‘Tis the season for gifts, gratitude, guests and giggles. It’s a busy time, and a joyful time, and, if we can manage to squeeze it in between class parties, Santa visits, and tree trimming, a wonderful opportunity to spend quiet time with our favorite little elves. There’s a blizzard of tales to help celebrate the season this year (you could likely fill 8 sleighs with the festive books shelved in our holiday section!), so we’ve put together one of our favorite compilations of the year. Unlike some lists, every entry here is nice from start to finish, and, like Grandma’s candied Spam bark, likely to become an annual treat.
The Knights Before Christmas, by Joan Holub and Scott Magoon
With an average of 3 puns per page, this medieval retelling of “’Twas the night before Christmas” will have you and your little readers jolly in no time. 3 knights are bravely guarding the castle when a fearsome, festive fiend—bedecked in red and white cloth and flanked by 8 antlered dragons—attempts to storm the castle. A battle ensues —will the stalwart knights be able to protect the king from the sparkly gifts catapulting over the moat? Fast-paced and full of heart, The Knights Before Christmas will become an instant Christmas Eve favorite!
Toys Meet Snow, by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky
Lumphy, StingRay, and Plastic are an unlikely trio—a stuffed buffalo, plush stingray and a rubber ball thrust together in a toy box by Little Girl—but they’re the best of friends. Little Girl has gone away on Winter Break, and the first snowfall has arrived. Eager to explore, the pals set out on an adventure that allows each of their distinct personalities to sparkle. Inquisitive Lumphy analyzes the frosty world outside their front door, while poetic StingRay appreciates it in the abstract. Plastic—who prefers the concrete—spouts off facts that she’s, naturally, read in a book. Their day is a lark, and no one wants it to end, until waning daylight—necessitating a beautiful 3-part sunset illustration—signals that it’s time to go home. See snow with fresh eyes with this winsome tale.
Amazing Peace, by Maya Angelou, Steve Johnson, and Lou Fancher
In 2005, Angelou composed Amazing Peace for the White House tree-lighting ceremony. 10 years later, her inimitable words are now available for story time. The themes are serious, and there is a looming darkness at the outset, but Angelou, with simple words and powerful imagery, reminds us that this is a season of hope, gladness, and, ultimately, peace. Accompanying illustrations that beg to be touched underscore this new holiday classic.
A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas, by Philip Yates and Sebastiá Serra
Landlubbers and Mateys agree—this is one of the silliest Christmas tales to wash ashore in (at least 20) fortnights. 3 black cats, 2 cutlasses, and a parrot in a palm tree are just a few of the gifts in this creative parody, and there will be something on every page for all your readers to giggle at.
The Animals’ Santa, by Jan Brett
With a heartwarming story and trademark dual-story illustrations that bring the beauty of the forest and the anticipation of the season to life, Jan Brett has created another holiday masterpiece. When Big Snowshoe describes the Animals’ Santa to Little Snow, Little Snow is full of questions. Who is the Animals’ Santa? How does he get all the presents made in time? After asking all his forest friends, who are as eager for Christmas Day to arrive as he is, Little Snow, unfortunately, has no more answers. He’s growing skeptical. But Big Snowshoe has a plan to put Little Snow at ease, and the ending presents a clever, heartwarming twist that will delight parents and children alike.
The Last Christmas Tree, by Stephen Krensky and Pascal Campion
One diminutive, nondescript fir sits in a lot, nestled among the grander Balsams and Frasers. As Christmas Eve approaches, the more robust trees are picked one by one, and soon the scraggly tree is all alone. He never gives up hope that he will be selected, however, and finally, a jolly man in a red hat picks the plucky tree up, takes him home, and decorates him with twinkling lights and sparkling ornaments. This touching story is a wonderful way to end your Christmas Eve celebration and fill you with hope for the coming morn’.
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, which features 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, Anja 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.
Tractor Mac Saves Christmas, by Billy Steers
What started as a picturesque snowfall on Stony Meadow Farm is quickly turning into an outright blizzard. Tractor Mac acts quickly and carves a path for his friends on the farm, but Farmer Bill and his horse Sibley aren’t back yet from fetching the town Christmas tree for the tree-lighting ceremony, and drifts are getting deeper! It’s up to Tractor Mac to find a way to save Christmas for the town, and he’ll need some help. Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this year with this warm and fuzzy tale of hope and courage.
The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, by Patricia C. McKissack and Jerry Pinkney
“Christmas always came to our house, but Santy Claus only showed up once in a while,” starts Nella, our plucky protagonist. Nella’s grateful for all she has; she is a kind sister (most of the time), and a dutiful daughter. She knows Mama and Daddy don’t have much, and Santy doesn’t either, but she has set her sights on a Baby Betty doll. After sending a letter to Santy, and ignoring the jeers from her sisters, Nella has a wonderful surprise on Christmas morning. Against all odds, Nella gets what she’s longed for, but the lesson she learns is unexpected. Filled with all the joy and peace of the season, you’ll want to share The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll for years to come.
What are your favorite books to read on Christmas Eve?