Sitting down with my children and opening one of our treasured Advent and Christmas picture books has become a dear part of our seasonal family traditions. There is something magical in seeing familiar illustrations and hearing beloved stories that add to the enjoyment of the preparation of Advent and the celebration of Christmas.
This list is only a small taste of the great literature in the Christmas genre of children’s picture books, but I especially love these Advent and Christmas books for children and hope they can be the beginnings of your family’s festive library.
Advent and Christmas Books for Children
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Palocco
A tear-jerking and poignant story of family and its importance at Christmas. Frankie is a young boy living with his large family during the Depression as they wait the return of their father bringing Christmas oranges before Christmas Eve. Frankie learns the important lesson of giving to others in need while recognizing that family is irreplaceable.
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
On a dark night in November, a stranger visits a small town. His motives are mysterious, although the townspeople hope he will be useful to the inhabitants. But the children of the town have a secret wish. Little Lucy befriends him, and he reveals his true identity and shares the legend of the candy cane.
The Way to Bethlehem by Inos Biffi
This book tells the stories of the events surrounding Christmas—from the Annunciation to the Presentation of Jesus in the temple.
Country Angels by Tomie dePaola
Tommy dePaola is unmatched in his heartwarming holiday books. This book is just as engaging and captivating as his other works, and presents the message that even the smallest angel has great significance.
Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
A fresh take on a classic tale, this tells the story of an overly-confident gingerbread man who rolls through town, taunting everyone he comes across.
Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
This book is so much fun to read as a family! The multi-character chase of the gingerbread baby will leave your whole family laughing.
The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola
Families of Italian descent will especially love this Christmas story of an old Italian women who never gives up on her search for the Baby King.
Babushka by Sandra Ann Horn
You might cry while reading this book, which relays the story of Babushka, who gives away all her gifts she’s prepared for the Christ Child on her way to visit Him. What she learns in the end is that what she gave away to others, she gave to Him.
A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith
You know the donkey who carried Our Lady to Bethlehem? This is the story of the child of the donkey and its search for its mother. What it finds is a blessing beyond the baby donkey’s imagining.
The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman
Most of us are familiar with this legendary story. How wonderful it will be to introduce it to the children in your life this Advent and Christmas season!
A Little House Christmas Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House fans, rejoice! This collection of Christmas stories from the Ingalls family will make you want to cozy with your little by the fire and disappear into the holiday spin on the classic books.
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Everyone’s favorite characters from the Strega Nona books return for a holiday feast!
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry
This light-hearted tale with adorable vintage illustrations is a hit with children young and old. Mr. Willoughby is a wealthy man whose giant tree ends up blessing everyone in the neighbourhood. Just the right dose of fun for long winter nights as you await to decorate your own Christmas tree.
The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
In invaded Russia, a grandmother shares stories with her grandchild about Christmastime of old. This compelling picture book is inspiring and beautifully-illustrated.
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
All of Tomie dePaola’s Advent and Christmas books for children are winners, but I especially enjoy this tale of Mexican Christmas traditions surrounding the poinsettia. A young girl sacrifices for her family and offers her humble gift to the Christ Child on Christmas Eve and the entire town witnesses a beautiful miracle.
Room for a Little One by Martin Waddall
A gorgeously illustrated book for younger children that focuses on the Nativity scene. I really appreciate its simplicity in telling the story from the perspective of the animals and the wonder they have toward Christ.
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
Rumer Godden is one of my favourite Catholic novelists, and this Christmas tale she wrote for children packs the same spiritual punch of her adult stories. Ivy is a young orphan who longs for a family for Christmas, while Holly, a beautiful doll left in the story window, wonders if she’ll ever be loved by a girl. The story of Christmas love will warm heart.
The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger
A lovely story of Mary’s journey to Bethlehem from the perspective of the donkey who carries her. This book is especially beautiful in that the donkey describes Mary using different Marian titles and their corresponding image. A wonderfully unique book that looks at the Nativity through the importance of Mary.
The Night of Los Posadas by Tomie dePaola
This story brings together the past and the present in a moving tale of community, family, presence, and Christmas miracles.
The Baker’s Dozen by Aaron Shepherd
A beautiful tale of the goodness of St. Nicholas and how he helps the town baker learn that “baker’s dozen” is a symbol of mercy. Lushly illustrated, this is perfect for celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th and teaching your children the generosity of this beloved Saint.
Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve by Jan Brett
Like Tomie dePaola, every Christmas book written by Jan Brett is worthy to be owned and enjoyed year after year. This is a sweet tale of children in Norway and the mischievous trolls who knock on their door on Christmas Eve. Enchanting fun for even older children as the magic of Christmastime swells from the pages.
The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie dePaola
Written by Catholic dePaola, this picture book is perfect for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th.
Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones
A poetic book telling of the jubilation of all creation at the birth of the Savior. The beauty of every creature celebrating the arrival of Christ is moving to think about as Christmas preparations near a feverish pitch.
Papa’s Angels by Collin Wilcox Paxton
A lyrical book with a music-driven plot, this unique story of Christmas in Appalachia is a delight for the entire family.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
Jonathan Toomey has a gift for woodworking, but he never smiles. He’s a bit of a mystery to the rest of the town as he mourns his lost wife and child. One day, he is approached by a widow and her son, requesting nothing short of a miracle. The transformation and connection that happen captures the spirit of the season.
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson
An endearing tale of a mouse learning the meaning of Christmas shows how we all need to make room for Christ as the true meaning of Christmas. A perfect tale for young children who will probably ask you to read this book over and over again this Advent!
What are your favorite Advent and Christmas books for children? We’re always looking to add to our list. Let us know in the comments below!
Christy Isinger is a wife and mom to five lovely, loud children and lives in northern Canada. When not homeschooling, she is a devoted reader of English literature from Jane Austen to Agatha Christie. She writes about the beauty of faith, life, and the home at her blog and is the co-host of the Fountains of Carrots Podcast. You can find out more about her here.