The 25 Best Picture Books to Celebrate Christmas

If you’re a parent of a certain age, you may remember clutching your 10th-anniversary copy of The Polar Express to your chest and hugging it tightly. You may also remember the bell and cassette tape that came with it. And, you may still have it in your house today.

It’s not hoarding when it’s for Christmas, right?

On this list of Christmas picture books, you’ll find classics like The Polar Express and Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect, and you’ll also see newer titles like Dasher and Pick a Pine Tree

Warm up a cup of cocoa, get cozy, and take your time with this list. Remember, whatever books you choose, you can’t go wrong. From our family to yours, Merry Christmas! 

For more gift ideas, check out the Holiday Hub!

1 | Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story by Edward Hemingway

Dig into the story of the Sugar Cookie Man in this sweetly-illustrated holiday book. After a fox catches and takes a bite out of him, Sugar Cookie Man is disappointed to find out he’s actually not sweet at all. What’s a sugar cookie if he isn’t sweet?

If that’s not bad enough, he also finds out he’s not good at many other things he thinks he should be—ugh.

This one has a fun surprise ending about being appreciated for who you are. Don’t miss the bonus recipes in the back!

2 | The Nutcracker by New York City Ballet

This whimsical book is based on The Nutcracker performance by the New York City Ballet. The illustrations are stunning, and the story is told in a way that will help little ones follow the ballet performance.

Don’t miss The Nutcracker Fun Facts at the back of the book—they are a lot of fun, too!

3 | Construction Site on Christmas Night by Sherri Duskey Ringer

“Down in the big construction site, there’s work to do for Christmas night.” 

This one is a festive addition to the Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site series. Excavator, Bulldozer, Dump Truck, Crane, and Cement Mixer build a home for fire engines. As they finish the job, they each get their own Christmas surprise!

4 | Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh by Mo Willems

The pigeon really, really, REALLY wants to drive the sleigh. It would be a Christmas miracle! Come on! Can’t you make his holiday dream come true?

A new holiday addition to one of our very favorite book series that is sure to be read over and over again.

5 | Little Red Sleigh by Erin Guendelsberger

The Little Red Sleigh dreams of one day becoming Santa’s sleigh. But she’s always been told she’s too small, too slow, and too young. So, she goes on a journey to find and meet Santa Claus.

Along the way, she meets friends who help her discover who she is and what makes her special and unique. Plus, this sweet story has a magical Christmas ending!

6 | Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? by Mac Barnett

How does Santa go down the chimney?

Does he go down feet first or head first? Or neither? Does he shrink himself down? Does he ever get stuck? What if there’s no chimney? And what does Santa do once he gets inside?

It’s the question every kid has, and this book provides some funny (and practical) ideas.

7 | ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

You may own a well-loved edition of this book (or three). If you don’t, add this classic Christmas poem we all love to your holiday collection. This edition has fun, colorful illustrations in a modern color palette.

8 | Dasher by Matt Tavares

You may know that a pretty famous reindeer team pulls Santa’s sleigh, but you probably don’t know that it wasn’t always that way.

This lovely story is about how a brave young doe and her family changed Christmas forever!

9 | Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

In this cute rhyming book, follow along with a family on one of the most beloved Christmas traditions: selecting and decorating the tree!

First things first: adventure to the tree lot, pick the perfect tree (“smell that piney scent!”), and transport it home. Then, it’s time to invite some friends, add the lights and trimmings, and gather around to celebrate!

“Gather round the tree to sing; let your joyful voices ring. Celebrate as nighttime falls…Merry Christmas, one and all!”

10 | The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen

Jingle, jingle, jingle. 

When a jingling sound wakes her, Ollie’s dreams come true! She meets a reindeer in the forest, and together, they set off on a magical journey on Christmas night.

Beautiful die-cut pages, foil highlights, and pops of festive red make for a visual treat! 

11 | Together by Heather Stricker

“Over the years, images of gifts will fade, but we will never forget the holiday memories we made.”

In this Christmas picture book, a little boy visits Santa, but he doesn’t ask for gifts. Instead, he tells Santa he wants for Christmas is to spend time with his family doing his favorite holiday traditions.

This is a sweet holiday story with equally charming illustrations that remind us, as the little boy says, “simply being with my family is enough.”

12 | The Cool Bean Presents: As Cool as It Gets

Cool Bean picks the name of the coolest of the cool beans for the annual gift exchange! But this leaves Cool Bean feeling pressured and nervous about the upcoming party – what is he to get the coolest bean he knows?

Cool Bean soon learns that giving the best gifts come from the heart.

13 | Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck

Christmas is quickly approaching, and Mia is worried the card she made for her daddy won’t get to him in time.

She discovers a magical mailbox and soon finds herself inside the Reindeer Express. There, a reindeer helps her deliver her letter to her daddy—in person—just in time.

Vibrant, die-cut illustrations and doors that open to colorful scenes on the following pages reinforce the magic of the season. This is an especially great book for families that can’t be together at Christmas.

14 | How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T. Smith

This adorable advent book has 24 1/2 chapters (the final one to be read on Christmas Day).

Each chapter is followed by an idea for a festive holiday activity and includes things like writing a letter to Santa, making a paper chain countdown, and even making your own Christmas box.

In the festive story, Winston the mouse finds a lost letter addressed to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. We follow along as he sets off on an adventure to deliver the letter in time for the big day!

And don’t miss the new sequel How Winston Came Home for Christmas!

15 | The Tree That’s Meant to Be by Yuval Zommer

In this book, a tree that is not like the other trees in the forest isn’t picked by any family for Christmas. It’s left all alone—until the woodland creatures gather around the little tree and celebrate the season together.

This is a story about inclusion, growing up, having a purpose, and what it means to feel loved.

16 | Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider

Long, long ago, when all evergreen trees were perfect, a tree named Small Pine grew near the edge of the forest. Small Pine hoped to maintain its perfect form and be selected by the Queen as her official Christmas tree.

As the warm-hearted little tree provided shelter to birds, rabbits, and deer in the forest, its branches became damaged. Thankfully, the Queen had a different idea of perfection.

Your kiddos will want to read and reread the story of how Small Pine’s love and charity for its friends helps make it the most “perfect” Christmas tree, after all!

17 | The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker

Introduce your little one to the famous music of The Nutcracker with this musical primer! Each magical scene in this book has a button to push that plays an excerpt from the ballet’s music.

At the back of the book, find a short biography of the composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, with a button to replay each musical excerpt. Plus, a glossary of musical terms.

18 | The Christmas Owl by Gideon Sterer

When a little owl’s home is cut down to become the world’s most famous Christmas tree, she’s not sure she wants anything to do with Christmas.

But she’s saved by a woman named Ellen, whose home is merrily decorated for the holiday and who has other bird friends living there with her. And so, the little owl begins to think Christmas might not be so bad after all.

Based on a charming, true story!

19 | How to Catch Santa by Jean Regan

A jolly and hilarious holiday must-read comes from the creators of the New York Times bestsellers How to Babysit a Grandpa and How to Babysit a Grandma.

After a whole year of waiting, it’s finally Christmas Eve—the perfect time to try to catch Santa. Do you kiddos know the right tricks?

20 |  5 More Sleeps ’til Christmas

Finding himself just five sleeps away from Christmas, a little boy becomes increasingly excited as the holiday approaches. He decorates, enjoys hot chocolate and candy canes, and bakes cookies in preparation for Santa’s visit.

The big day finally arrives, and once the gifts are all unwrapped, the boy restarts his countdown: 364 sleeps until next Christmas.

21 | Claris: Holiday Heist by Megan Hess

Claris, the fashionable Parisian mouse, visits New York City with her owners when she witnesses a holiday heist at the famous Cartier jewelry store.

Claris and her cat friend, Monsieur, chase the thief through the streets of New York. Can the two friends save the day and also bring some holiday cheer?

With fancy and festive illustrations, this book is a treat for little fashionistas while keeping in the spirit of the season.

22 |  Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh

Olive is a dog who believes she is a reindeer, and she is determined to help Santa and the rest of his reindeer team make Christmas extra merry.

She hops on the Polar Express and heads to the North Pole, taking Santa and his reindeer by surprise. They will soon learn that Olive has a unique skill set the veteran reindeer team didn’t know they needed.

23 |  Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The 30th-anniversary edition of this longtime Christmas classic comes with an ornament gift, a new jacket design, and an expanded interior layout. This is a story for all who believe in the spirit of Christmas!

24 | Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

In this holiday classic, Mr. Willowby gets the biggest and most beautiful Christmas tree. It’s so big that it’s too big to fit in his parlor. What can he do? Well, he chops off the top!

The treetop is then passed to a forest of friendly creatures, bringing joy to all of them. This heartwarming story speaks to the power of community, especially during the holidays.

25 |  A Treasury of Christmas Stories and Songs

Why have one Christmas story when you can have a whole treasury of them?

Inside, you’ll find traditional holiday tales (The Nutcracker, The Night Before Christmas, Twelve Days of Christmas, and more), classic rhymes, and joyous songs and carols.

Each page is beautifully illustrated to conjure the spirit of the season. An excellent choice to read aloud each night leading up to the big day!

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