10 Christmas Eve Bedtime Books for Kids Too Excited to Sleep

santaIf you’re like me, and the only way to settle your wiggle-worm 4-year-old down for her own long winter’s nap is with a riveting holiday tale, then this roundup is for you. You’re sure to find something that will have your little one’s head buzzing with nocturnal visions of gelatinous confections in no time.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss 
Like a white elephant gift exchange without a foot bath, no holiday season is complete without the Grinch. Even if it’s the 300th time, take 20 minutes this week to relive the Grinch’s transformation. Snuggle up with your little one alongside Cindy-Lou Who and Max the dog/reluctant reindeer, and witness the Grinch’s heart triple in size as a direct consequence of Seuss’s quintessential holiday epiphany: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.”

Frosty the Snowman, by Steve Nelson, Jack Rollins, and illustrated by Wade Zahares
Featuring a CD with the song performed by Kenny Loggins (which you, after purchasing, will have the option of playing on a loop on the annual road trip to Grandmother’s house), Frosty’s timeless story is perfect for your collection. With Nelson and Rollins’ original lyrics, and Zahares’ spectacular illustrations, this adaptation uses a tried-and-true method (snow, don’t tell) to bring to life the magical story of Frosty, and his wintertime high jinks.

Snowflakes Fall, by Patricia MacLachlan, and illustrated by Steven Kellogg 
“After the flowers are gone, snowflakes fall. Flake, after flake, after flake. Each one a pattern all its own—no two the same—all beautiful.” This inspiring new book, borne out of the Sandy Hook tragedy last year, comes from longtime friends MacLachlan and Kellogg, and is a hopeful, memorable story for all ages. With wonderful prose and captivating illustrations, this unique story not only celebrates the natural beauty and rhythms of the world around us, but also the memories we create—and the renewal we experience—in each new season.

The Christmas Wish, by Lori Evert, with photographs by Per Breiehagen 
Paired with her husband’s photos, Evert’s story is a classic Nordic tale, brilliantly retold, featuring the couple’s young daughter, Anja. As Christmas approaches, Anja plots and plans her journey to the North Pole, where she wishes to become an elf. Meeting a polar bear, a reindeer—even Santa Claus himself!—along the way, she has the trip of a lifetime (or was it all a dream?), and tempts readers of all ages to believe in the magic of Christmas.

The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats 
More than 40 years after its initial publication, Keats’ vividly-imagined, snowy wonderland is covered with pint-sized angels, snowmen, and mysterious footprints. His iconic story allows yet another generation to hear the crunch—and recall the magic—of the first snow of the season, and savor the endless possibilities that an unexpected snowfall can bring to a young dreamer in a snowsuit.

The Mitten, by Jan Brett 
Brett has created so many unforgettable holiday tales that it’s hard to choose just one (it’s like trying to pick a favorite among eggnog, peppermint bark, and hot wassail—impossible!), but The Mitten—Brett’s lively adaptation of a traditional Ukrainian folk tale—consistently shows up on the top of the winter reading pile at my house. When, against her better judgment, Baba knits a pair of ivory mittens for her persistent grandson, Nicki, it’s only a matter of time before one is lost in the snowy woods. How many animals will cozy up in the mitten before Nicki finds it again?

Madeline’s Christmas, by Ludwig Bemelmans 
It’s Christmas Eve in a little old house in Paris all covered with vines. And 11 little girls—and Miss Clavel, too!—are sick, leaving it up to Madeline and her new, mysterious friend to save Christmas. While a deeper meaning lurks just beneath the surface, my 4-year-old and I are content to delight in the amusing verses and whimsical illustrations that bring a magical, snowy Paris to life.

It’s Christmas, David, by David Shannon
“Naughty list. Naughty list. Naughty list.” That’s where David finds himself throughout this book, which is a hilarious take on the thrilling, maddening, exciting days leading up to Christmas.

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect, by Richard H. Schneider 
Schneider’s touching story of Little Pine, the compassionate conifer, is more than 25 years old this year, and its worn binding reveals it to be a favorite on my holiday book shelf. Many years ago, in a kingdom far away, the queen hand selects her Christmas tree for her party every year. All the pines in the nearby forest strive for the honor, and, in the interest of keeping their branches pristine, turn away when animals seek to shelter in their branches, or munch on their leaves. Little Pine, however, opens her heart to all desperate creatures, and her raggedy branches, which represent the true meaning of Christmas, are recognized by the keen queen, who picks Little Pine to be the focal point of the kingdom-wide Christmas celebration.

The Spirit of Christmas, by Nancy Tillman
This was the first Christmas book we ever purchased for my daughter, and it pairs nicely with a cup of steaming cocoa. Filled with spectacular illustrations and lively prose, it’s a great reminder to all of us to slow down and remember the warmth and love at the center of this busy, magical season.

There are so many books that celebrate the joy of the season—what other books are on your list? 

  • Jill Noble Blouch

    How about the Auntie Claus books?

  • bookstorecat

    The Sweet Smell of Christmas is my favorite. It’s the only scratch-&-sniff book I can think of, so I guess it’s pretty unique.

  • Gwen Goble-Bartzen

    Willy and May by Judy Schachner