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Classic and soon-to-be classic Christmas books picked by a children's librarian

Classic (and Soon to be Classic) Christmas Reads

MPMK’s resident children’s literature expert Janssen is back today sharing 10 must-read Christmas books.  I’ve just finished putting several of them on hold at our local library – thank you Janssen!

Could anything be better than reading stories by Christmas tree lights? Throw in a mug of hot chocolate with some marshmallows and maybe a crackling fire, and you’re looking at some of my favorite childhood Christmas memories.

Of course, having the right books to read with your child is the most important part. I’m so happy to share five of my favorite classic Christmas stories and also five more recent, lesser-known titles.

My most-loved classic books:

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. One of my all-time favorite Christmas stories, it makes me feel festive just hearing the opening lines. Plus, you can watch the movie after you read the book.
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. I love that, along with actually reading the magical story of a boy’s midnight trip to the North Pole, you can do all sorts of activities that go along with this book, like taking your own Polar Express journey to see lights at night or making bell ornaments.
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Baraba Robinson. This book is the perfect length to spread out over a couple of days before Christmas, but not so long your children will lose interest. (Did you know there is a picture book version now too?)
  • Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry. This book has been around for decades, but it’s recently been republished in color, which makes it even more fun in my opinion. I love this sweet tale of how one just-barely too-tall Christmas tree provides decorations for numerous creatures as they celebrate the season.
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and P.J. Lynch. I love Dickens’ classic tale, and the illustrations in this one make it one of my very favorite versions.

And then some that might be new to you:

  • A Creature was Stirring by Clement Clarke Moore and Carter Goodrich. I absolutely love this riff on the Christmas classic. On one page, you have a stanza of the well-known poem. On the opposite page, you have a stanza about a little boy who IS stirring and watching anxiously for Santa’s arrival, despite his worries about being caught out of bed. Funny, sweet, and a perfect combination of new and old.
  • Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee. I love Marla Frazee’s style (if you haven’t checked out any of her books, this would be a great time to remedy that!), and this book is no exception. The book is a nice small-ish size, perfect for little hands, and full of her characteristic white space and detailed illustrations. It’s fun to watch Santa ponder toys all year long, match them to the right children, deliver them all, and then come home to open his OWN Christmas gift.
  • Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera. A fun and richly illustrated story about how it’s not just about getting as many presents as possible. The lesson in this one doesn’t feel heavy-handed, but just rather magical, as a little girl, obsessed with Christmas, follows her aunt on her mysterious annual business trip over the holidays.
  • One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson. I love this simple and elegant nativity story aimed at quite young children. On each page is an animal with his or her mother watching over him. After a beautiful parade of various livestock, the book concludes with a newborn baby being watched over by Mary and Joseph.
  • Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Renee Graef. I am a huge fan of the Little House books, and I love that there is now a picture book version available just for Christmas. What more could you ask for? The warm illustrations, the happy family, and the simple decorations and celebrations are just my idea of a perfect Christmas book.

For my toddler daughter, this year, I’ve wrapped up 24 Christmas picture books and put them under the tree – we open one every day and read it together. You can see the list of books I chose for her at Everyday Reading if you’re looking for even more suggestions!

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