If you follow me, then you have likely picked up on the fact that I absolutely love making booklists. While I love a good booklist focused on just about any topic, I have two booklists that I make annually that are easily my favorite to both make and read. One of them is my 90 Books for 90 Days of Summer booklist, and the other…
You guessed it! My Christmas list of wonderful Christmas picture books! Every holiday season, I create fabulous lists of 25 picture books for you and your family to enjoy together throughout the holiday season. And, every year, the lists are completely different! Which means, if you do the math, that I’ve got 75 (actually, more, because my first Christmas list had “25ish” books) fantastic Christmas books for you to choose from and cherish this holiday season. You can find the 2018 list here and the 2019 list here.
So, without further ado, here are 25 wonderful picture books for you to read this holiday season! Remember, these get snagged up quickly from your libraries, and they also have a tendency to sell out quickly from booksellers (especially the new releases), so take this list and get your hands on these books now, so that you’re ready to hit the road running when December 1 rolls around!
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25 Christmas Books for 2020
In no particular order…
- The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Paola Zakimi — Does your family have a train that goes around your Christmas tree? We don’t, but I know plenty of people who do! Whether you do or not, this little Christmas tree is bound to make a home in your heart. He has grown up on the edge of the Christmas tree farm, by the train tracks, and finds his happiest self every time a train passes. But then, he is taken to be a Christmas tree in a house. What will he do without his beloved trains? Ages 4-8.
2. Mouse’s Night Before Christmas by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Sarah Massini — If you like a fun twist on the original ‘Twas Night Before Christmas, then this one’s for you! You may recall that in the original poem, “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” But this time, a mouse indeed stirs, only to find that Santa has gotten lost! Join Mouse as he helps Santa get back on his way… And just maybe gets his Christmas wish, too! Ages 2-5, but great slightly older, too.
3. The Night Before Christmas, retold and illustrated by Rachel Isadora — And if you still want another version of that familiar poem, then check this one out! Isadora sticks with the well-known verse but has set her story in Africa. Her brightly colored collages will draw you in and keep you coming back for more! Ages 5-8, but delightful for all ages.
4. The After-Christmas Tree by Linda Wagner Tyler, illustrated by Susan Davis — We inherited this one from my first-grade teacher and former neighbor, and I am so excited to be able to return to this one year after year! What do YOU do with your Christmas trees once the season comes to an end? After reading this, you might consider hosting an after-Christmas party, where guests can trim the old tree with bird seed and other edibles, leaving the newly re-decorated tree in the yard for a winter feast for the animals! Ages 6-8, but great younger, too.
5. A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Collen Monroe, illustrated by Michael Glenn Monroe — A friend loaned me this one last holiday season, and I immediately knew I wanted to include it in this year’s Christmas list! I mean, just check out that cover illustration. What if you were an evergreen tree, and your only wish was that someone would pick you to be their Christmas tree? But year after year, you are overlooked, growing too big and too old to be picked this year. If you’ve been as kind to your friends as this one, you need not worry! Also available in a delightful board book (which is, as usual, shortened for younger listeners!). Ages 4-6.
6. The Remember Tree by Stefanie Hohl, illustrated by Wes Wheeler — Have you ever wondered why we see certain symbols, such as candy canes or gingerbread houses, at Christmastime? In The Remember Tree, a grandmother teaches her granddaughter the history of these symbols and how they all point us back to the birth of Jesus. Ages 5-8.
7. Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman — Sometimes, it can be hard to get into the Christmas spirit… And I’m guessing that it may be harder for many to find the Christmas spirit in 2020 than in other years. If so, definitely check this one out, as Manzano shows us how one little act spreads Christmas cheer throughout a whole neighborhood and encourages all the neighbors to focus on what is good instead of what they wish would be different. Ages 4-8.
8. The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow, illustrated by James Ransome — You probably know the story of the Nutcracker. Maybe you’ve even seen the ballet. But, you haven’t seen it like this! McMorrow has taken the traditional story and set it in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance, filling it with jazz music and creativity. Be sure to spend some time with the backmatter, as McMorrow provides information about the Harlem Renaissance as well as shares how he was inspired to put his story there. Ages 4-8.
9. Tallulah’s Nutcracker by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger — Tallulah’s always dreamed of dancing in The Nutcracker Ballet, and this year she gets her chance, as one of the mice! She works hard and she’s as ready as can be on the big night, but then… Disaster happens. Distraught, Tallulah leaves the stage feeling as if she’ll never make it. But, the teacher, Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara, and other leads surround her with support, sharing their own growth mindset moments that they overcame on their way to “success”! Ages 4-7.
10. The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola — I could make a whole Christmas list of just dePaola’s Christmas stories (in fact, my 2018 list has 3 of his gems, 2019 featured 1, and 2020 has 2!). In this dePaola story, we get to see the Nativity from the point of view of a bird. This one is short, sweet, and to the point, serving as a gentle introduction to the birth of Jesus, or a welcoming change of point of view. Ages 3-5.
11. Mistletoe: A Christmas Story by Tad Hills — I liked this one so much that I bought it to add to our collection this year. This is an incredibly sweet friendship story between Mistletoe, a mouse, and her best friend Norwell, an elephant. Though they are best friends, they have very different opinions about snow, which might just get in the way of their joint enjoyment of the Christmas season. You’ll absolutely love how they come to an agreement about this difference of opinion! Ages 3-7.
12. Merry Christmas, Little Elliot by Mike Curato — We’ve only read one other Little Elliot book, but we love it and we love this one! Elliot doesn’t quite understand what “Christmas spirit” is, but he is pretty sure he doesn’t have it. Elliot and Mouse try really hard to find his Christmas spirit and end up finding it in a most unexpected place… Through a letter blown astray by the wind. The ending hear is incredibly endearing. Ages 4-8.
13. The Legend of Old Befana: An Italian Christmas Story by Tomie dePaola — The second dePaola work on this list, I had actually never read this one before this year… And am so glad I finally did! Based on an Italian folk tale, Old Befana tends to stick to herself. But then, one night, she has trouble sleeping because of an incredibly bright star shining through her window. On her way to figure out what’s going on, she meets three kings and realizes she’s on a journey somewhere special. She never makes it to her final destination, but today visits many Italian children on January 6! Ages 4-8.
14. 1001 Things to Spot at Christmas by Alex Frith, illustrated by Teri Gower — I included a Christmas “I Spy” book on my 2019 list, and it was so fun that I wanted to put a similar book on this year’s list! Ages 3 and up.
15. The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg — This is another one I can’t believe I’d never read till last year, as I’ve been a huge fan of the Ahlbergs since I was a child! Fortunately, the aforementioned first grade teacher also sent me her copy of this one, and my girls are going to be thrilled when we bust it out. I fully expect to be joining the Jolly Postman on his holiday rounds just about every day this Christmas season. Ages 4-8, but great for Jolly Postman fans of all ages.
16. Christmas from Heaven: The True Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber by David T. Warner, illustrated by Robert T. Barrett — If you check this one out from the library, be sure the accompanying DVD is included, as it’s an extremely powerful way to learn the true story of Lt. Gail Halvorsen, aka “The Candy Bomber.” I didn’t know this story before reading this picture book, but now I’m going to need to learn more about the Berlin airlift, when American pilots air-dropped supplies (and Christmas candy!) into Soviet-blocked Berlin. Ages 5-8, but I’d stick with the high end of this range and go higher from there.
17. Christmas Mouseling by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung — A mother mouse gives birth to her baby in the middle of a terrible snowstorm on Christmas Eve, and then her nest is blown away by the storm! As she searches for a warm place to hold her baby, she meets various animals on their way to go welcome a different baby into the world. Eventually, she follows them, finding a new home nestled close to the other new baby. With gentle illustrations and a repeated rhyming refrain, your little ones will love reading this one over and over again! Ages 2-7.
18. Christmas is Here with words from the King James Bible, illustrated by Lauren Castillo — With text directly from the King James Bible, laid next to modern-day illustrations of a community gathering at Christmastime. I always love Christmas books that remind us to focus on the Christmas story and our families and communities, rather than the gifts we receive, and this one does this just this in a very delightful, accessible way. Ages 3-7.
19. A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M. E. Furman, illustrated by Susan Gal — I’ve always been fascinated by various Christmas traditions from around the world. And it turns out that the tradition of leaving a snack out for Santa runs through many communities worldwide! You and your children will love learning about these traditions around the world, as well as baking some of the cookies from the recipes included in the back. Ages 4-8.
20. The All-I’ll Ever Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney — You really can’t go wrong with books written by McKissack or illustrated by Pinkney, and you get both of them together in this one! Inspired by a true story out of “the poorest place in America” during the Great Depression, this book will transport you through the decades to a house rich with tradition and love… And will likely help your children step into a world quite different from their own, opening their eyes as they see through the windows McKissack gifts us. Ages 4-8, but great slightly older too.
21. Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios — Did you know that ever since 1993, a Las Posadas celebration has taken place between the border walls, overseen by Border Patrol officials, so that U. S. immigrants separated from their families in Mexico can come together with them to celebrate Las Posadas and Christmas? This story, although fictional, sheds light on this important day for many Mexican and American families. Ages 3-6, though great older, too.
22. All the Colors of Christmas by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by Gillian Gamble — Ooh, everyone, this 2020 release is just delightful. If you buy one book from this list, consider making it this one. When you think of Christmas colors, you’re probably like me and think of red and green (and maybe silver and gold, too). Turner reminds children that their Christmas traditions are made of many more colors than just red and green (and Gamble portrays Baby Jesus in a more accurate skin color than do many Christmas picture books, and every page brings great diversity, so that’s a plus, too!). Written in a run rhythm with bright, engaging illustrations, you and your children alike are sure to return to this one again and again. Ages 3-7.
23. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher — This is one that you’re going to want to keep out the whole Christmas season, because it’s beautiful to read AND to look at. Angelou originally wrote this poem for the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony. It’s a beautiful celebration of Christmas, love, and community, no matter how different we might be. Ages 4-8.
24. Little Mole’s Christmas Gift by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Sally Garland — In a delightful story of giving generously from the heart, Little Mole learns the important lesson that the size of a gift doesn’t matter… It’s the love behind it that makes it big and important. Ages 3-6.
25. How Winston Delivered Christmas: An Advent Story in Twenty-Four-and-a-Half Chapters by Alex T. Smith — Okay, so this isn’t a picture book… But it’s meant to be read one short chapter at a time (one a day starting December 1) and is just delightful. And, it has accompanying advent activities for each day, if you like ideas of festive things to do! Ages 6-8, though this is the perfect family read-aloud for the month of December!