Whether you are a literature-based homeschooler or not, Christmas is the perfect time for reading. Just think about snuggling with your kids by a warm fire, sipping hot cocoa, and reading beautiful Christmas books together. Each year our kids were giddy with anticipation when we pulled our basket of Christmas books from our Christmas closet under the stairs. If you are just building your Christmas book collection or adding to one, here are some of our favorite Christmas books. We highly recommend all of the books listed here, so if you are looking for enchanting stories for nieces, nephews, or your own children, click on the book titles and save yourself some shopping time!
Some of our families’ most precious Christmas memories revolve around books. Beth’s mom would unpack her Reader’s Digest collection of Christmas stories every year and place it on the coffee table. Every year, she would pick up the heavy, hardbound anthology and read it as if she had never read it before. She also had a well-worn copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I don’t think a movie version was ever made that rivaled her imagination, which swirled with frightening images and tender vignettes as well Scrooge learned to love and be loved.
However, Beth’s hands-down favorite was her father’s retelling of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. Her dad was not a great lover of literature, being much more concerned with science and facts. But for some reason, O. Henry’s irony held him captive. To this day, it is Beth’s favorite O.Henry story. She says she will never forget how romantic the couple’s sacrificial love seemed to her as an adolescent girl.
Imaginatively illustrated, simply written children’s picture books can create cherished family memories as well as prized gifts. If you’re looking for some new story treasures for your family, consider some of these favorites. You can purchase them from Amazon by clicking the titles’ links.
Note that these are affiliate links. Should you buy any of these books, we might get a few cents (and I mean a few cents) as a commission without any extra cost to you. This is coffee money, and we thank you!
- Shoemaker Martin written by Leo Tolstoy, illustrated by Bernadette Watts. This picture book actually became one of my favorites after I had my own children, even though it was originally written in the 1800s. The author, Tolstoy, also wrote the most acclaimed novel ever published, War and Peace. Later in life, he became a believer and wrote this beloved short story. With the focus on Christ, it’s an ideal story for Christmas, although it’s not generally known as a holiday book. Character Lesson: As presented in this picture book, Tolstoy’s main point is that Jesus reveals Himself through us in everyday life. Even younger children can understand this from the book. And it’s an excellent stepping stone for a mature discussion of how the things we do, as believers, affect everyone around us. The illustrations in this particular version are detailed and captivating. While the text, translated from Russian, maintains its simplistic storytelling quality.
- The Gift of the Magi, written by O. Henry, is another of those late 1800s stories. As I mentioned, this short story holds a special place in my childhood memories. We didn’t have a version with pictures when I was a child. But now there are versions available with their glorious original paintings. Both versions I have read recently one illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger and the other by P.J. Lynch. P.J. Lynch, with his soft but realistic paintings, almost tells the story through the illustrations alone. It’s no wonder that Lynch is a two-time winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway award. Yet, Zwerger’s tender illustrations in this particular book actually seem to give off the romantic gaslight qualities of the time period in which the story was written. You’ll have to make the decision or, better yet, buy them both! 🙂 Character Lesson: Talk about the sacrifices of the young husband and wife in selling their most prized possessions to provide a loving gift to their precious spouse. Related Christmas activity: Discuss how you could exhibit sacrificial love in giving gifts to your family members and others this year. Are there things you could sell to earn money for gifts? Are there other ways to sacrifice, such as spending time with a shut-in, shoveling snow or yard work, doing a home repair for someone, watching a young mother’s children, or making a meal for someone? Could you take the time to make special personalized gifts for the ones you love? Here are several other ideas for blessing others at Christmas (along with many other gift ideas).
More of our homeschooling families’ favorites!
- We Believe in Christmas written by Karen Kingsbury and illustrated by Daniel J. Brown. Young children love this modern picture book. The text clearly expresses one family’s reasons for celebrating Christmas rather than “the holiday season.” The vivid illustrations with bright colors and a realistic presentation make it easy for younger children to understand. Related Christmas activity: Make a book with your children revealing why your family believes in Christmas. Focus on what your family does each holiday season. Include your traditions relating to your family’s belief in Christ and talk about how you celebrate His birth. It could be as simple as pages stapled together where you write the main ideas on each page and your children illustrate them. For a more sophisticated project, an older child could design the book on the computer.
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P.J. Lynch. This book is along a similar, but less dark, storyline as A Christmas Carol. It’s the tale of a reclusive yet talented woodcutter who comes to life after being asked to create a Christmas nativity for a mom and her young son. As usual, Lynch’s illustrations bring life and feeling to the sentimental story with vibrant details, including a wood tone shading to match the main character’s gifted profession. One of my favorite parts of this story is the flowing language that the author uses, including when she describes Toomey:
“He went about mumbling and grumbling, muttering and sputtering, grumping and griping.”
- The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus’ Birth written by Dandi Mackall and illustrated by Deborah Chabrian. In this story, a depression-era mother shares a family tradition with her son, Jack. The tradition involves baking cookies and giving them to others to share the story of Christ. When Jack receives an angel cookie as his only Christmas gift, he gives it to a stranger and shares what he believes. Illustrations of warm watercolors accompany this simple but essential story. And the author even includes a Christmas cookie recipe! Related Christmas activity: Make Christmas cookies of angels and other Christian symbols to take to a homeless shelter, children’s hospital, orphanage, or other institution where children can enjoy them while you and your family share this sweet book. You could also gift the institution a copy of the book to have on hand for the children there to read.
- A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens and illustrated by P.J. Lynch. Yes, this is another book illustrated by Lynch! I would recommend this book for older children due to the illustrations’ seriousness. Although the illustrations are darker in places than in his other books, this particular story requires them at certain points to maintain the integrity of the original plot. Related Christmas activity: Do you know of older single adults you can invite to your Christmas dinner? Or can you and your children make Christmas treats for shut-ins from your church or for neighbors?
- Christmas Day in the Morning written by Pearl S. Buck and illustrated by Mark Buehner. Pearl S. Buck is best known as the author of the classic novel, The Good Earth. This is the first time this story has been published in a picture book version since its original conception in 1055 as a short story. Its realistic human qualities feature a teenage boy suddenly discovering how much his father loves him. With that realization, the son works to develop a gift that his father will truly appreciate. A tie-in with the nativity moves this story from a simple feel-good plot to the real reason behind Christmas. With sincere expression and homey illustrations, this book will inspire many children to honor their parents in practical and helpful ways. Character Lesson: The character lessons here are obvious! Discuss how you, as parents, sacrifice for your children in ways perhaps they are not aware of. How might your children make sacrifices for their parents or their grandparents? (Depending upon their geographic proximity, it might be to do things for them or write them letters.) How about for others they know of in your community or church? Are there any grandparents in your church with grandkids living far away? Could your family adopt one or two of them?
I hope our reviews of our favorite Christmas books provide you with a tool for choosing some new Christmas books for your family that will trigger cozy reading time and meaningful activities!
This is an edited and updated post, originally written by Beth Hempton, formerly of Train up a Child Publishing. You can find Beth happily teaching online classes for homeschooled students.