I love the eager anticipation in December, don’t you? Hustle, bustle, lights, and bells. All of it! I also love quiet moments in front of the tree, curled up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. Do you need some new favorite picture books this holiday season? I think you will love these!
1) The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola is one of only five authors and illustrators to receive both Newbery and Caldecott accolades! His books have a timeless quality that invite re-readings, and re-readings, and re-readings. (I remember checking out Strega Nona from the library over and over again!) The Birds of Bethlehem is a beautiful and warm new book for the Christmas canon. Told from the perspective of birds watching from above, this book quite simply tells the story of the magnitude of that night.
2) The 12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora
A familiar refrain framed by bold new art and a unique style of storytelling, this version of The 12 Days of Christmas is a must have! I adore the cover – see that subtle Christmas tree? The inside is just as fun to look at. Set in Africa, and influenced by the art and culture, each gift and each day is set in a a separate tile. As the song continues and repeats, you can follow (or sing!) along, guided by the art.
3) Babar and Father Christmas by Jean de Brunhoff
Originally published in 1940, this dear elephant is absolutely a classic, no? And how special is this – it was the last book written by Jean de Brunhoff before he died, and his twelve year old son helped to finish some of the illustrations before its publication. A book about the love of a father for his son, finished by the love of a son for his father.
4) Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko
I drove to three libraries to get my hands on this book, brand new for the 2012 holiday season. When it wasn’t on the shelf where it should have been, I asked the librarian and she sheepishly pulled it from under the counter. She loved it so much that she had been treasuring it herself! I promised her I wouldn’t keep it long. And I won’t – so other families can enjoy it! It’s a beautiful portrait of a family celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah, where traditions and stories and love flow seamlessly between religions. Echoing that sentiment are the illustrations themselves – layered, textured, and rich. And at the end, don’t miss the recipes for Cranberry Kugel and Dressing!
5) The Trees Of The Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
Leave it to Patricia Polacco to capture the wonder and magic of the holiday season, regardless of your faith. This gem tells the story of Trisha, a young Jewish girl, and the Christian families in her village, who are battling a terrible case of Scarlet Fever. What unfolds is a gift, not just to the families that benefit from Trisha’s heart, but also to you, the reader.
6) My Wonderful Christmas Tree by Dahlov Ipcar
I’m in love with the art of Dahlov Ipcar. Although I don’t live in the New England that is so vibrantly portrayed in this book, I still feel a sense of home and comfort from these pages. And if these are the views from her farmhouse, I would love to be a guest in that space! My Wonderful Christmas Tree was the last book that Dahlov Ipcar created, and I am so very thankful that it exists in the world.
7) Chanukah Lights by Michael J. Rosen and Robert Sabuda (a pop-up!)
Robert Sabuda’s paper masterpieces are nothing short of engineering genius. Michael J. Rosen’s poem exploring the places and moments where Jews have settled and observed their candlelit ceremonies are the stunning scenes in this book. Each page is a striking display of these stories of the menorah. So alive, and so perfect for curious little ones and big ones alike.
8) Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Because heartwarming and hilarious can exist in the same pages! Stick Man gets fetched by a dog, and carried far, far away from his sweet Stick Family. And just in the nick of time, Santa Claus may be his only hope for rescue and return. I love, love, love this book – it’s perfect for holiday giggles.
9) The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood (special sequel to The Quiet Book and The Loud Book!)
Deborah Underwood has a way of putting words to those feelings deep in your bones that you otherwise couldn’t describe. And this little book is full of moments that are familiar and special – universal even. Some favorites? “Listening for sleigh bells quiet” and “Hoping for a snow day quiet” (Also, look under the dust jacket onto the physical cover. Little treats like that are squeal-worthy!)
10) Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo and Bagram Ibatouilline
If Kate DiCamillo wrote instructional manuals for tools and things, I would read them. So when I saw this Christmas offering, I snatched it up. The setting is an unfamiliar time, but the characters are just as relevant today. The kindness of one young girl changes Christmas for a duo most others would ignore.
P.S. — Want more? Here’s a post with Gabrielle Top 20 Christmas Books.