It’s no secret my family reads extensively. I’ve previously written about our love of the written word in a couple of other TBMB posts, but wintery and Christmas books are my FAVORITE books of them all. I love spending our Florida Christmases wearing shorts and a T-shirt while curling up with a good book surrounded by my loved ones. Even if we don’t experience winter in the traditional sense, we can certainly read about it and all things holiday. So I’ve compiled a list of my family’s favorites, some we read every year and others we’ve recently discovered from friends and family. Feel free to comment about your favorites; I’m always looking for new books to read!
1. The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’Engle
- The Story: Vicky Austin thinks the 24 days leading up to Christmas are the most magical of the whole year. But what happens if Mother leaves for the hospital and the new baby arrives? Will Christmas be ruined?
- Why Your Family Will Love It: The Austin family does something special every day leading up to Christmas, which is something all Pinterest moms can get behind. Even better is the way the family does these things together.
2. The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg
- The Story: On Christmas Eve, a young boy visits the North Pole to make his Christmas wish to Santa.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: It has a train kids ride to visit Santa, and the story and illustrations are beautiful. Plus, there’s a local train where you can take your kids on their own North Pole Express adventure with the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish.
3. Dream Snow by Eric Carle
- The Story: A farmer dreams about snow and wakes up to find it actually snowing. The snow triggers his memory and he leaves gifts for his animals.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Toddlers enjoy the interactive aspects of the book, and the silly names (numbers) of the farm animals.
4. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- The Story: A little boy explores his city on a snow-filled day.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal, it is one of the first full-length picture books to feature a black child. It really captures the joy of being a child playing freely outside.
5. Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell
- The Story: A series of tired animals make their way to a stable next to an inn, culminating in Mary and Joseph finding a place in the stable where Jesus is born.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Beautiful pictures of animals present this lovely story where “There’s always room for a little one here.” All are welcome to enjoy the warmth of the stable.
6. The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
- The Story: Santa’s reindeer must be tamed each December, and Teeka has been given this arduous task for the first time. She makes mistakes, and the reindeer refuse to listen to her yelling. Once she calms down, the reindeer become ready for the annual flight.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: A Christmas calendar border surrounding Brett’s signature illustrations doubles as page numbers. I like how Teeka realizes that calming down will help her do her job (something all kids and adults need to work on).
- Other Christmas Books by Jan Brett: The Hat, The Animals’ Santa, The Gingerbread Friends, and The Mitten
7. Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
- The Story: A tractor with a bulldozer and a snow plow (depending on the season), Katy works hard for the City of Geoppolis. One day, a blizzard hits and only Katy is left to plow the city streets.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: My boys love trucks and disasters, so this book is perfect for them. I also like the way Katy enjoys helping her city, since I’m constantly trying to teach my sons to be helpers.
- Another Christmas Book by Virginia Lee Burton: Calico, the Wonder Horse
8. Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
- The Story: A little girl tries on her mother’s diamond ring while helping make tamales for Christmas and misplaces it. She thinks it fell into the tamales so she and her cousins eat them all up in their search.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: What kid hasn’t borrowed something precious of a grown-up and lost it? The adults handle the ring’s “loss” in the best way possible: with kindness and understanding, something we all need to remember at Christmastime and beyond.
9. The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt
- The Story: On the coldest day of the year, a little boy drops his mitten in the woods where several creatures try to take up residence in its warmth.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: We can apply its theme of invitation and welcoming as being part of the Christmas spirit. I think the world would be a happier place if kindness to all were practiced starting at a young age.
10. Santa is Coming to Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg by Steve Smallman
- The Story: Santa has adventures while delivering gifts to the girls and boys of the Tampa Bay Area, including reindeer issues and a foggy night.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Who doesn’t love a Christmas book featuring the place where we live?! Cities and towns in our area are represented by name, and several of our landmarks feature prominently in the story.
11. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry
- The Story: A too-big Christmas tree for Mr. Willowby becomes a just-right tree for many other creatures.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Everyone gets a recycled bit of this special Christmas tree, and makes it their own.
12. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
- The Story: A young couple without much money struggles to get the other the perfect Christmas present.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: My husband couldn’t believe I had never read this story; I picked it because the author shares his pseudonym with my son. A powerfully old tale, the couple learns about the true gifts of Christmas, just as the Magi brought gifts to baby Jesus. Lynch’s illustrations transport the reader to New York, always a magical place, but especially so at Christmastime.
13. The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaolo
- The Story: Roberto and Lupe are chosen to play Maria and José in Las Posadas, the annual procession of Mary and Joseph seeking comfort in the inn in Bethlehem. Farolitos are lit, devils bar their way, and musicians and singers lift their voices in song. But when Roberto and Lupe’s truck breaks down on the way to the procession, a Christmas miracle happens.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: My family always adapted this Spanish custom of lighting luminaries on Christmas Eve, but I never knew the history behind it. I love the symbolism of lighting the way for Mary and Joseph to the inn where Jesus was born. We will definitely making this a Christmas Eve tradition of our own starting this year.
- Other Christmas Books By Tomie dePaolo: The Birds of Bethlehem, The Friendly Beasts, and The Legend of the Poinsettia
14. How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky
- The Story: Santa spent his days as a chimney sweep, mailman, cook at a late-night diner, zookeeper, and circus performer before becoming the man we know him as today. This helped him narrow down what he wanted in a job, but still had to figure out how to deliver elven-made toys to all the children of the world.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Kids will love seeing Santa as a younger person doing non-Santa activities, and adults can appreciate how hard it is to find one’s purpose.
15. Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini
- The Story: Moose is so busy checking things off his perfect Christmas to-do list that he forgets to get a Christmas tree. He creatively makes a decision to use what they already have available.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: The silly moosestache-Christmas tree makes my boys giggle. It also teaches that we don’t have to be “perfectly perfect” for Christmas to be special.
16. Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou
- The Story: This poem, read at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in 2005, advocates for peace, hope, and love during the holiday season and beyond.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: For people of all faiths and encouraging togetherness, the illustrations are oil on canvas, creating a unique look in a children’s book.
17. The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman
- The Story: Inspired by Christmas music, the author just can’t find the heart of Christmas until she remembers it all began with a child.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Never explicitly describing Jesus, it expands the joy of Christmas to all children, and the love that parents have for their little ones.
18. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
- The Story: The Grinch, a creature who has lived a miserable life hating on the Who’s who live in the town below, decides to ruin Christmas for them, until he has a change of heart.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Love for others overcomes selfishness, which is something everyone can get behind. The animated film is pretty great, too.
19. Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
- The Story: A little boy in Japan thinks his mama is mad at him for playing by a pond and getting sick, but she has been preparing for Christmas in secret.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Watercolor drawings paint a boy’s first Christmas celebration, a day of love and peace. Born in California, but living in Japan, the boy’s mother remembers her childhood Christmases as her little one experiences his first. As parents, I think we do this through our family traditions; it’s why we celebrate together.
20. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore & Rachel Isadora
- The Story: Moore’s traditional Christmas poem takes place in an African village. The father spies St. Nicholas as he arrives to deliver gifts to his family.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Vibrant illustrations featuring an African family make this story feel new again. Each page’s beautiful design is filled with traditional African toys, clothing, and life.
21. The Twelve Days of Christmas in Florida by Frank Remkiewicz
- The Story: Following the tune of the traditional “12 Days of Christmas,” Luann’s Florida cousin, Travis, sends her a note accompanying a gift for each of the days leading up to her Florida Christmas vacation.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: A tribute to many things that make the Sunshine State unique: animals, history, food, and nature are lovingly described. Florida kids can learn all about their home state while laughing at the silly gifts.
22. Snowflake Bentley by Jaqueline Briggs Martin
- The Story: Wilson Bentley studied snowflakes, first with a microscope and later with a special camera that could photograph them from 64 to 3,600 times their actual size. He experimented with various techniques until he mastered the art of photographing snowflakes, and his work made him the ultimate authority on snowflakes.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: A nonfiction, Caldecott medal-winning book, the woodcut pictures allow kids to learn about the uniqueness of snow and the wonder of winter (something foreign to our Florida kiddos).
23. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- The Story: Miserly Scrooge hates Christmas and only cares for himself and his money. That is, until 3 spirits visit him changing his mind and heart.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: A holiday classic in the public domain, copies are free online for family reading time, and this story just sounds better read aloud together.
24. La Noche Buena by Antonio Sacre
- The Story: Nina heads to her abuela’s house in Miami for her first Christmas Eve with her Cuban relatives. Participating in the traditions leading up to Christmas, Nina has a happy and exciting holiday, despite no snow.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: Florida kids rarely (or never in South Florida) see snow on Christmas, but awesome family time and fun happens anyway. This story makes my heart sing with joy in its depiction of this Cuban family.
25. The Friendly Beasts: A Christmas Carol by Sharon McGinley
- The Story: Focused on the animals present for Jesus’ birth, this carol celebrates their contributions to that joyous day.
- Why Your Family Will Love It: A song for Jesus’ birth, this old French tune and twentieth-century lyrics combine tradition and wonder in a way kids can understand. McGinley’s illustrations enhance the song’s loveliness and evoke joy.