Every Christmas, I put away the children’s books that fill a basket in my family room and exchange them for beloved Christmas stories.
In our home, it wouldn’t be Christmas without reading these favorites, both old and new. Most have tattered covers now, yet they are precious to me.
I decided to share my favorites with you in the hopes that we could share some of the stories of the season. I hope you will share yours with me as well. I’m always on the lookout for new favorites.
Some of these will be familiar, others not. A couple are not in print any longer, but I still recommend them. They’re in no particular order. Well, that’s not quite true. They’re in the order I found them in my basket!
Christmas books for kids with all the feels
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera
What it’s about: Sophie doesn’t know it, but she’s related to Santa Claus. Her hideaway visit to the North Pole reveals that someone close to her is on the BB & G (Bad Boys and Girls) list. Her machinations to get him off of the list are a beautiful study in selflessness.
Why I like it: There’s a terrific lesson in that it really is better to give than receive, there’s an elf character that makes for a fab read-a-loud, and the illustrations are superb. One of my absolute faves.
Silent Night, Holy Night by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Walter Cronkite
What it’s about: This is a gorgeously told story of the Christmas Truce in 1914 when the war was put on hold while Christmas was celebrated in the trenches of France. Buy the actual book that has the CD with Walter Cronkite reading it.
Why I like it: I’ve read this book at least 100 times, and I still tear up every time. Any book that can move you, even when you know every word, deserves a place in the library. For kids who struggle to make sense of the evil in the world, this book is a great testament to the goodness there, too.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Lloyd & Karmel Newell
What it’s about: This is the story of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s writing of the beloved Christmas carol, “Christmas Bells.”
Why I like it: The narrative weaves history in it as well, which adds a depth and richness to the story. His wife dead, his son injured in the Civil War, Longfellow somehow found the inner hope that we all seek. The ability of Longfellow to find that hope in the midst of such overwhelming despair is inspiring.
Note: It’s not currently in print, so the price is high. Stay tuned. It’ll come out again, or you may be able to find it in your local library. If you live near me, borrow my copy!
The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson
What it’s about: A one-legged toy soldier falls in love with a dancer. He endures trial after trial, and somehow endures despite all adversity.
Why I like it: This is the favorite of one of my sons. He loved the story for its gorgeous illustrations, but also the way that maimed character believed another to have the same problem as him and felt comradery because of it. It’s a lovely story of determination, faithfulness, and the shocking thoughtlessness with which we sometimes treat each other.
The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg
What it’s about: A little boy catches the Polar Express train to the North Pole, receives the first gift of Christmas, and … loses it.
Why I like it: Gorgeous illustrations, a now-classic tale, and perhaps the best excuse to drink hot chocolate ever invented make this a must-have in any Christmas library. My daughter-in-law recently bought the 30th Anniversary edition of it for my son because it’s been the book he’s heard me read every Christmas his entire life.
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson
What it’s about: A very poor girl sells matches on the street and slowly freezes to death.
Why I like it: It makes me cry. Every. Time. One of the things I like most about Christmas is the deep emotion it stirs. This book is the most gut-wrenching of all. It seems harsh for children, but I think books are the best way to help kids process the most difficult things life has to offer.
The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler
What it’s about: This is folksy tale and is a kinder, gentler retelling of “The Fisherman’s Wife.” Hannah is an old woman who is poor and lives along in a mountain cabin. She find a boot and then it gets magical!
Why I like it: The illustrations reflect the folksy feel, and the story has so, so much to it. I love it because you can read it simply as a story, or you can dive deeper into the meaning of it and the lessons we can learn.
Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares
What it’s about: Two cardinals who get separated and need a miracle to get together again. Luckily, it’s Christmas, and miracles are just around the Christmas tree.
Why I like it: It’s sweet, stirs the heart, and you get to learn about the famous tree in Rockefeller Center. What’s not to love? I actually think this one is one you will love, so if you don’t have it, grab this one.
Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien
What it’s about: These are the letters Father Christmas wrote to Tolkien’s children. You see facsimiles of the letters themselves. Even the envelopes are lovely.
Why I like it: The letters are a delight. They are unexpected and humanize a character who is often just seen as the driver of a sleigh. If you love Tolkien, this is a wonderful way to get to know him better.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
What it’s about:
Why I like it: You need to know this story. It’s the basis of loads of allusion, so if you don’t know it, you’ll be at a disadvantage. Additionally to that, the last lines just slay me. It’s got all the feels. Bonus: if you’re a teacher teaching situational irony, there’s no better story than this.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore
What it’s about: Well, I think we all know.
Why I like it: The rhyme, the beautiful treatment of Santa, the sweet family…it just goes on and on. Santore’s illustrations are fabulous, and they respect the classic. I love this one.
Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer by Robert May
What it’s about: This is the original story of Rudolph, told in poetic form.
Why I like it: I love the original story. For many kids, all they know is the song. This beautifully illustrated edition shares the story of the excluded reindeer and how the thing that makes his difference so isolating becomes his greatest strength.
Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner
What it’s about: How do snowmen celebrate Christmas? Well, they visit the snowman Santa and have icy treats, and … If you liked Snowmen at Night, this is a must-have addition to your snowman reading.
Why I like it: I love, absolutely love, the illustrations, and the verse is idea: while it rhymes, the rhyme doesn’t strain the story in any way. It moves along very quickly with energy. While I recommend lots of very serious tales in this list, this is a lighthearted read.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
What it’s about: Ebeneezer Scrooge is a, well, scrooge about Christmas until he’s visited by three ghosts who change him completely in the course of a single night. Tiny Tim, the little cane, the ghost with a chain…the magic just goes on and on.
Why I like it: No book quite so fully captures the feeling of Christmas, quite so deliberately teaches us the true meaning of Christmas, and quite so effectively challenges us to change our hearts. I’ve read this more times than I can count, and I’ve watched it just as often.
Note: this one is worth buying in a beautiful edition, and there are sooo many of them! They make a lovely gift. Here are some fave editions of this Christmas classic:
The edition shown in the image above is a gorgeous tealish-blue with a slipcover. It’s hoity-toity enough for any library.
This Penguin Classics edition is as lovely as the others in the series. The cover is plain, but there is beauty in the simplicity.
This may be the fanciest of the versions. It’s got a slip-case and everything! What I love is the illustration on the cover of the slip-case. It’s probably the most gift-y of the editions.
Of course, you don’t have to have a beautiful copy. There are loads of editions out there, and many are really reasonable.
A Family Christmas compiled by Caroline Kennedy
What it’s about: This is a compilation of the stories and poems and songs and scriptures and letters of Christmas gathered and introduced by Caroline Kennedy. Yes, that Caroline Kennedy. It even includes one of her own letters to Santa.
Why I like it: If you choose no other book for your home for Christmas, this will be enough. It has everything a family needs to have a tradition of beautiful language and the stories of the season. It’s graceful and is displayed in pride of place in my living room the entire month of December.
I hope you found at least one new book idea in this list! I can go on and on, but I have to save some for next year’s list! I’ve added this category to the books I’ve curated that are recommended for bright kiddos. You can find them all here.
You May Also Like:
- I made audio recordings of some of my favorites. You can listen for free! Find out more.
- Looking for Christmas bookmarks? I made these for you.
- Here’s a gifted kid gift guide that has more book ideas, as well as other things I think the kids in your life will love.
Note: Sometimes I use affiliate links, which means that if you click through and buy something, I get a few pennies (to buy more books!). It will never cost you anything extra.