12 Best Children's Books for the Holidays

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Big Kids, Tweens, Holidays, Activities: Babies, Cabin Fever

Snow falling outside frosted windows, fire crackling, two girls curled in blankets on a cozy couch, surrounded by books. I'm seven years old and visiting my best friend who lives just down the street, and we are digging into a huge basket of seasonal picture books, specially chosen by her mother, stored all year, and only brought out for the month of December. We are absorbed, content, warmed by words and illustrations. There is magic in the air.

This favourite scene from my childhood is an experience I intend to re-create for my own children (minus the crackling flames, as we have no fireplace!). Here's what's going into our basket... What favourites would you add?

Cabin Fever's Basket of Holiday Books

Stella Queen of the Snow, by Marie-Louise Gay. Imaginative big-sister Stella leads her cautious little brother Sam on his first exploration of snow in this delightfully illustrated Canadian classic.

The Nativity, by Julie Vivas. Gorgeous watercolour paintings joyfully bring to life the traditional New Testament text of the nativity story.

Bella's Tree, by Janet Russell, with pictures by Jirina Marton. With a story both poignant and folksy, along with award-winning illustrations, this brand-new Christmas tale about a plucky Newfoundland girl who can knit a sweater and wield an axe is sure to become a Canadian classic.

Bear Noel, by Olivier Dunrea. Forest creatures await the arrival of "Bear Noel" in a serenely illustrated book that makes use of magically repetitive text.

Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury. Seven snowy stories by an illustrator whose detailed winter wonderland pictures never fail to charm. Brett's stories are based on traditional seasonal tales from around the world.The Trees of the Dancing Goats, by Patricia Polacco. In this colourfully illustrated memoir, a Jewish family shares holiday traditions with Christian neighbours who are home sick with scarlet fever.

Stick Man, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The magical pairing of Donaldson and Scheffler have once again created an endearing fable replete with jolly rhymes and appealing illustrations, this time with a holiday plot twist.

The Christmas Magic, by Lauren Thompson, with pictures by Jon J. Muth. A brand-new book that feels like a classic, in which a solitary Santa in bunny slippers, and his animal companions, prepare for the arrival of the Christmas magic.

The Chanukkah Guest, by Eric A. Kimmel, with illustrations by Gioiri Carmi. In this very funny story of mistaken identity, a bear wanders into the home of an elderly woman who's been cooking latkes for her friends. My children were delighted by the absurdity that ensues, and we were inspired to look up recipes for latkes.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, with illustrations by Brett Helquist. Charles Dickens' unforgettable Christmas fable is brought to life with humourous and vivid illustrations in this new picture book edition of a classic. To see more, check out the charming book trailer:

The Polar Express, by Chris van Allsburg. Who could resist climbing aboard the old-fashioned steam engine that carries a young boy to the North Pole on Christmas Eve? Dreamy, magical, nostalgic illustrations and simple text earned this book a Caldecott medal.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, by Dr. Seuss. And finally, no basket would be complete without the fast-paced rhymes, ridiculous illustrations (the tiny dog dressed up as a reindeer, pulling the Grinch's heavily laden sled!), and heartfelt message of this holiday treasure.

Additional suggestions: Many of these books are available at used bookstores, and at your local library. Ask your librarian for further recommendations. To build your own holiday reading basket, consider making it a tradition to give your children seasonally themed books as gifts.


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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.