The Elf on the Shelf
How exactly does Santa keep tabs on who’s naughty and who’s nice? Turns out he’s got a mole—the elf on the shelf—who comes packaged with a companion book. The elf mysteriously changes locations overnight, and kids love looking for him as soon as they wake up in the morning. Bonus for parents: Since the elf’s always watching, you should be able to milk major good behavior out of your kids.
The Night Before Christmas
We all know the magical, evocative words of Clement C. Moore’s traditional holiday poem. This gorgeously illustrated version, which uses collage papers and oil paints, adds a modern twist: Santa wears funky pants, sports dreadlocks and leaves the children traditional African gifts.
Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas
Nancy’s psyched about the holidays until her ultra-fancy tree topper breaks. Can the ultimate girly-girl learn to love plain old DIY tree decorations? As always, the detailed, sparkly illustrations make this a favorite among the princess set.
The Berenstein Bears and the Joy of Giving
Does your kid have a case of the holiday gimmes? Brother and Sister Bear do too, until they learn what Christmas is really all about. This holiday-themed book in the series ends with everyone learning a very important lesson, just like always.
The Worse (Best) Christmas Pageant Ever
Remember this one from when you were a kid? Older children will love this 1972 classic, in which the six misbehaving Herdman kids—the “worst kids in the entire history of the world”—take over the church pageant and reinterpret the story of Christmas. The mix of outrageous moments, hilarious hijinks and profound surprises makes this one a great read that parents will love as much as kids.
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa
Brier Rabbit meets African tradition in this tale of a rabbit looking for something special to give his sick grandmother for Karamu, the Kwanzaa feast.
Lovers of Eric Carle’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar will recognize the same iconic collage illustrations in this wintry tale about a farmer who dreams about a white Christmas. Like Caterpillar, the pages hold extra interest for young readers, with cutouts and counting.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
What would Christmas be without the Grinch? Kids love the dastardly character, who plots to cancel the holiday, only to find it happens anyway, even without the presents. Grinch-loving kiddos will go for the animated and live-action movie versions too.
Olivia Helps With Christmas
The plucky piglet gets her house ready for Christmas, “helping” her parents in the most unhelpful ways possible. The charming black and white illustrations—punctuated with green and red accents for the holidays—play off the spare words to tell the whole story.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
You may think that October 31 is way too early to start thinking about Christmas, but the two holidays collide in this book based on the movie of the same name, both by Tim Burton. Bored with the tricks of Halloween, a skeleton sets out to take over as Santa—a story told in rhyme and illustrated with spooky drawings.
Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy
The sweet stuffed bear in overalls offers toddlers an introduction to the traditions of Hanukkah, from lighting the menorah and hunting for gelt to playing dreidel.
Snowmen at Christmas
The secret life of snowmen is revealed in this beautifully illustrated tale. Snow families gather in the town square, sing carols and get their own visit from “the snowman Kris Kringle” before re-assuming their positions in the front yard as dawn breaks.
A lonely little mouse realizes Santa is always giving presents but never gets them, so he leaves a gift. His thoughtfulness is rewarded when he becomes Santa’s little—very little—helper.
Olive, the Other Reindeer
When Olive the dog hears the phrase from the popular Christmas tune “all of the other reindeer,” she concludes she is “Olive, the other reindeer” and heads to the North Pole to join Santa’s team. Doggie hijinks ensue.
The Polar Express
This tale of children hopping on a night train to visit Santa at the North Pole is pure holiday magic, and the book comes with a DVD of the story read by Liam Neeson—ideal for holiday car rides or to help excited kids drift off on Christmas Eve.
Angel Pig and the Hidden Christmas
The plot of this tale hits close to home in these uncertain economic times: A family of porkers thinks Christmas is ruined because they don’t have money to buy “jeans and sneakers with fancy brand names” at the mall. Then a sneaker-wearing angel appears, encouraging them to make and bake gifts instead, and teaches them what gift-giving is really about.
The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah
Those who don’t celebrate Christmas deserve their own Grinch-like holiday curmudgeon. Although it’s hard to top Dr. Suess’s creativity, this story of a grump who learns the true meaning of Hanukkah is still a fun read.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer
The highlight of this tale about an elf charged with training Santa’s reindeer for their annual Christmas ride is the rich artwork by author-artist Jan Brett. Intricate scenes of elf workers busily prepping for the big day frame the main story, so kids discover something with each reading.
Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bell, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May)
Kids love Junie B because she speaks their language—grammatical errors, G-rated bad words and all. The irrepressible Junie B. tangles with class tattletale May in this holiday version of the popular series, and then it gets “worser:” she finds out she has to be May’s secret Santa. Will she get into the Christmas spirit?
Dinosaur’s Night Before Christmas
Is your kid a dino nut? Then he’ll love this tale of a boy who asked for a pet T-Rex, who ends up gobbling Santa and taking over as St. Nick. Kids will delight in seeing a team of flying dinosaurs pulling the sleigh and knowing—phew—Santa gets out okay in the end.