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December 07, 2023

Where Every Family Matters

10 Top Children’s Books for the Holidays

When you need a little Christmas, plop your littles in your lap to enjoy one of these festive new books.

If the holiday crunch is making you a bit weary, the best medicine might be to gather the kids around the Christmas tree for a sweet holiday story. Or two. The new bounty of children’s books is filled with holiday-themed treasures. We’ve sifted through them in order to recommend some favorites; the list below is organized by age recommendation. Whether for your own family, or for gift-giving, these 2017 arrivals are all sure bets.


Ages 1 – 4

The World Shines for You
by Jeffrey Burton
Illustrated by Don Clark
Little Simon; $24.99
Shiny and bright, a surefire delight — and the biggest (and thickest) board book we’ve ever seen; dimensions are close to an encyclopedia volume. The spare but towering text recounts many wonders in a child’s world, from underground seeds to stars in the sky. The shimmering, eye-popping art is the big selling point. Tots will find comfort upon hearing that “all the world shines for you.” A very special gift and keepsake.


Ages 2 – 6

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Illustrated by Florence Weiser
Running Press Kids; $10.99
Oops, this isn’t a holiday title, but we simply had to include it because it has real golden lights that gently blink on every page, thanks to five tiny cut-out holes. (So it sure seems Christmassy). The board pages are super thick, the battery can be replaced. As Mom or Dad sings along to the familiar lullaby, they’ll find a twist to the ending that makes a perfect (and oh-so-quick) sleepy-time treat. 

Ages 3 – 5

Merry Christmas from The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle
Grosset & Dunlap; $8.99
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a modern classic, to the tune of 12 million copies sold. Carle now employs his trademark bright artwork (layered hand-painted collage), to celebrate the season. We shared this with a 3-year-old who became instantly inspired to reach for the crayons and start drawing reindeer in a snowfall. Just like Carle does here, he put snowflake “dots” all over the pages. (Here’s a link to a video in which Carle talks about the creation of his original story:

                                                                                                 Ages 3 and older

Santa Rex
by Molly Idle

Viking: $17.99
From the author-illustrator of “Tea Rex” and “Sea Rex,” comes this winner for kids who want dinos at every turn. Santa Rex shows up with some dino buddies to help a small boy get set for Christmas. They string popcorn, snip paper into snowflakes, decorate windows, etc. But when dinos help out, comedy ensues. This giddy delight invites youngsters to rattle off the many things they enjoy about holiday preparations. A special pop-out page signals that Santa has come. Best, there’s a sweet message about the joy of togetherness.


Ages 3 – 7

Merry Christmas, Peanut!
by Terry Border
Philomel Books, $17.99
If it’s laughs you want, the tale of Peanut “the Merry Christmas nut” can hardly be beat. Peanut is an actual peanut, still in its shell, as are the other characters (such as a baker and a lumberjack). Border has meticulously arranged and photographed these clever scenes that star peanut “folks” and incorporate dollhouse miniatures with everyday objects.
In this story, Peanut tries to get to his grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner, but lots of things happen to slow down the process. Instead of a traffic jam, for example, there’s “traffic jelly” — a jar of jelly blocking the road. Youngsters have plenty to marvel over along Peanut’s pun-filled journey. We especially like that this rollicking romp carries a nice message about helping others and friendship.


Ages 4 – 7

A World of Cookies for Santa
by M.E. Furman
Illustrated by Susan Gal
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99

What a great idea, to follow Santa all over the globe in order to get a taste of other holiday traditions. Not all children set out milk and cookies. And of course, he’s not “Santa” everywhere. In India, for example, children leave a cup of spicy chai and fried treats called kulkuls for their Father Christmas known as Christmas Baba. In Costa Rica, the gift-bearer is named Colacho; kids there leave out crunchy, star-shaped suspiros and coconut-flavored eggnog.
Illustrations incorporating charcoal and digital collage bring these multicultural pages to bright and bustling life. Best of all: nine simple-enough cookie recipes from around the world. Yum! 

Ages 4 – 8

The Little Reindeer
by Nicola Killen
Paula Wiseman Books, $17.99

There’s something about this book that tugs your heartstrings. Youngsters will enjoy echoing sounds within Killen’s text, like the “jingle, jingle, jingle” when Ollie the small reindeer is awakened by sleigh bells, or the “whooooooosh!” when Ollie sleds down the hill and into the forest in pursuit of the source of the jingling bells. The extra-heavy paper is appreciated for Killen’s exquisite illustrations.

Ages 4 – 8

Waltz of the Snowflakes
by Elly McKay
Running Press Kids; $16.99

McKay’s lovely cut-paper illustrations prove just right for this wordless picture book about a girl’s first outing to “The Nutcracker.” The night is brown and rainy and the girl doesn’t want to go to with her grandmother. It seems silly to get all dressed up and go out on such a wet and windy night.
Much like The Wizard of Oz film contrasts fantasy scenes in bright candy colors with sepia-tone scenes that depic “real” life moments, when the show begins, this storybook suddenly bursts with bright colors, magic, exuberance. There’s plenty of opportunity for kids to stretch their imagination muscles here.

Ages 4 – 8

The Steadfast Tin Soldier
By Tor Seidler
Illustrated by Fred Marcellino
Atheneum, $17.99)

The story of a disabled (one-legged) tin solider who loves a paper ballerina is hardly among Hans Christian Andersen’s best-known tales. One wonders why, because it has such a huge heart. (The ballerina is also steadfast; she, too, can balance on one leg). Marcellino’s intricate scenes, rendered in muted colored pencil on charcoal paper, are the ideal complement to Seidler’s crisp, enchanting storytelling. A new edition of a 1992 triumph.

Ages 7 – 12

Weird But True! Christmas
National Geographic Kids; $8.99
According to a scientist, Santa puts a heckuva lot of miles on his sleigh on Christmas Eve: 150 million. And did you know that artificial snow can be made out of seaweed? Or that in the movies, they used to make snow by painting corn flakes white? How would you like to get lost inside a snow-walled maze in Canada that’s the size of four football fields? Certain kids like to gobble up such “wow” facts and figures. This small, thick volume holds 300 factoids that relate to the season.




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