A few days ago, I came home from school pickup and declared, “Movie night! What Christmas movie shall we watch?!” Normally, both daughters would squeal with delight and fight over Rudolph (again) or the Grinch (again).
Rowan (currently age 6) looks up at me disappointed and says, “Mom, I was hoping we could decorate my room and get out the Christmas books.” Well slap me silly and call me Sally, OF COURSE Rowan, let’s do it. Tired shmired. Haul out the Christmas totes!
Without further ado, I bring you a post all about our favorite Christmas picture books and the bookshelf display we (Rowan and I) put together.
Building The Christmas Picture Books Collection
We have a family holiday tradition of picking up a new Christmas book (or two) for each child to kick off the Christmas season and help us get into the Christmas spirit. Books and reading aloud together are a significant part of our family culture. I will never say no to books for our children.
We’re also a family who has adopted the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve and settling in for a cozy evening of reading. Often, the new books we give our daughters (currently age 6 and age 2) are Christmas picture books and we spend the evening reading aloud to them. It’s a glorious tradition and I highly recommend it.
Bonus cozy points when reading time is spent in the fluffy bean bag while sipping hot cocoa.
The girls also have my collection of Christmas picture books from when I was a child. I had some great classics like The Polar Express, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Wild Christmas Reindeer that were all surprisingly still in great condition. I love that the girls are reading the actual physical books I read and loved as a child. It’s heartwarming!
All that to say we have amassed quite a collection of Christmas picture books over the years and I am here for it. From the great Christmas books of yore to the hot new holiday book, board books from Sandra Boynton to anything Jan Brett puts out, are all in our home library.
The favorites find their way to the bookshelves while the basket underneath serves as overflow. This year we added a bunch of beginner reader Christmas books and most of those are in the book basket.
If you’re into holiday book collections be sure to check out our Halloween bookshelves post.
25 Best Christmas Picture Books
While we do have many, many Christmas picture books, I thought I would share with you our top 25 favorites for young children that we reach for over and over again. In no particular order (all links go to Amazon):
- Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht (author), Jarvis (illustrator)
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (author, illustrator)
- Last Stop On The Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck (author), Karl James Mountford (illustrator)
- The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen (author, illustrator)
- How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (author)
- The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore (author), Charles Santore (illustrator)
- The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett (author)
- Elf (Pop Classics) by David Berenbaum (author), Kim Smith (illustrator)
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Thea Feldman (author), Erwin Madrid (illustrator)
- 12 Days of Christmas by Lara Hawthorne (illustrator)
- When Santa Was A Baby by Linda Bailey (author), Genevieve Godbout (illustrator)
- Little Red Sleigh by Erin Guendelsberger (author), Elizaveta Tretyakova (illustrator)
- Dasher by Matt Tavares (author, illustrator)
- Rosie Finds Her Shine by Megan Wilson (author, illustrator)
- How Does Santa Go Down The Chimney? by Mac Barnett (author), Jon Klassen (illustrator)
- S Is For Santa by Greg Paprocki (illustrator)
- Together by Heather Stricker (author), Martha Ratcliff (illustrator)
- Murray Christmas by E.G. Keller (author, illustrator)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas by Maggie Testa (adapter), Charles M. Schulz (Author), Vicki Scott (illustrator)
- The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker by Katy Flint (adapter), Jessica Courtney-Tickle (illustrator)
- Merry Christmas, Anne (Anne of Green Gables) by Kallie George (author), Genevieve Godbout (illustrator)
- The Nutcracker: A BabyLit Dancing Primer by Jennifer Adams (author), Alison Oliver (illustrator)
- Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle (author), Jill McElmurry (illustrator)
- Santa Mouse by Michael Brown (author), Elfrieda De Witt (illustrator)
- The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert (author), Per Breiehagen (illustrator)
Such a fun book collection filled with stories for the whole family. Everyone enjoys these stories from our toddler up to her middle-aged parents. From Rudolph to Charlie Brown and everything in between. Speaking of Rudolph…
I’ve read Rudolph far too many times and have been known to hide Rowan’s collection of Rudolph books behind the other books. It’s fine. She thinks it’s funny and it’s a running joke.
It never fails, Rowan chooses at least three versions of Rudolph to read every night. She might be obsessed. This year, she set up a reindeer shelf with the entire bottom two shelves filled with reindeer books.
Photo of Rowan’s “reindeer bookshelves” and her collection of Rudolph books. Two Rudolph books are missing, one board book and a Golden Book, that I can’t find for the life of me.
Christmas Bookshelf Display
As a self-proclaimed design and decor enthusiast with a struggling minimalist heart, I love that a beautiful book can double as decor. I had this in mind when we first built the open shelves in Rowan’s room and we made sure to make them extra deep for added holiday decor (I see you bottle brush trees and raise you twinkly lights).
It’s such a fun way to add whimsy and the magic of Christmas to our children’s rooms. I switch up the books on Rowan’s bookshelves about once a month, always trying to pick books for seasonality or the holidays. Most of the time, I don’t decorate the shelves but I do love to jazz them up for Christmas and Halloween. Check out this year’s Halloween bookshelves.
Since I started displaying books like this, there’s been an uptick in excitement in choosing bedtime stories. Both our daughters browse the books and choose just the right one every night. Even during the day we’ll snuggle up here and read books off the shelf together. It’s like a little reading nook.
Now if only I could get them to stop trying to climb the shelves! They’re built rugged, but not THAT rugged.
Christmas Picture Book Superlatives
I love a good superlative, although not the high school yearbook ones, so why not apply them to our favorite and best Christmas books?
Most Likely To Be “Hot Hot Hot”
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. To all those non-parents, I’m referring to the “Hot Chocolate” song from the Polar Express movie.
The kids have my old Polar Express book (it even has my name written in it with my best first-grade penmanship). It’s a favorite to read aloud together especially since it’s now a movie and we periodically take the kids on the Polar Express train ride.
Most Favorite of the Rudolph Books
Rowan has 8 Rudolph books. 8!!! She’s obsessed. Or let’s just say she’s a Rudolph connoisseur. Of all the versions of the Rudolph books she has, her personal favorite is the Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer classic board book with illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo.
It’s my personal favorite too along with Colby’s. It makes him cry it’s such a sweet story. Shhh…don’t tell him I shared his deep dark secret.
Note how worn our copy is becoming. It’s well-loved for sure.
Most Likely To Be Read On Christmas Eve
This award goes to The Night Before Christmas (the classic edition), hands down. We read this book together as a family every Christmas Eve. It’s such a classic Christmas story, if not THE MOST classic Christmas story.
The book is perfect to read aloud together as the kids ramp up their anticipation of Santa Claus visiting and listening for little hooves on the roof. It brings back memories of my brother and I having a sleepover in my room on Christmas Eve because it was the only bedroom on the top floor, hence better proximity to Santa on the roof.
Most Beautiful Illustrations
Oh, this one is hard because so many of the books have the most beautiful illustrations. While I do love the illustrator Jarvis and their work on Pick A Pine Tree, I’m going with Dasher, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares. Just the cover of this book…swoon! It’s a beautiful story as well, of making a new life for oneself along with themes of family.
A two-page spread of the most beautiful Christmas tree is found in the Pick a Pine Tree book written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Jarvis. This book is all about picking out the perfect Christmas tree along with the traditions family and friends take part in every year at Christmas time. I love a Christmas picture book with themes of family traditions since they’re so important to our family.
Most Likely To NOT Get Ripped By A Toddler
In other words, our favorite Christmas board books. We have a few favorites in rotation including Santa Mouse, When Santa Was A Baby, and anything Christmas from the queen of board books, Sandra Boynton. Bea’s current favorite Sandra Boynton books are Moo, Baa, Fa La La La La! and Bob.
Most Likely To Warm A Heart
The book Together authored by Heather Stricker and illustrated by Martha Ratcliff is such a heartwarming story about the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not about the toys under the tree but enjoying time together as a family partaking in family traditions. There’s just something about a small child asking Santa for time with their family that gets me in the feels.
Let me tell you about this little old book with Buddy the Elf who journeys from the North Pole, through the sea to twirly swirly gumdrops, to New York City. Sound familiar?! Yup, one of the cult classic Christmas movies, Elf, comes in picture book format. Elf: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Pop Classics) illustrated by Kim Smith is a must-have for this Buddy the Elf fan.
It’s full of classic Elf shenanigans that bring out the snort laugh. Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?!
The Little Reindeer written and illustrated by Nicola Killen is a super cute story about a little girl befriending a reindeer and setting out on a magical adventure. It’s such a sweet picture book that’s a regular read in our home.
Most Likely To Spark The Spirit Of Christmas
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett is one of those books that always spark the spirit of Christmas. The story is about Teeka who has to prepare the reindeer for their Christmas Eve journey and the lessons she learns. The whole book sets the tone for the season and kicks off Christmas traditions in such a great way.
Best Dog Story
For those of you with a dog-obsessed child (show of hands…who are my fellow parents with an all-dogs-all-the-time kid?!), Murray Christmas by E.G. Keller is a must-read. While it’s not a groundbreaking story, it is a laugh-out-loud story about the main character Murray the dog adjusting to his first Christmas.
I lose it when he questions his humans’ decision to plant a tree inside the house, which he promptly pees on! I’m dead!
Have you heard of the Story Orchestra books? They are so good, all of them. These books are the type that play music when you press a button on the page, pairing classical music with a classic story. The Christmas edition of the book is The Nutcracker with Tchaikovsky’s music. This book would make a great Christmas gift for a child on your holiday season shopping list.
Most Classic And Nostalgic
I can’t just pick one book for being the most classic and nostalgic of the holiday picture books. It’s impossible! So I picked four: The Night Before Christmas, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Polar Express, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
This year has been a Grinch year in our house, which is a first. Everyone’s favorite holiday curmudgeon is getting some airplay here and I’m grateful to mix up the all Rudolph all the time reading mix of Christmases of yore.
Best New Christmas Picture Books
I always try to pick up at least one recently released or new holiday book. From this year’s new Christmas book releases that we either borrowed from the library or purchased our collective favorite is How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? I love that there is now a picture book to answer that age-old question. It’s silly, it’s quirky, and our kids find it hilarious!
Most Magical Journey
The most magical journey award goes to Last Stop on the Reindeer Express written by Maudie Powell-Tuck and illustrated by Karl James Mountford. It’s got it all, magic doors, rides on flying reindeer, and reaching Grandpa in a faraway land just in time for Christmas. It’s an enchanting AND heartwarming story. Such a great book.
Parents’ Choice Awards
As we come to a close on this post, let me leave you with the parent’s choice awards. These are the books that the kids may or may not love but the parents do! These are the books that we (Colby and Angie) love regardless of our children’s feelings on the subject!
Colby’s favorite Christmas book this season is When Santa Was a Baby written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. In the words of Colby, it’s his favorite because “it’s new and I’ve read it seven times and not 7,000.” Truth! But it is a funny book about baby Santa Claus, his endearing parents, and his uniqueness becoming something magical.
Merry Christmas, Anne written by Kallie George and illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. I love any of the picture books inspired by the classic literature I loved as a kid, including the Anne of Green Gables series. This book is adorable and even features Matthew’s gift to Anne, a dress with puffed sleeves. Oh, my nostalgic heart!
I JUST read this to Bea (age two) who responds, “Mommy, it sad.” No sweet Bea, just let Mommy enjoy her book. This book is definitely not for a two-year-old but older kids may enjoy it.
PS…So tell me, what are your favorite Christmas picture books? I’m making a list and checking it twice! See what I did there?! Merry Christmas reading!