One of the best parts of the Christmas season? Pulling out the themed picture books, of course! Like so many things about the holidays, these beloved books are made even more special by the fact that their time in the bookshelf rotation is limited – and that we return to them year after year. I can remember the coziness of my whole family sitting around and flipping through Christmas books the day we brought the holiday boxes down from the attic each year, and I know my children feel the same way.
Today, I thought I’d share some of our favorite Christmas picture books, and a few winter-themed books, as well. A pro tip: go ahead and request Christmas books from your library now. Borrowing is an excellent way to fill out your collection and try new titles, but if your library is anything like ours, the holiday shelves will be bare by the time December rolls around.
Favorite Christmas picture books:
First, here are some of the Christmas picture books in our permanent collection – the ones we own and lovingly pull from the attic year after year! Most of these are favorites from my childhood.
— Christmas in the Manger | A simple board book for the littlest ones that introduces different characters (including animals!) in the Christmas story.
— Dasher by Matt Tavares | A quiet, gentle story of how reindeer came to pull Santa’s sleigh.
— How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss | This might be my children’s very favorite Christmas book. Dr. Seuss is unmatched!
— The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg | A truly delightful book with envelopes, letters, riddles, and games folded in. Good for slightly-older kids because of the delicate construction!
— The Legend of St. Nicholas | The origin story of St. Nicholas and a reminder of the true joy of giving at Christmas.
— Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry | One of my very favorites from childhood! It traces the journey of a Christmas tree from the original home to smaller and smaller animals with delightful rhyme.
— The Nutcracker, illustrated by Valeria Docampo | This story is based on the NYCB/Balanchine version, so it’s Marie, not Clara, but it’s a great introduction if you’re going to see the show! The illustrations are memorable and a bit surreal.
— The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg | A magical, dreamlike story (with illustrations to match) of the first gift of Christmas. This one chokes me up at the end, no matter how many times I read it.
— The Scallop Christmas by Jane Freeberg | A niche book for the Mainer in me!
— Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne | This is literally the lyrics to the beloved Christmas carol, which makes it interesting to read aloud, but I love having it in our collection for its beautiful, diverse, and unique illustrations.
— ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas | A must-have staple in any Christmas collection, IMO! Since the text remains the same, it’s fun to find a version whose illustrations you love. We have versions by both Jan Brett and Mr. Boddington’s Studio.
New (to us) Christmas picture books:
I add one Christmas picture book to our permanent collection each year – this year, it’s this one! Here are some others we’ve already snagged from the library and tucked away until we get home from Florida.
— Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck | The sweetest story of a boy,his Dad and the true joy of giving. Love this one.
— The Christmas Pine by Julia Donaldson | Based on the true story of the people of Norway gifting a Christmas tree to the British people in thanks for their support during World War II. Julia Donaldson is a gem (The Gruffalo is a favorite in our house!) and this one is no different.
— The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert | Magical! A husband-and-wife team reimagined a classic Nordic tale with photos starring their daughter on her journey to the North Pole. This is a new one to us and I think my children are going to love it.
— Decorate the Tree! by Amanda Jane Jones | This is a brand-new book from someone who’s career I’ve watched for a long time. Our kids will love the interactive elements!
— Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh! by Mo Williams | Mo Williams does it again. Need I say more?
— Red & Green by Lois Ehlert | With cut-out pages and a story based on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, this one is fun for little readers.
— Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares | The sweetest story of two cardinals who get separated and find each other again in an unexpected place. Perfect for city lovers!
Our favorite winter picture books:
Finally, here are a few winter-themed picture books you might love.
— Brave Irene by William Steig | Another favorite from my childhood, with a plucky heroine, a bitter snowstorm, and a brave mission.
— The Mitten by Jan Brett | Full of classic Jan Brett magic, with borders that lead you through the story.
— Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner | We have the original, but this winter version looks just as good!
— Snow Horses by Patricia MacLachlan | A cozy, loving book about the last night of the year starring two horses. Beautiful collage illustrations!
— The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats | A classic! It’s apparently the number one most checked out book of all time in the New York Public Library, and I can see why.
Of course, I’d love to hear: did I miss any of your Christmas favorites? If you celebrate another winter holiday, I’d love to hear your favorites, too!
Affiliate links are used in this post!