12 of the best Christmas books

Written by Gi Hallmark

The holidays are a sentimental and reflective time when families gather to celebrate traditions and create lasting memories. As families commemorate this festive season, many turn to a bountiful selection of classic and beautiful picture books with stories that can be timelessly shared year after year.

These books have the ability to slow readers down during the especially busy season, allowing the opportunity to refocus and connect on the meaning and magic of Christmas. Creating a tradition of adding a Christmas story to the home library each year can be a heartwarming exercise that can benefit many generations- here are 12 of our favorite Christmas books, best shared over a cup of cocoa by the fire.

Santa Mouse

By Michael Brown, Illustrated by Elfrieda De Witt

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Barnes and Noble Books (1996)

Publisher’s Synopsis: Everyone knows that Santa Mouse is Santa's little helper but how did it all come about? Find out in this charming story about a tiny mouse with no name who lived a very lonely life in a very big house. He loved Christmas dearly and had a special present for Santa, but how could he possibly give it to him? After all, he's only a mouse. And how did a little ordinary mouse become Santa Mouse, the helper Santa could never do without?

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story

By Gloria Houston, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Puffin (October 1996)

This is a beautiful and heartwarming story about a small Appalachian village and the year they almost did not have a Christmas tree. Little Ruthie and her father had set out early in the spring to pick the perfect tree to serve as the village Christmas tree. But when her father goes off to war and has not returned by Christmas Eve, it is up to Ruthie and her mother to keep the village’s sacred tradition alive.

Stranger in the Woods

By Carl R. Sams and Jean Stoick

Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Carl R Sams II Photography (November 1999)

Publisher’s Synopsis: Stranger in the Woods is a photographic fantasy that tells how the furry and feathered friends of the forest respond to a mysterious visitor. On the national and New York Times best-seller lists during the winter for 5 consecutive years, Stranger in the Woods has warmed the hearts of children ages 1 to 100.

The Polar Express

By Chris Van Allsburg

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (October 1985)

The Polar Express is a classic Christmas story that has warmed millions of hearts and has become a staple of the holiday season. A mysterious, magical train rolls up to a young boy’s front door, taking him on a spectacular trip to the North Pole. This unforgettable journey teaches the boy that the magic of Christmas is in believing.

The Nutcracker

By Susan Jeffers

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins (September 2007)

The world’ most beloved holiday tale is beautifully retold by Susan Jeffers in simple text and oversized illustrations. These illustrations are truly what make Jeffer’s version of The Nutcracker unique, the lush watercolors invite young reader’s imaginations to join Marie on her journey with the Nutcracker Prince for an unforgettable experience.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

By Jane Ray

Ages 3-8 | Publisher: Candlewick (September 2011)

Publisher’s Synopsis: In this lushly illustrated interpretation of the familiar Christmas carol, each spread offers surprises for the eye as nostalgic city scenes depict a multiethnic cast of characters bustling with packages and sprucing up their homes for the holidays. But at one home in particular, an endless succession of gifts keeps arriving: birds of all stripes, ladies dancing aboard a brightly bedecked boat, lords leaping on rooftops, and pipers piping up and down stairs. Filled with intricate patterns and whimsical flourishes, Jane Ray's gorgeous artwork is the perfect match for this wonderfully cumulative tale.

With luminous artwork full of elaborate detail, the acclaimed Jane Ray brings new life to a classic holiday song.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

By Dr. Seuss

Ages 5-9 | Publisher Random House Books for Young Readers (October 1957)

Publisher’s Synopsis: “Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot . . . but the Grinch, who lived just north of Who -ville, did NOT!” Not since “’Twas the night before Christmas” has the beginning of a Christmas tale been so instantly recognizable. No holiday season is complete without the Grinch, Max, Cindy-Lou, and all the residents of Who-ville, in this heartwarming story about the effects of the Christmas spirit on even the smallest and coldest of hearts. Like mistletoe, candy canes, and caroling, the Grinch is a mainstay of the holidays, and his story is the perfect gift for young and old.

The Christmas Wish

By Lori Evert, Photography by Per Breiehagen

Ages 3-7 | Publisher Random House Books for Young Readers (September 2013)

Publisher’s Synopsis: Long ago, a brave little girl named Anja wanted to be one of Santa's elves. So she leaves a note for her family and helps her elderly neighbor prepare for the holiday, then she straps on her skis, and heads out into the snowy landscape. From a red bird to a polar bear to a reindeer, a menagerie of winter animals help Anja make her way to Santa. A generous trim-size, matte cover, and foiled title make this a special book for the holiday season.

The Night Before Christmas

By Clement C. Moore , Illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa

Ages 3-8 | Publisher: Sterling (September 2007)

Publisher’s Synopsis: The Night Before Christmas is the most enduring and memorable of all holiday poems. Celebrated artist Gyo Fujikawa brings new levels of excitement and joy to the verse, concocting a variety of goodies to feed sugarplum visions. From the first lovable image of a pink-eared mouse to the final spread of Papa waving goodbye as Santa and his reindeer fly away into the sky, Fujikawa provides pure enchantment. Kittens and dogs curl up everywhere in the old-fashioned home; stockings hang by the fireplace; and a group of irresistibly adorable children nestle next to cakes, cookies, andcandy canes on a bed of soft dreamy clouds. Young readers and adults alike will be mesmerized. This edition of The Night Before Christmas was originally published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1961.

Dream Snow

By Eric Carle

Ages 2-6 | Publisher: Philomel (September 2000)

Publisher’s Synopsis: It’s December 24th, and the old farmer settles down for a winter’s nap, wondering how Christmas can come when there is no snow! It is in his dream that he imagines a snowstorm coming and covering him and his animals—named One, Two, Three, Four and Five—in a snowy blanket. But when the farmer awakens, he finds that it has really snowed outside, and now he remembers something! Putting on his red suit, he goes outside, puts some gifts under the tree for his animals, and presses a button near a Christmas tree, creating a most surprising musical treat for children everywhere.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer

By Jan Brett

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Puffin (October 1998)

Publisher’s Synopsis: For two decades, readers have loved this classic Christmas story, which was one of the first children’s books to hit the New York Times bestseller list. Now, this beautiful 20th anniversary edition, with a foil cover and a heartfelt note from Jan herself, makes a perfect introduction for new fans to this cherished yuletide story.

Featuring the wintry northern setting and the border illustrations that have become a hallmark of Jan’s work, readers will love watching Teeka’s humorous attempts to control the rambunctious reindeer in time for their Christmas run.

The Scrawny Little Tree

By Ed Mehler, Illustrated by Susie Pollard

Ages 3-8 | Publisher: Price, Stern, Sloan (October 2011)

Publisher’s Synopsis: Originally published in 1973, The Scrawny Little Tree tells of a destitute little boy who has always wanted a Christmas tree. He finally has saved enough to buy a little tree all his own, one with scrawny limbs and very few needles. But the boy’s love for his first Christmas tree is not affected by its diminutive stature. His love and the magic of Christmas combine to make a strange and wonderful thing happen to the town . . . Told in rhyme and with retro illustrations, The Scrawny Little Tree is sure to become a favorite holiday tale!

Gi Hallmark, creator of, is a freelance writer and mother of two lovely girls. For more information about, follow Gi on Twitter @thechildrnsblog.