20 children's books we love for the holidays
Written by Jen Betterley
Looking for some new books to read during this year's holiday season? Sure, there's How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Night Before Christmas, but what about the others? We've gathered up some of our favorites that will surely make your holiday reading extra fun and memorable. Head out with the kids to your local library or your favorite independent bookstores for this year's family holiday read-a-thon picks and most importantly -- have a great Christmas!
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Holiday reading picks
Who could forget Llama Llama's trip to the Shop-O-Rama, or how about when he misses Mama? We can't get enough of Ann Dewdney's Llama Llama series and this latest book on little Llama Llama's holiday drama is no exception! Perfect for children ages 4-8, Llama Llama Holiday Drama details Llama Llama's Christmas Eve meltdown as his patience wears thin from waiting all month for the holiday festivities to begin. Mama Llama as always, comes to the rescue with plenty of hugs and kisses and kind words that will translate into a powerful message for children of all ages on the meaning of Christmas.
Why is Mrs. Greenberg's kitchen such a mess?! In Linda Glaser's Mrs. Greenberg's Messy Hanukkah, little Rachel is determined to have potato latkes on the first night of Hanukkah -- even if her parents are too busy to make them. Rachel heads over to her tidy neighbor's house and uses her sparkly-clean kitchen to make the latkes, though most of the food ends up on the floor! Will Mrs. Greenberg's kitchen get cleaned up and will Rachel get to celebrate her first night of Hanukkah with the traditional latkes? You will just have to read on to find out!
America's all-time favorite piglet, Olivia, is at it again as she helps her family prepare for their upcoming holiday in Olivia Helps with Christmas. This book is different than other children's holiday books in the fact that it details the spirit of Christmas through the family's annual preparations for the holiday -- that are equally their most important traditions. Olivia creator, illustrator and all around superstar Ian Falconer chose to use his own family's traditions for Olivia, such as the honor of setting the dinner table, reminding Dad to put up the Christmas tree, watch Mom prepare the Christmas dinner and much more. Though Santa does not make an actual appearance in this adorable story, Olivia Helps with Christmas will inspire children to remember that the holidays are all about family and being thankful. (Ages 4-8.)
Karen Katz' Where is Baby's Dreidel?: A Lift-the-Flap Book is a fantastic introduction to Hanukkah for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Your little one will love lifting the book's flaps to help find baby's dreidel in this hide-and-seek adventure with plenty of Hanukkah symbols hidden throughout.
So what exactly does Santa do all day before his world-wide journey on Christmas Eve? In Santa Claus The World's Number One Toy Expert, Marla Frazee explores just that, taking young readers into Santa's world as he takes notes and researches each child, listens to Christmas wish lists, and selects the perfect toys for every child through extensive toy testing. Frazee's illustrations of Santa hula hooping, riding a unicycle, and bouncing along on a pogo stick (all for testing, of course!) will be sure to delight your tot and excite them for the gifts that they are hoping to see under this year's family Christmas tree.
Angela Shelf Medearis' Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story gives children ages 9-12 a great introduction to the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Written as a folktale, this children's story explores how Kente clothing was possibly first created by a Ghanian village family to sell to the king in exchange for gold. The book also includes a glossary, introduction, a pronunciation guide that explains each principle and a bonus craft activitiy that children can work on during Kwanzaa.
Merry Christmas, Stinky Face happens to be one of our managing editor Kristen Russell's all-time favorite Christmas reads! And really, the title of this book alone lets you know that you're in for some great holiday fun. Written by Lisa McCourt and illustrated by Cyd Moore, this book follows young Stinky Face as he prepares for Christmas Eve by asking his mother all of the 'what ifs' about Santa that he can think of. And we'll agree, Stinky Face does has a point -- what if Santa's toy bag rips or if Santa gets chapped lips? Overall, a super fun Christmas read!
Influenced by Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Bill Berlin's The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah is sure to be a fun rhyming read for your child during this year's Hanukkah celebration. We love the playful comparison to Dr. Seuss' Christmas version with the town of Oyville, the kvetch (complainer) who lives high on the hill and can be heard saying, "The latkes smell bad, the dreidels make me dizzy, and to hear children laugh puts me in a tizzy." After stealing the menorah due to his fear of the Hanukkah lights, the kvetch is confronted by the children of Oyville, who teach him about the meaning of Hanukkah. Nothing like seeing the kvetch finally smile and join in on the holiday fun!
We cannot get enough of Steven Kellogg's fantastic illustrations and stories! Where or where would we be without Pecos Bill, or the Pinkerton series, or all of the many others?
In Kellogg's The Christmas Witch, young Gloria is Madame Pestilence's Academy's worst witch student. She mixes up her magic spells, flunks her broom tests and even gets scolded for smiling too much. Gloria learns about Christmas and sets out to become a Christmas witch, where she will only practice spells that promote peace and happiness. Recommended for ages 4-8, The Christmas Witch puts a fun and untraditional twist on the meaning of the holidays!
The A Kwanzaa Celebration Pop-Up Book by Nancy Williams is a great introduction to the Kwanzaa holiday for young children. Illustrated by Robert Sabuda, this book is beautifully put together with fantastic paper constructions of traditional holiday images. While reading this book children will learn about the seven Kwanzaa principles, traditional African words (with pronunciations) and about the zawadis (gifts) that children receive from their parents; all while seeing how African children and families celebrate their Kwanzaa holiday together.
Crispin: The Pig Who Had It All by Ted Dewan is our favorite school librarian, Alizzy Gooding's pick for this year's holiday reading. She says,"This is a fabulous holiday story without being too biased towards one holiday or another. It is also very general, making it a great pick for young readers." The book follows the over-indulged, curly-tailed Crispin who has so many toys, he breaks them almost just as fast as he gets them. When Santa leaves Crispin an empty box for Christmas, he's outraged -- but he soon ends up having so much creative, make believe fun with the box, that he realizes there is so much more to be thankful for during the holidays.
Light the Candles: A Hanukkah Lift-the-Flap Book by Joan Holub is an excellent book for families to read during their Hanukkah celebration. In Light the Candles, we see a family gathering together to light the menorah, opening each of their gifts, playing dreidel games, eating gelt, making latkes and so so so much more! Plus, with the turn of every page, another candle is added to the menorah until the very end when all are beautifully lit. This great book touches on all of the wonderful traditions that Hanukkah has to offer -- especially that of spending time with your loved ones and family!
Written as a cumulative poem, Margaret Mahy's The Christmas Tree Tangle will leave your little one balled up in laughter as all of the town's animals attempt to retrieve a tiny kitten from the top of the Christmas tree -- only to become stuck in the Christmas tree like ornaments themselves! Recommended for ages 4-8, this tangled up tale includes a goat, pigs, a dog and a very troublesome baby kitten, who humorously scampers away after all of the animals become stuck in the tree. Thankfully, there's a little boy on hand to help them untangle themselves before the big holiday feast!
Little Mouse is scared of 'all of these white flakes' that are falling out of the sky and he fears that the sky is coming undone! In Diana Hendry's The Very Snowy Christmas, Little Mouse is trying to find the perfect holly with shiny berries to hang on their Christmas tree before a string of mysterious things begin to happen... white flakes are falling from the sky, an 'invisible monster' is leaving footprints behind him and then when he gets home, there's a white monster in front of his door! What's a mouse to do? Fortunately Big Mouse is there to reassure him and show him how magical the snow can be during the holidays.
Mrs. Greenberg and her young neighbor Rachel are at it again in Linda Glaser's The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes. Every year, Rachel's family invites Mrs. Greenberg to share in their Hanukkah celebration feast and each year Mrs. Greenberg politely says no due to her fear of being a burden. But not this year! Rachel is determined that if her family continues to borrow things from Mrs. Greenberg, she'll have to come and join in the celebration with their family and friends as all of her belongings will be at their house already! Great for ages 4-8, this book is beautifully illustrated by Nancy Cote and does a wonderful job of portraying a family's holiday celebration over latkes with their nearest and dearest.
Andrea Davis Pinkney's Seven Candles for Kwanzaa is a fantastic introduction into all aspects of Kwanzaa -- the holiday which honors an ancient African harvest ritual. Pinkney goes into beautiful detail on the origins of this seven-day holiday, the traditional daily themes that are practiced, the language used and a variety of ideas for daily Kwanzaa rituals that families can consider.
Influenced by Clement C. Moore's classic story, The Night Before Christmas, Natasha Wing's The Night Before the Night Before Christmas portrays one family that is everything but prepared for the holidays... and it's the day before Christmas Eve! Mom's got the flu, the Christmas stockings have holes and the Christmas tree is not even up yet! Your child will love this hilarious lyrical take on the original and how one family comes to learn that Christmas is all about love.
Sammy Spider is sad that spiders do not get to join in on the Hanukkah festivities with the Shapiro family and mostly because he can't spin a dreidel like little Josh Shapiro. Sylvia A. Rouss' Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah is a touching tale of Sammy finding a 'spider way' to still celebrate Hanukkah and have a dreidel of his own. With illustrations by Katherine Janus Kahn, the book introduces young children to some of Hanukkah's most celebrated traditions, while including numbers and colors for them to identify.
in Lorna Balian's Bah! Humbug? little Margie so badly wants to believe that Santa exists -- though her brother Arthur is intent on proving her wrong. Arthur soon gangs up with their little sister to threaten Margie with awful consequences such as putting worms in her bed, ice cubes in her pj's or that her favorite stuffed animal, Herold, could face injury due to a flush down the toilet. Arthur plots to capture the 'humbug' Santa Claus in a hilarious 'trap'... though Margie stays awake and gets the chance to put out the family's presents and share cookies with Santa. Beautifully illustrated by Balian's daughter Lecia, this book is sure to be a quick favorite with your little ones this holiday and give them much excitement for Santa's approaching visit.
Eric Kimmel's Gershon's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year retells the traditional Hasidic legend of the Jewish New Year while wonderfully conveying some of its most important values: responsibility and forgiveness. Gershon the baker sweeps all of his daily mistakes into his basement throughout the year, but once Rosh Hashanah comes, Gershon puts all of these misdeeds into a giant bag and washes them away in the Black Sea. Even after a stern warning from a neighboring rabbi, Gershon stubbornly refuses to repent. However, once faced with the largest bag of misdeeds yet, Gershon finally gives in and is able to truly atone all of his mistakes.