If a day spent browsing the choo-choos at a holiday train show and gazing at a twinkly tree isn't enough to get your youngsters in a festive mood, read our ranked list of fantastic Christmas books for kids before bedtime!
While browsing through all of our favorite picks, you'll find great stuff like The Polar Express, where a little boy finds himself on a very special journey, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where you'll learn that even those with hearts three sizes too small can learn to appreciate the holidays. Don't miss Jan Brett's beautifully illustrated The Mitten or The Wild Christmas Reindeer!
Best Christmas books for kids
1. The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg
On Christmas Eve in the middle of the night, a train magically appears outside a little boy’s home, and it’s headed to the North Pole. What adventure is in store? Who will meet Santa and receive the first gift of Christmas? This book is easy to fall in love with, and the masses agree: After its release in 1985, The Polar Express soon became a Caldecott Medal–winner (and a Christmas classic). Ages 4–7.
You've likely seen the ballet version of this amazing story, but have you brought it home? Follow a young girl as she helps her wooden nutcracker friend defeat an army of scary mice and explore a land of toys. Ages 4–8.
Illustrated by renowned artist Charles Santore, this oversized heirloom edition of your favorite Christmas poem is the perfect pick for reading in front of a cozy fireplace. Journey through the rooms of a colonial home as you read the rhymes together! Ages 4 and up.
No one hates Christmas more than The Grinch. He can’t stand all the singing, decorating and general merriment going on down in Whoville during the holiday season, and he plots to come down from from his cave on the mountain to put a stop to it. He does all he can to stomp out the Christmas spirit, but this green grump may learn an important lesson from the Whos in the end. Ages 5–9.
The Peanuts gang learns the meaning of Christmas in this cute Snoopy board book—plus, this particular adaptation tells it from Snoopy’s perspective. Little ones will love following along as he decorates his doghouse and wins first prize in the neighborhood contest. Ages 4–8.
This beautiful tale, written and illustrated by Jan Brett, is bound to be a new wintertime favorite for your family. A young boy receives a pair of white mittens from his grandmother, but when he drops one in the snow, several woodland creatures use it to seek shelter from the cold! Youngsters will giggle at the vivid drawings of a mole, rabbit, hedgehog and more trying to squeeze into the cozy mitten together. Ages 4 to 8.
The joy of waking up to a wintry wonderland is communicated without words in this beautifully illustrated story. A young boy rises to discover that the countryside where his family lives is blanketed in a fresh layer of snow and builds a snowman to celebrate the occasion. At midnight, his friend comes to life and joins the boy in wandering through the house before they take flight, exploring the town from above until sunrise. Your youngsters will be more than ready for a snow day after paging through this book! Ages 4 and up.
Olive, the adorable Jack Russell, confuses the words in a classic Christmas carol and comes to the conclusion that she’s the 13th reindeer in Santa’s fleet. The colorful, eye-popping illustration will have little ones giggling as they read about Olive’s journey to the North Pole to join in on the annual Christmas Eve ride. Ages 3–7.
Llama Llama takes young readers on tons of adventures throughout the series, and in this book and teaches them valuable lessons along the way. This time, the impatient little one helps Mama Llama prep for the holidays—but not without constantly asking how many days are left before Christmas arrive, and maybe throwing a tantrum or two. Ages 2–5.
10. The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith (2015)
Smith branches out from her award-winning young adult books to bring us a delightful middle-grade reimagining of the Nutcracker. Readers join Stefan Drosselmeyer on an adventure through Germany (after his toymaker father is kidnapped) and when he’s charged with saving a princess who has been turned into a doll. Throw in some talking mice and magical curses, and you have the ideal recipe for a holiday quest story. Ages 10–14.
11. A Wish for Wings That Work by Berkeley Breathed
Opus the penguin just wants to be like other birds and soar through the air with ease. He’s a bit of an outcast because of his different abilities, but a Christmas wish might be just the thing to make his wings work like they ought to. Adorable cartoon-style illustrations draw in young readers until Opus gets a chance to show Santa how special he is. Ages 6–9.
A farmer dreams of his farm being covered in snow as he gets ready to settle in for the day—and sure enough, when he awakens, the ground is covered in frosty flakes. He puts on his red suit, goes outside and puts some gifts under the tree for his animals…but this isn’t the only surprise he has in store. Ages 3–7.
13. A Wish to Be A Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe
With gorgeous illustrations from an award-winning wildlife artist, this heartwarming tale transports young readers into a snowy wood. They’ll meet an overgrown pine who longs to be festooned with lights and ornaments at Christmastime, but his size causes families to pass him by. Luckily the deer, squirrels, birds and other creatures know how to make his wish come true. Ages 4–6.
14. The Magical Christmas Horse by Mary Higgins Clark
When Johnny’s family visits his grandparents in New England for Christmas, he can’t wait to show his little brother the magical wooden horse he’d always loved. But when they get to the house, it’s nowhere to be found. Will he find it in time for Christmas Day? Ages 4–8.
A spunky girl named Teeka is tasked with prepping Santa’s reindeer before their long journey on Christmas Eve, but training them isn’t as easy as she expected. If your kids love The Mitten, they’ll adore Jan Brett’s festive and amazingly detailed illustrations in this Christmas tale—plus it teaches the value of being gentle and patient. Ages 4–8.
This much-lauded middle-grade mystery has got it all: a deceptively peaceful snowy setting, an old house concealing secrets, and two teens that must unravel a complex web of stories. Snuggle up around the fire with your loved ones, then join Milo and Meddy at Greenglass House during the inn’s winter season. You’ll gladly get entangled in their detective plot as the two try to discover if any oddball guests are actually harboring wicked plots. Ages 10 to 12.
17. The Book of Kringle by Derek Velez Partridge with Mary Packard, illustrated by David Wenzel
This nontraditional tale shares the story of two magical men (Kris and his brother, the powerful King Kringle) who have a very, very different idea of what Christmas means for all. The story is told by Manusol, an elf who hopes that joy and celebration will return to the North Pole.
18. The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert, illustrated by Per Breiehagen (2013)
If you’re always pushing Jan Brett’s books into your kids’ hands, you will be enamored of this Nordic story and its stunning winter scenes and animals. The simple but powerful story follows little Anja, who leaves her family, straps on her skis and ventures into the snowy landscape to become one of Santa’s elves. Get ready to gawk at the photographic illustrations, ooh and aah over the reindeer and cheer on ambitious Anja. Ages 3 to 7.
Lucy Cousins’ eye-popping board books are beloved by tots everywhere, and main character Maisy never misses out on a festive celebration! As she and her pals open up holiday gifts, little ones get to see what each critter gets—a toy rocket, roller skates, art supplies and more! Ages 2–5.
20. Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story by R. L. Stine
Middle-grade kids (and their parents) will appreciate the legendary horrormonger’s twist on the most popular Christmas story of the last few centuries. In this retelling, a Scrooge-like young boy, who particularly dislikes watching A Christmas Carol every year, gets visited by a few ghosts himself. But you’ll have to read it to see if they bring him over to the bright side of the season…or if they’re a different type of ghost entirely. Ages 9 to 12.
Dog lovers can’t get enough of Carl—the friendly Rottweiler who’s put in charge of watching the baby while his owners are out. This canine brings the tot along (riding atop his back, no less) to spread Christmas cheer by donating baskets to the needy and making a ruckus with some carolers. Upon their return home, they have a run-in with one of Santa’s reindeer and help the man in red distribute the gifts before Christmas morning. Ages 3–6.
This continuation of The Jolly Postman happens during Christmastime! He rides again with more real letters to well-known storybook characters (like Mr. H. Dumpty), and we love the fact that your kids can actually handle the envelopes. Ages 5 and up.
While the other doze off, Bear stays awake for Christmas with his forest friends. He helps find a Christmas tree, hang stockings and sing Christmas songs, and as it turns out, a certain jolly man in red is watching. Ages 2–4
Mercer Mayer’s lovable Little Critter tries to tackle the holidays by finding the perfect presents, decorating the tree and wrapping up his festive gifts—but nothing seems to go as planned! He means well, but somehow always causes more trouble than good. Read about his silly antics with the kids and put them on the lookout for a special critter (spiders, grasshoppers and more) hidden in the illustrations on each page. Ages 3–7.
Christmas is coming, and little miss Olivia is totally ready. She’s overseeing the Christmas tree, making sure the stockings are hung with care, setting the Christmas table and preparing, of course, to open her presents. Ages 3–7.
26. Babar and Father Christmas by Jean de Brunhoff
Babar’s children caught wind of a man named Father Christmas from the human world. Being the best dad ever, he heads out to find his workshop in the snow. Can Babar figure out a way to bring him to Elephants’ country? Ages 4–8.
27. Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
With Amelia Bedelia doing the planning, this Christmas is bound to be the funniest ever. It’s Christmas Eve at the Rogers home, and her funny misunderstandings (for instance, a date cake made of calendar pages) are sure to keep the kids giggling. Ages 4–8.