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Blog – Posted on Friday, Dec 06

40 Timeless and Heartwarming Christmas Books for Kids

Is there anything more magical than Christmastime as a child? The lights, the smells of fresh-baked cookies filling the house, lying underneath the Christmas tree as all the familiar carols play in the background… To us, there are no memories more comforting.

But now we’re adults, and for many of us, it’s time to start building Christmas memories for kids of our own — or at least some nieces, nephews, and godchildren. And what better way to do that then combining the magic of Christmas with the magic of stories?

To help you out, we’ve compiled 40 of our favorite Christmas books for kids (plus a few for children who celebrate other winter holidays). These are stories that warm our hearts, draw out merry laughter, and inspire us to fall asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads. No matter what age your child is, you’re sure to find something that will entertain and inspire a hearty dose of Christmas Spirit!

Books for Very Young Children

The following picture books are for kids who have not yet started to read by themselves. So, chances are that you or another grown-up are going to read them aloud. If the little ones like them, you might have to read them again and again and again, so choose wisely!

Teeny Tiny Santa by Rachel Matson

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(Age Range: Baby - 3 years)

If you’re in the market for a book that is both charming and utterly adorable, look no further. Teeny Tiny Santa has stolen our hearts and will steal yours, too. Telling the story of a teeny tiny fox who worries that he’s too small for Santa to notice (until he hears a teeny tiny ho ho ho), this book will delight your little ones with its perfectly done illustrations and deft, graceful prose.

Count with Santa: A Fun Christmas Picture Counting Book for African American Children by Angela Y. Nixon (Indie Pick)

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(Age Range: 2-4 years)

For children learning their numbers, Count with Santa is a wonderful addition to their library. This book runs through numbers 1 to 10 — inviting readers to hunt out various Christmas symbols. With friends like Santa and Rudolph to help them along, your child is sure to start counting by themselves in no time.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

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(Age Range: 2 - 6 years)

Thanks to a panel-by-panel animated adaptation from the '80s, this wordless comic has become a perennial Christmas classic. The Snowman follows a young boy whose snowman comes to life and takes him on an airborne adventure across the world. Funny and beautifully rendered in colored pencils, this is a safe bet as a gift — as long as you’re all right with its poignant, bittersweet ending.

Zetta the Poinsettia by Alma Hammond (Indie Pick)

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(Age Range: 2 - 6 years)

Everyone’s third-favorite species of Christmas plant finally gets its moment in the spotlight! Zetta is a poinsettia (duh) who is adopted by a family for the holidays. But what will happen to her when New Year finally hits? With gorgeous illustrations from Zuzana Svobodova, Zetta the Poinsettia is a great option to read to young children who have already grown weary of Christmas trees and holly bushes!

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

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(Age Range: 2 - 8 years)

There’s nothing that Bear enjoys more than sleeping through the winter. But his woodland pals want to get him into the spirit of Christmas, and that involves a monumental task: getting him to stay awake! And if the kids enjoy Bear Stays Up For Christmas, there’s plenty more where that came from! Wilson and Chapman’s Bear series includes other titles like Bear Snores On and Bear Wants More.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore

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(Age Range: Baby and up)

Is there any Christmas book more iconic than this? ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house… Even now, nearly two hundred years after its initial publication, adults and children all around the world can quote parts of The Night Before Christmas from memory. This gorgeous edition preserves all the magic, bringing the tale to life with illustrations so lovely and detailed, you can imagine tip-toeing in to spy Santa for yourself.

I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison

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(Age Range: 3 - 6 years)

In this beautifully illustrated book, a mother and daughter wake up to fresh snowfall and spend their day enjoying the holiday season in their city. They stop to sing with some carolers, go ice skating, and visit Santa. All the child’s senses are engaged in I Got The Christmas Spirit: they hear, smell, see, and feel their way through the festive streets. The spirit of giving is present on every page, spreading a message of peace and love for all. What could be a more perfect story for the season?

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

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(Age Range: 3 - 7 years)

From the author of A Very Hungry Caterpillar, this book tells the story of a farmer wondering how Christmas can come if there’s no snow. He settles down for a long winter’s nap, and dreams of a snowstorm covering his farm and his animals — named One, Two, Three, Four, and Five, since he has so few he can count them on his fingers. When the farmer wakes up, he finds that it really has snowed outside! So he dons a red suit, and sets out to make the holiday merry. Illustrated in Carle’s signature style, Dream Snow is sure to captivate little readers everywhere.

Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer

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(Age Range: 3 - 8 years)

It’s Christmas Eve, and there’s so much for Olivia and her family to do. From putting up the tree to making dinner to hanging stockings, they’ll certainly be kept busy as they wait for Santa. Follow Olivia through all her Christmas traditions as Olivia Helps With Christmas — with all the whimsy and imagination you’d expect from everyone’s favorite pig.

Llama Llama Jingle Bells by Anna Dewdney

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(Age Range: 3 -5 years)

Told with all the rhyming charm you’d expect from Dewdney’s Llama books, Llama Llama Jingle Bells takes children through a merry day of cookie baking, carol singing, and gift-giving. As a board book, this story is perfect for bringing the joy of Llama Llama to younger readers. And thanks to its sturdy construction, it will hold up to all the repeated “readings” your child is sure to give it.

Clifford's Christmas (Classic Storybook) by Norman Bridwell

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(Age Range: 3 - 5 years)

Clifford has been a childhood staple for decades. In Clifford’s Christmas, he and Emily Elizabeth celebrate the season together, kicking things off with the Macy’s Day Parade, and continuing on through snowfalls, picking out a Christmas tree, and opening their stockings. This classic story is sure to delight audiences both new and old.

Pig the Elf (Pig the Pug) by Aaron Blabey

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(Age Range: 3 - 5 years)

In Pig the Elf, Pig the Pug is more than ready for Christmas — or, more specifically, for presents! He’s made quite a lengthy list for Santa, and cannot bear to wait another second. He certainly cannot sleep, and so he doesn’t. Pig waits up for Santa, but after he yips at the big guy in red, he ends up on a flying sleigh ride that gets just as wild as you’d expect from Pig.

The Littlest Reindeer by Brandi Dougherty and Michelle Todd

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(Age Range: 3 - 5 years)

Dot may be the littlest reindeer in the North Pole, but she certainly has a big desire to help! In fact, she has her sights set high: joining the team that pulls Santa’s sleigh. Poor Dot is just too small and slow to take off, even after she enlists her sister to teach her to fly. But when a present falls off Santa’s sleigh, little Dot gets the chance to prove herself. Featuring a positive message that all kids need to hear sometimes, The Littlest Reindeer is sure to charm as well as encourage.

Books for Preschoolers and Up

A mixture of picture books and early-reader books, these festive titles are for kids who have already started to read for themselves.

The Mouse in the Hammock by Bethany Brevard

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(Age Range: 3 - 8)

It’s almost Christmas! And while everyone else is taking care of all the big things, one little mouse knows there’s still plenty of little tasks to tie off. Between cooling off Santa’s hot cocoa, hanging the mistletoe, and tucking in the Nativity scene’s baby Jesus, he’s sure got a lot to do before he can settle down into his little hammock in the Christmas tree. The Mouse in the Hammock is the perfect story for teaching kids that they’re never too small to make a big difference.

Tera Talks to Her Christmas Tree by David Jones (Indie Pick)

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(Age Range: 4 - 7)

Tera love plants, and this year she decides that she should pick out a “lonely” tree to bring home for Christmas. She knows that talking to plants helps them grow, but what she didn’t realize is that if you stop and listen… sometimes, the plants talk back! Tera Talks to Her Christmas Tree is perfect for children who love the outdoors, or anyone who appreciates the wisdom of nature.

A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal

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(Age Range: 4 - 7 years)

Did you think we were the only culture to leave cookies out for Santa? Think again! In A World of Cookies for Santa, children go on a whirlwind tour of the world as they learn all about the varied treats and tasty sweets children everywhere leave out for the big guy in red (and his reindeer, too!). From the honey-spiced cookies of Russia to kulkuls in India, your mouths will be sure to water even as your minds expand. And if you get curious to try some of these delicious delights for yourself, you can! The book also includes a variety of recipes in the back, so you and your children can take a tour of the world without even leaving your kitchen.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

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(Age Range: 4 - 7 years)

A perennial favorite, The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy as he lies in bed listening for a sound he’d been told he’ll never hear — Santa’s sleigh bells. When a noise draws him from his bed, he discovers not Santa’s sleigh, but a marvellous train called the Polar Express. Welcomed aboard, the boy takes a magical journey up, up, up to the North Pole itself, where he’s selected for a very special honor: receiving the first present of Christmas. Winner of the 1986 Caldecott Medal, this book has enchanted readers for over 30 years, and will surely continue to do so for many decades to come.

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say

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(Age Range: 4 - 7 years)

In this beautifully illustrated story of love across multiple cultures, a young Japanese boy watches his mother fold paper cranes as he recovers from a bad chill. They’ll make a wish on the origami cranes as the mother brings traditions from her childhood in America to her son’s very first Christmas. This warm, quiet story perfectly encapsulates the cozy feeling of Christmas — and the wonder of sharing it with someone you love. Tree of Cranes will surely fill the hearts of anyone who reads it.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

What’s brown and sticky? The hero of Stick Man, a Christmas classic from the best-selling duo behind The Gruffalo. Stick Man is, well, a stick who finds himself far from home when an over-excited dog decides to play fetch with him. He finds an unexpected ally in Santa Claus, who is in a bit of a bind himself. Will they save Christmas and get our wooden hero back to his family? There’s only one way to find out!

Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano and Marjorie Priceman

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

If you’re looking for a change from the usual Rockwell-tinged suburban Christmas tales, then Miracle on 133rd Street is exactly the sort of picture book you need. Young José lives in New York City and his family is homesick for Puerto Rico. Their tiny apartment can only house the smallest of trees and even their oven is too small to feed the whole family. That’s when they get a brainwave and decide to head to their local pizzeria to spread holiday cheer to their disillusioned neighbors. Reminding us of the importance of community in our modern age, this multicultural tale comes courtesy of author Sonia Manzano, who most of us know as Maria from Sesame Street!

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

Teeka lives up north, in the shadow of Santa’s Winterfarm, and this year she’s excited and nervous for her new task: getting the reindeer ready to pull Santa’s sleigh. They’ve been living free in the tundra since last Christmas, and Teeka assumes they need her to be firm with them. But the harder she pushes, the more the reindeer resist, until she learns how to listen to what they’re trying to tell her. Full of detailed illustrations, The Wild Christmas Reindeer is a story about learning how to understand others — and how to treat them with kindness

La Noche Buena by Antonio Sacre and Angela Dominguez

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(Age Range: 5 - 7 years)

Young Nina is used to the snowy winters of New England, so it’s quite a shock to spend Christmas with her grandmother in Florida! She isn’t quite sure what to make of this experience — that is, until her Cuban grandmother teaches her about the traditions from her father’s side of the family. As Nina helps prepare for the holidays, and sees all the joy there is to be found in the feasting, the dancing, and the bright music, she learns to appreciate all the ways there are to celebrate Christmas. La Noche Buena makes a perfect read for any little one, but it’s especially helpful if you’re introducing them to new (or old!) traditions.

Pete the Cat's 12 Groovy Days of Christmas by James Dean and Kimberly Dean

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

What will Pete the Cat give his friends next? In Pete the Cat’s 12 Groovy Days of Christmas, they’re rockin’ and groovin’ together as they count down to the holidays, each with a new present far more enjoyable than the stuffy old classics we all know. After all, who needs five golden rings when you can have five onion rings? We’ll take that deal! You and your children and sure to laugh and sing along as Pete and his friends groove their way into the season — and your hearts.

The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow and James Randsome

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

Set during the Harlem Renaissance, this beautiful retelling of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King follows Marie on a magical, jazz-filled journey to find her voice as a musician. Watercolor illustrations bring 1920’s Harlem to life, while the author’s notes at the back provide a greater understanding of the story’s historical setting. The Nutcracker in Harlem is an important new classic, and a well-deserving update to a beloved Christmas tale.

The Christmas Truck by J B Blankenship and Cassandre Bolan (Indie Pick)

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

Finding LGBTQ friendly kid’s books is hard. Finding holiday-themed ones is even harder. Finding a holiday-themed one that also manages to be an utter delight? Now you’re talking about a unicorn. Or maybe a Christmas elf.

Still, that’s exactly what The Christmas Truck is. Telling the story of Papa, Dad, their amazing kid, and one fabulous grandmother as they work together to help out a child they’ve never met after a family tradition goes wrong. This story is wholesome and sweet, and it perfectly captures the spirit of Christmas.

Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever by Matt Tavares

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

Poor Dasher has lived a hard life. Stuck under the hot sun as part of a traveling circus, the object of attention from jostling gawkers, she dreams of returning to the places in her Mama’s stories — where there is snow beneath her hooves, and the North Star guides her home every night. When opportunity arises, Dasher doesn’t hesitate. Soon she meets up with a man in a red suit, and with a little help from a Christmas wish, nothing will ever be the same. Beautifully illustrated, Dasher will surely captivate all young reader’s imaginations.

Plum by Sean Hayes and Scott Icenogle

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

In Plum: How the Sugar Plum Fairy Got Her Wings, our titular hero has spent her whole life at the Mary Fitzgerald orphanage, the object of ridicule and teasing from the other children. But, when a snowstorm threatens the delivery of the children's presents, Plum is determined to help. Soon Plum is transported to the Land of Sweets, where she must defeat a terrible sourness spreading through the land. Will her good heart — and a touch of Christmas magic — allow her to save the day, and find the family she’s always wished for?

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

It’s a perfect Christmas Eve for young Maria: snow is falling, and she and her mother are in the kitchen making tamales together. Maria’s feeling very grown up this Christmas, wearing her mother’s apron and lipstick, getting her hands into the masa. The only thing that would make it better would be getting to wear her mother’s beautiful diamond ring, which has been left on the counter to stay clean. When Maria’s mother turns away, the temptation is just too great. But soon disaster strikes when the ring is lost! Did it end up in the tamales? Children of all cultures will be able to identify with poor Maria’s panic in Too Many Tamales, and root for her as she and her cousins attempt to eat their way out of trouble and save Christmas.

How to Catch an Elf by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

You’ve got be quick if you want to catch an elf! Especially this one. He doesn’t sit around on shelves like someone he knows, oh no — this elf is clever, light on his feet, and ready to escape any trap you may think of. Told in bright, merry rhymes and filled with vibrant illustrations, How to Catch an Elf is sure to make your whole family laugh and cheer for this quick-witted elf as he dodges all manner of hijinks, tricks, and high-tech snatchers.

Books for Independent Readers

Recommended for kids in elementary or primary school, most of these Christmas books are a little bit more sophisticated. Many of them tap into children’s developing senses of humor, so don’t be surprised to see a young reader giggling from behind these pages.

Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Seibold

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(Age Range: 5 - 8 years)

Olive is a dog — or at least, she thought she was. But when she hears Rudolph on the radio, and they’re singing “Olive, the other reindeer,” she realizes she must have been wrong! Loyal and resourceful pup that she is, Olive sets off for the North Pole immediately to remedy the situation and join Santa’s team. Granted, she’s… not exactly what Santa’s expecting. But soon he and all of the over reindeer realize just how valuable Olive the other reindeer really is. A charming new classic, Olive, The Other Reindeer is sure to get plenty of giggles, and forever change the way you listen to a favorite old tune.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

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(Age Range: 5 - 8 years)

This slim volume is a charming peek into the home life of the beloved fantasy author. From the time his oldest son was three, Tolkien would send his children hand-written letters from “Father Nicholas Christmas”. As you might expect from a master worldbuilder, the mythology of this particular Father Christmas grows to a Middle-earth-worthy scope. As the Letters from Father Christmas kept arriving at the Tolkien household over the next 20 years, they start to weave in numerous subplots and supporting characters that some say influenced The Lord of the Rings.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

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(Age Range: 5 - 9 years)

Some young ones may have seen and enjoyed the recent animated film, The Grinch. So why not treat them to the classic Grinch — by which we mean Dr. Seuss’ illustrated original from 1957. If you’re somehow not familiar with this title, it’s the tale of a grumpy hermit and his scheme to steal all the presents from the good boys and girls of a nearby town. With its irresistible rhymes and iconic artwork, it’s no surprise that How the Grinch Stole Christmas continues to charm young readers across the world.

A Christmas Cookie Exchange by Sheri Wall and Ilona Stuijt (Indie Pick)

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(Age Range: 6 - 8 years)

There’s always one cookie that nobody seems to want. Maybe it’s a plain cracker, or perhaps the gluten-free option. Phil is one such cookie. With his oatmeal exterior, he feels out of place next to all the beautifully decorated Christmas cookies. But with the help of his new friends, he learns that it’s what’s on the inside that really matters. And in Phil’s case, that thing is raisins. Adorable illustrations from Ilona Stuijt makes A Christmas Cookie Exchange a healthy treat for the little ones.

The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton

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(Age Range: 6 - 8 years)

Tim Burton was once considered weird. But in the decades since his dark and quirky take on the holiday season was released, the movie has become a mainstay in many households. In this picture book version of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Burton fills the pages with his distinctive illustrations and retells the story of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town who becomes infatuated with the idea of Christmas.

Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May) by Barbara Park

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(Age Range: 6 - 9 years)

This Christmas edition of the popular Junie B. Jones chapter book series finds the first-grader getting into the holiday spirit — despite the best efforts of class bully Tattletale, May. Park has a unique talent for writing books that home in on her young readers’ funnybones, and this is no exception. Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (P.S. So Does May) is sure to leave your little ones rolling in laughter, and singing their own versions in no time.

Naughty Week by Matt Donnelly (Indie Pick)

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(Age Range: 6 - 10 years)

Who could possibly blame Santa for taking a vacation between Christmas and New Years? After all, he’s worked hard all year. Unfortunately for him, Harrison and his brother Max have found the travel itinerary that proves the big guy will be away, which means… it’s time to be naughty! But when one of Santa’s elves shows up, things escalate further than anyone intended, and soon Harrison and Max will need to learn that there are always consequences to their actions. A delightful read, Naughty Week is the perfect gift for all the rambunctious kids in your life who may need a reminder that just because Christmas is over, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to start being naughty.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

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(Age Range: 8 - 12 years)

Long before Father Christmas was the man in the red suit, he was an eleven-year-old boy named Nikolas — or “Christmas,” as some liked to call him. In A Boy Called Christmas we meet Nikolas, who’s only ever received one toy for Christmas, a doll carved out of a turnip. But that’s all right. Or at least, he says that’s all right, because it was given to him by his parents who loved him. But when his father is kidnapped, it’s up to Nikolas to head for the North Pole for a rescue mission. Along the way, he meets a whole host of marvelous, magical creatures who both help and hinder his journey. Perfect for any young reader who’s ever wondered exactly how Santa came to be.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

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(Age Range: 8 - 12 years)

When the Herdman siblings — “the worst kids in the history of the world” — crash church services for the free snacks, little does anyone know how bad things are about to get. Soon they’re taking over the Christmas pageant. There’s just one problem: none of them have ever heard the Christmas story before, and their interpretation is… just a little bit different than you’d expect! Full of humor and heart, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is sure to delight your whole family with all the Herdmans’ antics.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

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 (Age Range: 8 - 12 years)

In The Christmasaurus, William Trundle has only ever had one Christmas wish: for a dinosaur to call his own. Needless to say, this hasn’t happened yet — until one year, when Santa accidentally leaves Willian with a baby dinosaur found as an egg frozen in the ice. Best. Christmas. Ever. That is, until a hunter and his dog show up looking for the Chirstmasaurus! Told in a funny, friendly voice that speaks directly to the readers, this book is sure to get as many laughs as any of the greatest Christmas classics.

Non-Christmas Holiday Books

Of course, Christmas isn’t the only celebration happening at this time of year! Whether you’re buying for a Jewish child or just want to teach your kid about the wide world of customs and beliefs out there, we’ve assembled a few bonus titles to make sure that everyone feels the holiday spirit.

Latke, the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer and Tiphanie Beeke

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(Age Range: 2 - 7 years)

It’s the first night of Hanukkah when a new family comes into the animal shelter looking for a dog. At first they want a big one, then a little one, but when they finally compromise on a medium one they find exactly the dog for them — one with brown fur just like a fried latke! When they bring little Latke home with them, he’s so excited he doesn’t realize there are some house rules he has to follow. But Latke sure is a lucky dog, and over the next eight nights he learns all he needs to know about his new family and their holiday traditions. Perfect for the smallest readers, Latke the Lucky Dog seamlessly weaves in details of Hanukkah customs and phrases, in a charming story that will leave everybody smiling.

Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel and Mike Wohnoutka

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

Bubba Brayna bakes the best latkes in town. She also happens to have terrible eyesight. These two facts collide one Hanukkah when the smell of her delicious potato pancakes attracts an unexpected visitor: a bear who Brayna mistakes for her local rabbi! A National Jewish Book Award Winner, Hanukkah Bear is written as a fun introduction to Hanukkah traditions. It even comes with a latke recipe at the back!

Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf by Greg Wolfe

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(Age Range: 3 - 6 years)

While it might seem strange at first to tell a Hanukkah story through the eyes of a Christmas elf, Smelf the Hanukkah Elf actually does a fantastic job bridging cultures for young readers. Smelf is a North Pole elf, one whose job is to check The List twice — until he discovers a whole group of children who seem like they should be getting presents from Santa, but aren’t! Distraught, Smelf brings it up with the head elf, who quickly tells him these children are Jewish, and therefore get presents for Hanukkah instead. Soon, Smelf is off on a trip to see just what Hanukkah is all about. Told in rhyming verse that gives off a strong Night Before Christmas vibe, this story is perfect for Jewish kids trying to understand why some children get presents from Santa, and Christmas-celebrating children curious about why other children don’t.

Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington

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(Age Range: 4 - 8 years)

Li’l Rabbit is looking forward to Karamu, a big feast that takes place on the sixth day of Kwanzaa. But this year, his grandmother isn’t feeling very well, so his family has decided to tone down their celebrations. In order to save the holiday, our hero decides to make his Granna feel better — but to do that, he’s going to need the help of his friends. Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa is the perfect introduction to the holiday, and a wonderful reminder of the important things in life.

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer and Jesse Reich

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(Age Range: 6 - 9 years)

Have your children ever wondered where a lot of these winter holiday traditions come from? Or why exactly it gets dark so early in the days leading up to late December? Let them wonder no more. In this lushly illustrated book, children of all faiths (or even none at all) will learn all about the scientific and cultural reasons for the seasons. A perfect blend of science and celebration, The Shortest Day lends new light to the many reasons we all have to feel merry and bright at this time of year.

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Looking for even more books to capture the magic of childhood? Check out our post on The 60 Best Fantasy Books for Kids, or head over to our collection of The 120 Best Children’s Books of All Time.

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