Best Christmas Picture Books: Our Top 10 Picks

Remember what it felt like as a child, sitting in a loved one’s lap, listening to a favorite story, and talking about the pictures? I don’t know about you, but I’m still a sucker for picture books, especially when they have engaging stories and beautiful artwork. With the holiday season in full force, I thought I’d take a look around and see if I could find some with a Christmas theme–because what better holiday tradition than reading Christmas picture books with your child?

Here are ten gorgeous books with a Christmas theme for you and your little one to love.

Book cover for BEAR STAYS UP, a picture book. This shows a bear in a winter scene, surrounded by woodland friendsBear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

Bear wants to stay up and celebrate Christmas with his friends, but as you know, bears hibernate in winter. All his friends show up to keep him awake by baking cookies, wrapping presents, and engaging in all sorts of Christmas preparations. Charmingly illustrated by Jane Chapman, this book tells a beautiful story of friendship and giving.

This is the cover for a picture book called CARL'S CHRISTMAS. It shows the title and a rottweiler, Carl, in the snow, carrying a stream for green Christmas garland with a red bow.Carl’s Christmas by Alexandra Day

This heartwarming story of a Rottweiler charged with caring for his family’s baby on Christmas Eve should delight all ages. While there is some (minimal) text, the tale is primarily told through Day’s gorgeous illustrations. Perfect for dog lovers.

This is the cover of HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, by Jan Brett. It shows a child troll in a red hat, riding on a moose. There are holly leaves and scenes from the book at the corners of the border.Home for Christmas by Jan Brett

A little troll, Rollo, runs away from home because he doesn’t want to do his chores. After trying out life with a variety of animal families, Rollo realizes there really is no place like home and that, in a family, everyone has to do his or her part. These delightful illustrations show why Jan Brett is one of the most beloved children’s illustrators of our time.

This is the cover for the picture book HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS by Dr. SEUSS. It shows a picture of the Grinch inside a white "lightning ball" graphic against an orange background.How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

No list could be complete without the story of the Grinch, who lives in a cave on the mountain above Whoville. The Whos love Christmas as much as the Grinch hates it. This timeless tale proves that even a curmudgeon with a heart that’s two sizes too small can discover the magic of Christmas.

This is the cover of the picture book I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS. It shows a little girl in pink footie pajamas unwrapping a huge hippopotamus, who is still standing in the middle of red and green wrapping paper. The title and the names of the author and illustrator are written on gold ribbon.I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by John Rox

A little girl tries to convince her family that she needs a hippopotamus for Christmas. , John Rox’s text (originally a song written in the 1950s) is filled with humor, while Bruce Whatley’s delightful illustrations show both the child’s love and care for her ideal pet and the unfeasibility of keeping a hippo as a house pet.

This is the cover of the picture book ROOM FOR A LITTLE ONE: A CHRISTMAS STORY. It shows a cow, a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a mouse gathered around the Christ child, who is lying on a bed of hay. The animals wear loving expressions, and the background is suffused with a warm, golden light.Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

On a cold winter night, a kind-hearted ox invites a dog, a cat, and a mouse with no place to stay into his warm stable. Then a donkey comes in bearing a woman, Mary, who is about to deliver a baby. Joseph is at their side. Because there’s no room at the inn, the ox welcomes them as well, and Mary has her baby, Jesus, in this cozy shelter surrounded by the animals. Beautifully illustrated by Jason Cockcroft, this is a lovely retelling of the story of the first Christmas.

Santa’s UnderwearThis is the cover for the children's picture book, SANTA'S UNDERWEAR. It shows a worried Santa standing in his boxers while Rudolph looks on and two elves laugh and point  by Marty Rhodes Figley

Illustrated by Marty Kelley, this lesser known, lighter book is a fun departure from the usual holiday fare. Santa can’t find his Christmas underwear, the old, worn, comfy pair he always wears when delivering presents. How the elves and reindeer help Santa solve his problem will keep the little ones giggling.

This is the cover of the picture book THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE OF JONATHAN TOOMEY. A woodcarver in an apron is helping a young boy carve one of the figures for a Nativity scene. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

Beautifully illustrated by P.J. Lynch, this is the story of a talented woodcarver who shuts himself off from others after a terrible tragedy. When a widow, new to the town, asks him to carve a nativity scene for her and her son, he finds the healing magic of friendship and the Christmas season.

This is the cover for THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a picture book of the classic children's poem. It shows a closeup of Santa's head. A sprig of holly adorns Santa's hat, and smoke curls up behind him as he winks at the viewer.The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Charles Santore

This lushly drawn rendition of an old favorite is well worth a look. The classic poem never grows stale and lends itself to a variety of artistic interpretations.

 

This is the cover for a picture book called THE YEAR OF THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS TREE. It's a night scene, lit by a full moon in the upper right corner and a lantern on the snowy ground in the center of the scene. A snow-covered evergreen tree stands on the left, and on the right is a little girl wearing a long skirt, boots, a hand-knit scarf, a woolen hat, and a brown winter coat. She is carrying an axe.The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston

This story takes place in Appalachia during World War I. Ruth’s father has promised that their family will provide the Christmas tree for their church. He and Ruth go up into the mountains and mark the tree, but then he’s called up and has to go to war. Christmas is approaching, but when the train bringing back the soldiers from their region comes, he’s not on it. This powerful little book, sensitively illustrated by Barbara Cooney, is a story of family, hope, faith, love, and the importance of keeping promises.

Do you have a favorite Christmas picture book? Please post it in the comments and tell us why you love it

 

12 comments

  1. Very thoughtful list. Some instantly recognizable classics made the cut, like the Grinch and the Night Before Christmas, but also others I never knew about.

    One that really stuck with me as a kid was called “The Christmas Day Kitten”. It’s about an old cat who dies on Christmas Day, but not before giving birth to a litter of kittens. I guess it left such a deep impression because it blended sadness and joy and embodied that message of death and rebirth I always felt was so central to the holiday. Anyway, that was my take on it.

    1. Andrew, that sounds like a wonderful, though bittersweet book. I’m going to see if I can find it.

      Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. This was such a fun post to read! I put as many of them as I could find on hold at the library… which wasn’t many. I’ll need to dig around to see if I can find some of these, though, because they look fabulous! Especially “I Want A Hippo…” – can’t even read that title without the song dancing through my head LOL.
    Wonderful choices, I’d say! You certainly must have fun searching out the best titles!

    1. Marlaine, I loved that song when I was a kid! I used to play it over and over. And these illustrations complement the words perfectly. I hope you’ll let me know what you think once you’ve read them.

  3. Hi, Beth. I think children’s books are an awesome idea. Can’t think of a better way to help parents and children bond.
    Your “Best Christmas Picture Books: Our Top 10 Picks” is a very nice selection. Some I know and some are new to me. You are providing a great service. Keep up the good work.
    Keith

  4. Hey Beth! I really like your article here. “The Night Before Christmas” was my favorite christmas book growing up. My mother used to read it to my sister and I every year around Christmas time. I’m not familiar with some of the books you have listed, but every single one of them looks unique and interesting! Especially “Santa’s Underwear” lol, I’m sure kids have a riot over that one. Keep up the good work!

    Best Regards,
    Chris

  5. Thanks for bringing me back to my childhood!

    The grinch was always my favourite as a child and now my 6 year old daughter is a big fan.

    Great list of books! Always enjoy reading to the kids in the Christmas spirit!

  6. I love the sounds of these Christmas stories! My mum never gets to go to the library and choose children’s books for us anymore but she is delighted to be able to make the trip for my cousin. She would love to have her little nephew over to see the Christmas tree and read him some stories, I’ll suggest some of these! They would make great presents too 😉

    1. Thank you, Emma. I have some wonderful memories of going to the library with my grandmother and coming home with an armload of books.I never get tired of finding a new and beautiful picture book!

      I think these would make great gifts too, and I bet your mum’s nephew would love having some of these read to him.

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