The Best Christmas Picture Books

‘Tis the season for all things cozy, and what is cozier this time of year than reading Christmas picture books as a family? I grew up reading so many Christmas picture books as a child. As a parent, it’s so much fun to relive the holidays again. We love instilling new traditions into our own children’s lives, especially this time of year.

Not all Christmas books are great, though, and there are so many out there. I thought I would put together a full round-up of the best Christmas picture books for kids out there.

How to Incorporate Christmas Picture Books in Your Holiday Traditions

In the middle of all of the hustle and bustle that fills the December calendar, it is easy to get to the end of the year and feel like we missed on the holiday season. Reading Christmas books helps to ground you and slow time. They remind us what makes this time of year so magical and special.

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate Christmas books reading into your holiday season:

  • Wrap Christmas picture books in wrapping paper and have your kids open them every day in December. Or if that’s too much, do the 12 days leading up to Christmas. And if you don’t own enough books for this activity, you can always borrow books from your local library.
  • Have a time each day, in the morning as you’re eating breakfast or after dinner, when you read a story. If daily is too much, create time each week to read a story, like every Sunday.
  • For those who celebrate Advent, the liturgical Christian calendar leading up to the birth of Jesus, incorporate an advent book to your Sundays and read a passage at lunch or dinner together as a family.
  • If your child is young, give them a special Christmas book to read before their naptime or quiet time.
  • For older kids, read a Christmas chapter book together with your kid.
  • Give your family a new Christmas book each year to add to your collection. You could give it the evening you decorate your Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.
  • After Christmas, store your Christmas books in the same boxes as the rest of your Christmas decorations so that they don’t get lost with your other kid books

The Best Christmas Picture Books

Here are our top Christmas picture books. Some of them are books about Santa, others about the nativity, and others are classic Christmas picture books every child will read during the holiday seasons.

Holly & Ivy

Written by Rumer Godden, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Ages 4 – 7 / Picture Book
Holiday Themes:

Holly & Ivy is an optimistic portrait of a determined and brave little girl who maintains a sense of her own worth despite her circumstances and goes in search of the life she envisions. A little orphan girl named Ivy wishes for a doll to hold and a family to love her at Christmas, and of a Christmas doll named Holly who wishes for a child to own her, but remains unsold when the toy shop closes on Christmas Eve. There is also a woman with no children of her own who would love a little girl to look after. How the three wishes interact is told delightfully in this enchanting book.

The Polar Express - Christmas Book

The Polar Express

By Chris Van Allsburg
Ages 4 – 7 years | Picture book

Holiday Themes: Santa, Classic Christmas book

A young boy on Christmas Eve is looking out his window for Santa Claus when instead a train pulls up in front of his house and invites him on a magical ride to the North Pole. He joins other children in their pajamas and robes through the mountains up to the magical land where toys are made. There, the boy makes his wish and Santa gives the first gift of Christmas, a silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. This magical bell can only be heard by those who truly believe in Santa.

This is a Christmas classic, perfect to read on Christmas Eve as you are awaiting Santa’s arrival. It will delight children and adults alike who all believe in Christmas magic. Do you hear the bell ring?

The Night Before Christmas Book - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

The Night Before Christmas

Written by Clement C. Moore, Illustrated by Charles Santore
Ages 4 + Up | Picture book

Holiday Themes: Santa, Classic Christmas book

The poem “The Night Before Christmas” was first written in 1832 and has been delighting families ever since. Kids and adults alike love this tale of Santa Claus, his reindeer, gifts, and the magic of Christmas.

Join thousands of families across the world who read this book on Christmas Eve in preparation for a visit from Santa. We love the gorgeous, timeless illustrations of this version, but there are also board book versions, for toddlers to enjoy.

The Advent Storybook

The Advent Storybook

Written by Laura Richie, Illustrated by Ian Dale
Ages 4 – 8 years | Picture Book

Holiday Themes: Advent, Jesus’ Birth, Religious Christmas Book

The Advent Storybook is a 25-day devotional book for the month of December leading up to Christmas Day. Each day has a story from the bible that points to Jesus. The stories are brief and easy to read and include a biblical reference, key bible verse, and ends with a question for application and reflection.

This book awaits Jesus’ expected birth foretold in the Old Testament, leading up to his birth in the New Testament. The short stories and prompting questions help to center the holiday season around Jesus and why he came to this earth. A great devotional for families celebrating advent.

God Gave Us Christmas - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

God Gave Us Christmas

Written by Lisa Tawn Bergren, Illustrated by David Hohn
Ages 3 – 7 years | Picture Book

Holiday Themes: Santa, Jesus’ Birth

“Who invented Christmas?” a little polar bear asks. Her mom’s answers only prompt more questions, so they go on a quest to find God and see how he gave them Christmas. This book is an opportunity to share the true meaning of Christmas and how Santa Claus and Jesus fit together.

If you are a family that celebrates both Santa Claus and Jesus’ birth at Christmas, this is the perfect book. There are so many different messages at Christmas, and it can become confusing for kids to understand the real meaning. In the midst of all the commercialization, Santa is a symbol of generosity as the original St. Nicholas was, but ultimately points us back to Jesus as the real meaning of Christmas. (The board book version is also available.)

Secret Santas and the Twelve Days of Christmas Giving

Secret Santas and the Twelve Days of Christmas Giving

Written by Courtney Petruzzelli, Illustrated by Melissa B. Snyder
Ages 4 + years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Santa, Giving

Santa invites a special group of children who have shown kindness and compassion throughout the year to help him spread Christmas cheer. The children get an official North Pole Certificate Achievement to join him on his “Secret Santa Team”. Children are given the task to choose a recipient and carry out the magical mission of bestowing kindness.

This book challenges children and adults alike to spread kindness, joy, and hope to one another by doing secret acts of kindness to each other. It teaches children to give back and inspires creativity on how to bless others. A wonderful book to include with your Christmas traditions!

Red and Lulu Book - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

Red and Lulu

By Matt Tavares
Ages 3 – 7 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Christmas Spirit

Red and Lulu are cardinals who make their nest in a beautiful evergreen tree. One day unexpectedly, their beloved tree is chopped down and the birds are separated. Red goes on a journey trying to find Lulu, and they finally find each other in the middle of New York City. It is a charming story of love, centered around the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

This is sure to be a modern classic. The illustrations are lovely and the story is heartwarming. We also love the history lesson on the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and how it came to be such an iconic New York City (and national) treasure.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

By Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Ages 6 – 9 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Jesus’ birth, Classic Christmas

Jonathan Toomey is a grumpy, Scrooge-like widower living on the outskirts of a village, still mourning the loss of his family. He is the best woodcarver in the valley, so when the Widow McDowell and her son Thomas arrive in town, they commission Jonathan Toomey to carve a nativity set for Christmas. The widow and her son Thomas sit with him while he works and his cold heart begins to melt with their kindness and the story of the first Christmas.

It is a heartwarming, tender story of kindness. We also appreciate the patience and curiosity of the little boy in the story as he watches the carpenter work. The illustrations are lovely, and children especially love to find little carved figurines on each page.

The Christmas Wish - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

The Christmas Wish

Written by Lori Evert, illustrated by Per Breiehagen
Ages 3 – 7 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Santa, Winter

A little girl named Anja wants to be one of Santa’s elves, so she leaves a note, straps on her skis, and heads out in the snowy landscape on her way to Santa. Friendly animals help her along her journey, across a wintery, Scandinavian landscape.

The photographs accompanying the charming story are remarkable. Children love that it is a real-life girl on this journey, which makes the magic of Santa and Christmas come to life. A lovely Christmas classic! This is the first book in the “Wish Book” series.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

By Dr. Seuss
Ages 5 – 9 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Christmas Spirit, Classic Christmas Book

“Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot… but the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did NOT!” This is the classic tale of the Grinch, whose heart is hardened to Christmas enough to steal it from the town. But Christmas spirit will grow inside even the smallest of hearts and love prevails.

The power of kindness and love during Christmas time. It is a classic book (and movie, and song), that every child should know.

Pick a Pine Tree - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

Pick a Pine Tree

Written by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis
Ages 3 – 7 years | Picture Book, Rhyming
Holiday Themes: Christmas Trees

One of the traditions families take part of every year is picking out their Christmas tree. This book highlights the celebration and magic in choosing a tree, decorating the tree with tinsel and ornaments, and finally turning on the twinkling lights.

Its warm, rhythmic story depicts the joy and merriment of choosing a Christmas tree, decorating, and savoring in the tradition of the seasons. The illustrations are lovely and it would make a sweet addition to your Christmas tree decorating traditions.

A Little Christmas Tree - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

A Little Christmas Tree

Written by Anthony Merrill and Michael Bast, Illustrated by Dan Burr
Ages 4 – 8 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Christmas Trees, Meaning of Christmas

A small pine wants more than anything to be a Christmas tree for a family. But every year, Little Tree is passed over and he wonders why no one chooses him. After his mom encourages him to be patient, the day finally comes when he is chosen. But on his way into town, his branches snap in an accident. He realizes that he is used to point to the real meaning of Christmas.

It’s a heartwarming story everyone in your family will love. The illustrations are lovely and if you add holiday books to your family each year, this one is a beautiful one.

The Little Reindeer Book - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

The Little Reindeer

By Nicola Killen
Ages 4 – 8 years | Picture Book, Die Cut Pages
Holiday Themes: Santa, Meaning of Christmas

A little girl wakes up to Jingle Jingle Jingle on Christmas Eve. She travels through a winter wonderland and finds a lost reindeer, where sets off on a magical adventure and makes an unexpected friend.

The friendship between a little girl and a reindeer is a sweet story to read leading up to Christmas. But our favorite part is the enchanting illustrations — black and white, with festive red die-cut pages and foil. A lovely book!

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express

Written by Maudie Powell-Tuck, Illustrated by Karl James Mountford
Ages 3 to 7 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Family, Christmas Magic

A young girl is missing her grandfather, who lives far away. She unexpectedly finds herself on Reindeer Express, where she is whisked away on a magical adventure through exotic lands and reaches her grandfather just in time for Christmas.

The illustrations are beautiful and we appreciate a Christmas book that has a single mother portrayed. It is a sweet book to acknowledge not all families can be together on Christmas and how to keep each other close during this time of year. The illustrations are beautiful, and the die-cuts and flaps keep a child’s attention along the way.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree

By Robert Barry
Ages 3 – 7 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Generosity, Sharing

When Mr. Willowby buys his Christmas tree, it’s just a little too tall for his ceiling, so his butler cuts off a foot or so off the top to make it fit in the parlor. When the top gets tossed out, the neighborhood animals discover a way to recycle and brings holiday cheer to the home of many animals in the countryside.

The illustrations are funny and whimsical and the story is told in a bouncy, lyrical way. Plus, we love the lesson on recycling and finding a way to use something that others may see as trash. A heartwarming story.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree Book - one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

Written by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Ages 5 – 8 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Christmas Tree, Generosity

Ruthie and her mother set out to find a tree to donate to the town that her father had marked earlier in the year. Their trip becomes a legend among the town and they work together to keep their father’s duty and bring Christmas cheer to the town. It is a heartwarming story about sacrifice and love.

Set in the 1920s, this book harks back to a simpler time around the holidays. The focus is on giving, not receiving at Christmastime. Adults will love it as much as children.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Books- one of the Best Christmas Picture Books

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Written and Illustrated by Alison Jay
Ages 3 – 8 years | Picture Book
Holiday Themes: Classic Christmas Song

This book illustrates the classic song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” A couple is on their way to a party and finds little gifts along the way.

The illustrations make this book so great — they were created with alkyd paint and crackle varnish on thick paper. They have a vintage look, which matches the tradition of the classic song.

These are only 16 of so many great holiday book for children. Do you and your family have any other favorite Christmas picture books to add to this book list? If you have a favorite Christmas picture book that you would like considered to be featured, please feel free to contact us!

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