Bookstores and libraries are full of Christmas titles for children, but most of them lack beauty and depth, magnetism and enchantment.
I’ve read through dozens of picture books and hand-selected the very best titles that will delight and inspire your family. These superlative picks are books that your children will want to re-read year after year because they have wondrous illustrations and compelling messages about the meaning of Christmas.
Below please find our picks for the Best Children’s Books about Christmas.
*Note that the books are presented in alphabetical order by title.
written by Charles Dickens; illustrated by Brett Helquist
In this new adaption of Dickens’ famous tale, readers are transported into the story through the glorious and luminous illustrations of Brett Helquist. No need to be intimidated by this classic anymore! This beauty of a book breathes new life into the age old story. Truly a classic to be treasured – this is a book you will want to return to year after year!
- Buy Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
- Follow Illustrator Brett Helquist on Twitter.
- Publication Details: Balzer + Bray, 2009
written by Esmeralda Santiago; Illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez
Two sisters in Puerto Rico both want the same thing for Christmas – a baby doll “with pink skin and blue eyes.” When the younger sister (Delsa, age 5) receives her wish, 7-year-old Esmeralda is brought to tears. Truth be told, I always cry a little at that part too. Lots of conversation fodder in this heartfelt and beautifully illustrated picture book. Sure to be re-read and adored by little girls ’round the world!
- Buy A Doll for Navidades.
- Follow Author Esmeralda Santiago on Twitter.
- Publication Details: Scholastic Press, 2005
written and illustrated by Trinka Hakes Noble
This Little House in the Prairie style story follows a family of four (father, mother, and two young daughters) through the seasons. When a harsh blizzard comes at winer, their beloved apple tree is lost to the storm. The little girls mourn the loss of one of their favorite play spaces, but their Papa finds a way to let their memories live on.
- Buy Apple Tree Christmas.
- Publication Details: Sleeping Bear Press, 2005
written by Pearl S. Buck and illustrated by Mark Buehner
Originally published in 1955, Buck tells the story of a teenage boy who desperately wants to get his father something for Christmas…but he has no money. A heartwarming tale about the priceless gifts of hard work, thoughtfulness, and love.
- Buy Christmas Day in the Morning.
- Publication Details: HarperCollins, 2002
written and illustrated by Maj Lindman
Three triplet girls from Sweden are the protagonists in this charming story about courage and obedience. When a new friend falls into thin ice, the girls heroically work together to rescue him. The 1950’s style illustrations are reminiscent of the Dick & Jane books by William Gray and Zerna Sharp. Adults may not be as enamored with the simple text and mild drama in the book, but our daughters were smitten.
- Buy Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates.
- Publication Details: Albert Whitman & Company, 2011
written by Ruben Saillens, illustrated by Julie Downing
Because this title is no longer in print, it is hard to find any copies under $50. If you happen to come across a copy at a used bookstore or library sale, snatch it up quick. This treasure of a book centers around a lonely shoemaker on Christmas Eve. Told in a dream to expect a special visitor, he waits expectantly…but the people who stop by his shop are not who he anticipates.
- Buy Papa Panov’s Special Day.
- Publication Details: Tyndale House Publishers, 2002
written by Mark Kimball Moulton and illustrated by Karen Hillard Good
Two children and their grandmother come across an injured reindeer and nurse him back to health. Unbeknownst to them, he is the illustrious Downer of Santa Claus fame – and their loving care of the wounded animal helps save Christmas. With only a very brief message of Christ, this book doesn’t exactly share the TRUE reason for the season. Even so, the illustrations are lovely and the rhyming lyrics are easy to read aloud.
- Buy Reindeer Christmas.
- Publication Details: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2008
written and illustrated by John Hendrix
Based on a true story from World War I, this picture book recounts a cold Christmas Day when English and German troops laid down their weapons to bury their dead and sing “Silent Night.” A reminder about the insanity of war and the young men + women who are often caught in the middle. Hendrix does a remarkable job of portraying the terror and sadness of the historical event without frightening young readers.
- Buy Shooting at the Stars.
- Follow Author + Illustrator John Hendrix on Twitter.
- Publication Details: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
written by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Tim Ladwig
Do you know who wrote the music and lyrics for “Silent Night”? Neither did we until we read this historical book about a little town in Austria in 1818. A wonderful story about how music can touch hearts and inspire unity. This is another one that is out-of-print so snag a copy if you stumble upon it when out thrifting.
- Buy Silent Night: The Story and Its Song.
- Publication Details: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1997
written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P.J. Lynch
A gruff woodcarver with blue eyes the color of the August sky is hired by a widow and her son to create a nativity set. The talented Mr. Toomey never smiles and is almost always alone…but his life is forever changed when he accepts the job. Sure to bring you to tears, this tender story about loss, love, and letting go will stay in your heart long after the pages close.
- Buy The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.
- Follow Illustrator P.J. Lynch on Twitter.
- Publication Details: Candlewick, 2007
The Christmas Story (A Little Golden Book)
Written by Jane Werner and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin
If you’re looking for a straightforward telling of Jesus’ birth directly from the Bible, this Little Golden Book fits the bill. Paired with renaissance-style pictures, the book gives a good overview of the why behind the holiday.
- Buy The Christmas Story Little Golden Book.
- Publication Details: Golden Books, 1999
written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
A little boy boards a magical train in the middle of the night. Destination? The North Pole. Along the way, he meets Santa Claus himself and remembers again what it means to truly believe. Note that this book makes no mention of Christ.
- Buy The Polar Express.
- Publication Details: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015
written by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Set in the Appalachian mountains, the story revolves around a poor family where the father is sent away to war. The mother works hard to fulfill her daughter’s Christmas wishes, in spite of their monetary lack. A lovely tale about how sacrifices can make dreams come true – and also a fascinating look at rural life in a small mountain town during World War I.
- Buy The Year of The Perfect Christmas Tree,
- Publication Details: Dial Books, 1988
What are your favorite picture books about Christmas? Send a tweet to @stephsday with your recommendations. We’ll update our list as other treasures are discovered, always keeping our list to the VERY BEST books.