Whether the bedtime story is a nonnegotiable part of every night in your home or you haven’t read to your kids in, let’s say, a while, the magic of the holidays can beckon even the biggest kids back to your lap (or pretty close) to share in the stories that bring us all back to our own childhoods this time of year.
Of course, there is a myriad of options when it comes to stories about Christmas, but some stand head and shoulders above the rest. So, light a fire, grasp your mug of hot chocolate, cozy up in your winter snugs, and settle in for these classic Christmas books with your family.
‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ by Laurel Long, Published by Dial Books
The classic English Christmas carol that counts the the gifts “my true love gave to me” over the course of 12 special days, comes to life through the stunning oil paintings of Laurel Long in this beautiful book. As the familiar song cumulatively progresses and new gifts are added each day, the illustrations become more elaborate and readers can revel in searching for the hidden gifts in each.
Complete with a brief history of the well-known carol, along with sheet music, this version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a must-have and would make a wonderful gift as well.
‘The Polar Express’ by Chris Van Allsburg, Published by Houghton Mifflin
In this modern classic, alluring pastel illustrations evoke the magic inherent throughout the enchanting tale of a boy who, on Christmas Eve, steps on a train journeying to the North Pole and is taken on an adventure that solidifies the spirit of Christmas in his heart forever.
As you probably know, this critically acclaimed book was subsequently adapted for the big screen into an entertaining and high-flying adventure starring Tom Hanks. The movie is great fun, but the book can be enjoyed in contrast as a calm, peaceful, and magical read.
‘The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” by Susan Wojciechowski, Illustrated by P.J. Lynch, Published by Candlewick Press
Possibly a bit too heavy a story for the littlest readers, “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” is an absolute treasure for those older than, say, four. This beautifully written and illustrated tale of Christmas depicts a journey of hope brought forth by the simple request of a young widow and her son to a “gloomy” woodcutter at Christmas time.
While perhaps not as well known as the other titles on this list, this one is not to be missed.
‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ by Dr. Seuss, Published by Random House
“Every who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot … But the Grinch …” Well, you know the rest. Still, don’t miss out on taking that worn copy off of your shelf and actually reading with your family the familiar rhymes of this enduring classic. Sure you’ll watch the animated version and you may even catch Jim Carrey’s rendition, but nothing beats the original read by mom or dad.
‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, Illustrated by Robert Ingpen, Published by Penguin Young Readers Group
When you’re talking great literary classics, my preference for my children is to present them with the true and unabridged version, rather than a watered-down approximation whenever possible. This is surely possible with Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.”
This edition features just enough illustrations to keep younger readers interested, while providing the complete, masterfully written tale.
Obviously, this pick calls for a greater investment of time and can be read chapter by chapter or enjoyed as an audiobook. You can find readings on librivox.org for free or enjoy a particularly well-done recording by actor Tim Curry via iTunes and the like. The audiobook would make a great accompaniment to any long drives to visit family this season.
‘The Night Before Christmas’ by Clement C. Moore, Illustrated by Ted Rand, Published by NorthSouth Books
If there’s one book you simply must read this year, it’s this one on Christmas Eve, of course.
While we have numerous versions of this on our shelves, this is my favorite, as it’s a sturdy board book that will stand the test of time and the illustrations are just right. Other noteworthy editions to look out for are Jan Brett’s and the nostalgic Little Golden Book publication illustrated by Corinne Malvern.