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Christmas is approaching and my kids are extremely excited for the festivities this year. We’ve also been reading lots of Christmas books for kids. QBoy has been fascinated by reindeer this year, so his favorites are the books that have reindeer. XGirl’s favorite tends to be the first one she selects. Once she hears a book, she wants to hear it over and over and over!
Below is a list of 17 Christmas books for kids along with a description and review so you can determine if the book would be right for your kids.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
I became acquainted with The Polar Express as a book, long before it became a popular Christmas movie. With rich illustrations and a magical storyline, the book gently deals with issues around doubts and beliefs about Santa, making it okay for some to believe while others do not.
In the story, the young narrator goes to sleep on Christmas Eve, only to be woken by the sound of a train outside his home. The conductor invites him to hop on board the Polar Express, bound for the North Pole. Once he gets on, he sees that the train is filled with other children, all in their nightclothes, sipping cocoa and singing songs as the train races along. When the train reaches the North Pole, Santa selects the young narrator to receive the first gift of Christmas. The boy selects a bell from Santa’s sleigh. Sadly, he soon loses the bell through a hole in his pocket. But Santa returns it to him under the tree the next morning. When the boy shakes the bell, his parents remark that the bell is broken. However, the boy and his sister can hear the bell just fine. The boy eventually realizes that the bell can only be heard by all those who truly believe in Santa.
If you are only familiar with the movie, note that many of the scenes in the movie do not appear in the book, but were added to make the movie longer.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
This book by Clement C. Moore was initially published in 1823, and is commonly referred to as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” due to those being the first words of the story. This is the classic Christmas tale, told in rhyming fashion, of St. Nicholas’s visit to one family’s home. In this story, we meet the reindeer and get to know St. Nick’s jolly personality.
Over the nearly 200 years since this book was first published, it has been re-issued many times with illustrations from many different artists, including Mary Engelbreit, Holly Hobbie, and many, many others. Each artist has put his or her own spin on this classic tale.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May
Most people are probably familiar with the classic Christmas song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But how many people are aware that the song was based off a book of the same name written by Robert L. May back in 1939? This is the original story that made Rudolph part of Christmas lore. Beginning with “‘Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the hills | The reindeer were playing, enjoying their spills,” this story is told in the same rhyming pattern as The Night Before Christmas. However, in this story we meet Rudolph, a young reindeer from a reindeer village who is constantly teased and excluded because of his shiny red nose. The story proceeds much like the song, although with more detail that really brings the tale to life.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett
The text in this book comes directly from the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, but is set to delightful illustrations showing each of the gifts. The song originated in the 13th Century, and first appeared in print in 1780. The book includes sheet music for the song so music lovers can play along as the family sings the song.
The Little Drummer Mouse by Mercer Mayer
Based upon the beloved carol The Little Drummer Boy, this book tells the story of the origin of Christmas from the perspective of a little drummer mouse. One day a raven comes to the forest to let the animals know that the greatest king of all would soon be born. Moreover, the royal family would pass right through their forest on the way to the town where the baby would be born. The forest animals then spend many weeks preparing the forest for the arrival of the royal family. But as time goes on, the forest animals see no sign of the royal family and they become discouraged. Finally, on a cold winter’s day, a poor couple and their donkey pass through, but the animals do not believe them to be the royal family. However, the little drummer mouse wakes up that night to notice a new star shining down from the heavens. He goes outside to get a better look when he stumbles upon three tall men heading toward him. Although the little drummer mouse is initially fearful of these mean, they announce that they are three kings seeking a child born in a stable beneath the bright star, and they ask for directions to the nearest stable. The little drummer mouse shows them the way, and when he arrives the little drummer mouse sees the couple who had passed through his forest the day before. When the new baby wakes up, its mother asks the little drummer mouse to step forward and play his drums to calm the new king.
The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown
This is a heartwarming tale from noted author Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon. This book tells the story of a little fir tree at the edge of the forest who feels so little and alone. Then one winter, a man comes to the forest and declares the little fir tree to be the perfect tree for his “boy to grow strong with.” The man digs up the tree, roots and all, and hikes home with it strapped to his back. The man brings the tree inside to his son, who has never left his bed due to a problem with his leg. The man plants the tree in a wooden tub at the foot of his son’s bed where the family decorates it and turns it into a beautiful Christmas tree. In the spring, the man returns the tree to the edge of the forest. But the next winter, the man returns once again to bring the tree home for Christmas. This pattern continues for several years, until one winter the boy is finally strong enough to go into the forest to see the tree. The family comes and they decorate the tree right there in the forest to celebrate Christmas together.
Grace at Christmas by Mary Hoffman
Those familiar with Grace from the other books in this series by Mary Hoffman already know that she is a spirited and imaginative young girl who lives with her Ma and Nana, and who loves to act and sing and dance. A few days before Christmas, Grace’s Ma announces that they will have extra people staying with them for Christmas this year – the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of her Nana’s friend. Grace isn’t very excited about having to give up her room to a strange girl, and is even less thrilled when the girl, Savannah, appears sullen and shows no interest in Grace’s toys. Grace’s Nana urges her to have compassion for the little girl. Later when Grace notices Savannah crying, the two girls end up bonding over tales about missing family. Things get even better for Grace when Savannah’s aunt, a real life ballerina, joins them on Christmas Eve and performs an impromptu ballet dance for everyone. At the end of the story, Grace has learned the value of opening one’s heart to others for Christmas.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle
I was not hugely impressed with this book by famed author Eric Carle, but it captivated my kids with some of its unusual devices. This book tells the story of a farmer and his five animals, aptly named One, Two, Three, Four, and Five. One evening, the farmer settles into his chair, exclaiming that it is almost Christmas but hasn’t yet snowed. He dozes off and dreams of falling snowflakes covering him and each of his five animals in snow. Each of the next pages is covered with a clear plastic sheet showing the snow covering the animal. Turning the plastic cover reveals the animal underneath the snow, much to my kids’ delight. When the farmer wakes up, he sees that it has snowed for real. He puts on his coat and hat (making him look an awful lot like Santa), hurries out to the tree next to the barn, and puts up some decorations as the animals watch. Finally, he calls out “Merry Christmas to all!” At this point, young readers are invited to push a button in the book that plays a delightful chime. My kids go back and forth pushing the button over and over when we reach the end of the story, making it the true highlight of the book for them. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the plot is a bit lacking and the book relies too heavily on other devices (the plastic pages that cover the animals with snow, the music playing button) to give it my fullest recommendation.
Reindeer Christmas by Mark Kimball Moulton
This is a very sweet tale of a family that enjoys tending to their woodland friends. One evening, they find a cold and hungry deer in the snow and decide to take him home. Despite noticing some odd things about the deer – he seems to float, for example – they provide him with food and a place to sleep for the night. But later that evening the young narrator is woken by a luminescence brightening his window. He peers outside in time to watch the deer fly away! Several days later on Christmas morning, they receive an unexpected note under the tree from Santa. They learn that their kindness saved Christmas, and Santa presents them with a magical gift that the narrator uses in a heartwarming way.
Tyrannoclaus by Janet Lawler
Dinosaur lovers will enjoy this dinosaur take on the classic book The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. The book starts out, “‘Twas the night before Christmas in dinosaur land. Tyrannoclaus hurried, his helpers at hand.” Most of the story details the difficulties Tyrannoclaus has getting the presents and sleigh ready to deliver gifts to the dinosaur children. For example, Tyrannoclaus’s list was nibbled by an herbivore helper, and his sleigh nearly got stuck in lava spewing from an erupting volcano. Nonetheless, Tyrannoclaus pulls it off and all the dinosaur children receive their presents for a very merry Christmas.
Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by James Dean & Eric Litwin
Starting with “‘Twas the day before Christmas and Santa was ill. In the cold winter wind he had caught a bad chill,” this story is told with the same rhyming rhythm as Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas. When Santa falls ill, he calls on Pete the Cat to help deliver all the presents on Christmas Eve. Pete is a groovy cat who drives a minibus and has a wonderful attitude. Although Pete is small, he is determined to do his best to help Santa deliver the presents. The refrain repeated several times in this book is “Give it your all, give it your all. At Christmas we give, so give it your all.” Although this book is focused on (delivering) presents, the positive message about giving and doing for others will be appreciated by parents who want their children to see the holiday as more than an opportunity to receive.
When Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho! by Laura Rader
Santa is well known for his hearty “ho, ho, ho!” laugh. But one day, after toiling long and hard, he realizes he has lost his laugh! The doctor, the elves, and Mrs. Claus all do their best to help Santa get his laugh back, but to no avail. Not even a drink of hot cocoa could help Santa regain his “ho, ho ho!” Mrs. Claus, noticing that Santa seems tired and cranky, urges him to take a nap. While Santa sleeps, the elves help go through his mail. That is when they come upon a letter that they feel sure will help Santa find his laugh again! When Santa wakes, Mrs. Claus and the elves encourage Santa to sit and read his mail. It isn’t long before Santa’s booming, familiar, and oh so jolly laugh can be heard again. Children will be delighted to see the card Santa received that finally revives his laugh.
Merry Un Christmas by Mike Reiss
If you only read the first few pages of this book, you may think – as I initially did – that it’s a horrible tail of Christmas greed and that the main character, Noelle, is spoiled and ungrateful. But keep reading. 🙂 You see, where Noelle lives in Christmas City, it is Christmas 364 days a year. So every day she has to open presents, eat the same dinner, and stay home with her parents. As you might imagine, this would get old if you had to do it every day! But everything is different for Noelle on the one day of year known as Un-Christmas. On that day, she gets to go to school and see her friends. On that day, the mail carrier comes and delivers the mail. On that day, she can watch something other than a Christmas special on TV. For Noelle, it is the best day of the year. As much as kids may wish that everyday was Christmas, this story shows that part of what makes Christmas special is the fact that it only comes once a year.
Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn by Kate Klise
This is a heartwarming Christmas tale that puts the focus on friendship and giving rather than on receiving. One December, Mother Rabbit and Little Rabbit are watching the news when they learn that a huge snowstorm will be coming on Christmas Eve. Mother Rabbit decides to knit Little Rabbit a beautiful hat to keep his ears warm. Little Rabbit loves his hat, but then wonders how all his friends will keep warm. He suggests that they knit hats for all his friends as well. They go to visit Little Rabbit’s friends, and he distracts them while Mother Rabbit and Little Rabbit surreptitiously take their measurements. Mother and son then work very hard to finish all the hats in time for Christmas. When the hats are delivered, the friends are delighted with their gifts. But as Little Rabbit and Mother Rabbit return home, Little Rabbit realizes he spent so much time making gifts for his friends that he did not get a gift for his mother. But Mother Rabbit reassures him, “Being with you is the best gift of all.”
Young readers will love the unique hats that are specifically designed for each animal. For example, deer’s hat accentuates his antlers, Goose’s hat covers his neck, Horse’s hat doubles as a blanket for sleeping in the snow, etc. Parents will appreciate the story’s focus on thoughtful giving to others.
“I’m Not Santa!” by Jonathan Allen
Baby Owl is out in the snow one Christmas Eve when he runs into Baby Hare. Baby Hare takes one look at Baby Owl and decides that he is Santa! Despite Baby Owl’s best efforts, Baby Hare will not be dissuaded, as Baby Owl has a red hat, a body that is “big and fat,” and is pulling a “sleigh.” Baby Hare becomes upset at Baby Owl’s continued protests that he is not Santa, and eventually bursts into tears. In an effort to get Baby Hare to stop crying, Baby Owl decides to pretend that he is Santa. Hilarity ensues as Baby Hare now decides that Baby Owl is not Santa while Baby Owl works to convince him he is!
Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! by Don and Audrey Wood
Fans of Don and Audrey Wood’s The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear will be delighted with this book following the little Mouse as he gets ready for Christmas. But unlike the with The Red Ripe Strawberry, the little Mouse decides to be very generous with the Bear and bring him some Christmas presents. And at the end of the story there is a quite nice surprise for the mouse!
That’s Good! That’s Bad! on Santa’s Journey by Margery Cuyler
Neither the kids nor I were particularly big fans of this book. To be honest, I did not think the “that’s good, no that’s bad” device employed throughout the story was well executed. In fact, the kids and I were quite confused by it. Essentially, this book tells the story of Santa getting ready to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve. On the first page, he hops into the sleigh and tells his reindeer to take off. “Oh, that’s good. No, that’s bad!” is how the page ends. (“Why is that bad?” is what we asked ourselves.) On the next page Santa runs into an obstacle and has to land his sleigh and wait out a storm. “Oh, that’s bad. No, that’s good!” is how the page ends. The story continues in this way, with each page sharing something positive on Santa’s journey along with “Oh, that’s good. No, that’s bad!” followed by Santa encountering some problem with “Oh, that’s bad. No, that’s good!”
On the plus side, the illustrations are vibrant and look like they come from an animated film. The facial expressions on the reindeer and Santa are quite amusing and will make kids laugh. But due to problems with the main literary device in this story I can’t give this book a good recommendation overall.
More Christmas resources
More Christmas posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Grow a Christmas tree sponge
- Christmas Montessori activities
- Q-tip painted Christmas tree
- Paper plate reindeer craft
- Christmas sensory bin
- Cinnamon Christmas ornaments
- Candy cane experiment
- Christmas game: What’s in the bag?
- Christmas Printables Pack
- Christmas Bingo
- Christmas do-a-dot printables
- Christmas gingerbread man templates