birthday. (She’ll return it in time for Christmas, of course.) The trouble begins when the reindeer meets the girl’s unicorn, and the two magical creatures get competitive. You’ll have to read the book to your kid to find out more but suffice it to say this narrative serves up a lot of social-emotional learning, brought to life by detailed illustrations, and full of festive themes.

Best for ages 4 to 8

28 dasher by matt tavares

28. dasher By Matt Tavares

Dasher is essentially a book about following your ‘true North’ (and the Christmas potential there is hard to miss). With evocative illustrations and kid-friendly prose, this story chronicles the adventures of a young girl in pursuit of her dreams. Spoiler: A man in a red suit rewards her courage and helps make those dreams come true. This one boasts a positive message with enough magic to make an impression.

Best for ages 4 to 8

29 cookies for santa by america s test kitchen kids
Sourcebooks Explore

29. cookies For Santa By America’s Test Kitchen Kids

Start a new tradition with this charming and humorous story about Santa in the midst of a baking crisis. Kids will benefit from seeing Santa’s human side as he navigates his anxiety and finds a solution to his lost recipe problem—a misfortune you will be spared when it comes time to bake with your kid, since the book also includes a cookie recipe courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.

Best for ages 4 to 8

30 the polar express by chris van allsburg
HMH Books for Young Readers

30. the Polar Express By Chris Van Allsburg

Rich colors and lifelike forms are a truly dazzling visual treat, and the perfect accompaniment to a magical narrative with a message about the power of believing. Bottom line: This timeless classic has received countless accolades for a reason, and it’s sure to fill your kid with wonder.

Best for ages 4 to 8

31 the legend of poinsettia by tomie depaola
Puffin Books

31. the Legend Of Poinsettia By Tomie Depaola

This Christmas story from Tomie dePaola, celebrated author of Strega Nona fame, features stunning artwork and a heartfelt religious narrative about selflessness and the true meaning of giving. The takeaway? If your kid’s wish list has grown disturbingly long and you want to restore the integrity of the holiday (*raises hand*), then this might be the book for you and yours.

Best for ages 4 to 8

32 how the grinch stole christmas by dr seuss
Random House Books for Young Readers

32. how The Grinch Stole Christmas By Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss’s classic redemption story pairs perfectly with those naughty list threats you’ve been making (just us?). Yep, if the Grinch can change his no-good attitude, an incorrigible kid can, too—and Seuss’s fast-paced rhymes and humorous style are sure to get the message across with ease.

Best for ages 4 to 9

33 little red sleigh by erin guendelsberger
Sourcebooks Wonderland

33. little Red Sleigh By Erin Guendelsberger

What do you get when you personify one little red sleigh? A heartwarming book about the path to self-acceptance and the benefits of aspirational thinking. Chock full of empowering messages, this cute picture book has a Little Engine that Could vibe, but the context is full-blown Christmas, and the illustrations are far more sophisticated (read, gorgeous).

Best for ages 4 to 9

34 the year of the perfect christmas tree by gloria houston
Puffin Books

34. the Year Of The Perfect Christmas Tree By Gloria Houston

A celebration of Appalachian culture penned by a Caldecott Medalist, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree is a holiday story of substance. The artfully expressed themes—devotion, family, love, giving—steer kids away from the consumer side of Christmas, while the striking illustrations are rich and memorable.

Best for ages 5 to 8

35 happy narwhalidays by ben clanton
Tundra Books

35. happy Narwhalidays By Ben Clanton

Christmas festivities go down a little differently in the great deep (think, a mermaid-unicorn instead of Santa) but there’s merriment aplenty. Kids will get a kick out of this holiday-themed installment in the much-loved Narwhal series, which boasts a comic book style format and humorous dialogue for maximum amusement.

Best for ages 5 to 9

36 the christmas miracle of jonathan toomey by susan wojciechowski

36. the Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey By Susan Wojciechowski

A Christmas tale spun with sincerity and raw emotion, this beautiful story has a far more nuanced narrative as compared with your run-of-the-mill warm and fuzzy stuff and the humanism of the characters is truly touching. Bottom line: This one is worthy of a place in your holiday rotation—just grab a box of tissues before you start reading with your child, because when the joyful ending comes there won’t be a dry eye in the room.

Best for ages 6 to 9

37 letters from father christmas by j r r tolkien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

37. letters From Father Christmas By J.r.r. Tolkien

These letters were originally written by J.R.R. Tolkien, posing as Father Christmas, and delivered to his own children every year. Happily, this collection of magical anecdotes brimming with both imagination and sincerity is now available to all. Just don’t be surprised if Tolkien makes a believer out of you.

Best for ages 7+

38 the life and adventures of santa claus by l frank baum
Independently published

38. the Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus By L. Frank Baum

Penned by the author of The Wizard of Oz, this classic story about how Santa Claus came to be has stood the test of time, and it’s not hard to see why. The fairytale magic here is sure to captivate young readers and Baum’s enchanting writing style promises to set the imagination in motion. Bonus: The well-reasoned narrative leaves no stone unturned, so this one might even answer some of those tough questions you clumsily evade every Christmas.

Best for ages 7+

39 a boy called christmas by matt haig

39. a Boy Called Christmas By Matt Haig

This whimsical and enchanting story revolves around the adventures of a warm-hearted boy who must travel to the North Pole to find his missing father. The takeaway is a tender and truly unique history of Santa Clause, but parents should know that the plot includes some rather intense encounters (think, sadistic fairy). Bottom line: Buy this heartfelt book for bigger kids who will appreciate something more complex than the typical candy-coated stuff.

Best for ages 8 to 12

40 the family under the bridge by natalie savage carlson

40. the Family Under The Bridge By Natalie Savage Carlson

Armand, an elderly man living on the streets of Paris, is quite content with his solitary lifestyle...until one Christmas Eve when he discovers three homeless and hungry children who need his help. This Newbery Honor-winning novel is a moving tribute to family, kindness and love that is guaranteed to give middle school readers all the feels.

Best for ages 8 to 12

41 the girl who saved christmas by matt haig

41. the Girl Who Saved Christmas By Matt Haig

Much like Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket, Haig is a master of spinning yarns that are full of fantasy, empathy and a healthy dose of macabre. Case in point: this illustrated novel for middle schoolers about Amelia, the first child to ever receive a Christmas present and the only person who can save the magic of Christmas. Full of wit and adventure, this engaging story is ultimately an uplifting ode to the power of hope.

Best for ages 8 to 12

42 the best christmas pageant ever by barbara robinson

42. the Best Christmas Pageant Ever By Barbara Robinson

An uproariously funny chapter book about a group of horribly behaved siblings who, having never heard the Christmas story themselves, decide to hijack a Christmas pageant and tell their own version of events instead. This rollicking read is refreshingly free of heavy-handed sentimentality, but it still serves up many positive messages alongside the guaranteed laughs.

Best for ages 8 to 12

43 a christmas carol a young reader s edition by charles dickens
Running Press Kids

43. a Christmas Carol: A Young Reader’s Edition By Charles Dickens

This short and sweet version of Dickens’ classic Christmas tale is a great way to introduce your tween to both the author and the beloved holiday staple he produced. Plus, this edition is outfitted with resplendent artwork for an extra engaging reading experience.

Best for ages 8+

44 the greatest gift a christmas tale by philip van doren stern
Simon & Schuster

44. the Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale By Philip Van Doren Stern

Introducing the short story upon which the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life was based. This quick read, a lesson on the importance of recognizing one’s own worth, has all the feel-good vibes of the film—and although it isn’t specifically a children’s story, it is sure to go down easy for more advanced (i.e., teenage) readers.

Best for ages 10+

45 the night before christmas by clement moore
Applesauce Press;

45. the Night Before Christmas By Clement Moore

No list of Christmas books would be complete without this classic: A jaunty rhyming poem that’s just plain fun to read, complete with critically-acclaimed illustrations so ornate, they’re basically a Christmas feast for the eyes. Read this one with your child and we guarantee you’ll walk away with a few verses stuck in your head. Bonus: The broad vocabulary makes this one a particularly enriching choice for kids.

Best for all ages

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