Christmas Books for Children (Non-Religious)

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We love Christmas books in our house — all kinds of Christmas books! After Thanksgiving is over, I pull all of the Christmas books out and put them in the Book Basket. This is what we read from Thanksgiving through Epiphany — stories of Christmas and winter and traditions from all around the world.

These are just some of our favorite secular Christmas books — old favorites and new classics.


The Queen and the First Christmas Tree

by Nancy Churnin | illustrated by Luisa Uribe

This is one of my new favorites! Nancy Churnin is the author of many children’s books — evocative retellings of interesting and inspiring true stories. The Queen and the First Christmas Tree is no exception. This story of Queen Charlotte feels like a fairy tale, but it is the true story of a queen and her generosity.


Well-Known and Less-So

Little Blue Truck and the hard-working crew of Good Night, Good Night Construction Site have become very well-known in the preschool set. But their Christmas books are less so, and we love them both. I am particularly fond of Tree of Cranes and Yoon and the Christmas Mitten. Both stories tackle the feeling of otherness for immigrants. In Tree of Cranes, the mother spent time in California but is back in Japan to raise her family. She brings with her the tradition of a Christmas tree — something her child has never seen. And Yoon is a Korean-American child who longs to celebrate Christmas like her classmates. Yoon and the Christmas Mitten is an important story which helps children who do celebrate Christmas to see that not all of their friends may be the same — but other traditions are equally rich. It is also a story about fitting in which may inspire some great conversations at your house!

Tree of Cranes
By Allen Say
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten
By Helen Recorvits
Construction Site on Christmas Night
By Sherri Duskey Rinker

Beautiful Illustrations

We love the fantasty of Jan Brett. Her animal books are so charming, and it is easy to lose yourself in a world where a bear, a badger, a fox, a mole, and an owl can all squeeze into a mitten to get warm. Likewise, Alison Jay is another favorite illustrator. Her world of simple shapes and elegant lines is also a hunt-and-find fantasy with animals telling secondary stories behind the scenes. Under The Christmas Tree is gorgeously illustrated by Kadir Nelson. It can be hard to find, because it is out of print, but your library may have it, and used copies are worth the hunt.

The Animals' Santa
By Jan Brett
The Mitten
By Jan Brett
Under the Christmas Tree
By Nikki Grimes, Kadir Nelson

Children’s Classics

If you and your family will be attending a performance of The Nutcracker then The New York City Ballet’s book with gorgeous illustrations by Valeria Docampo is a wonderful introduction to the story. Lyle, of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile fame, never fails to entertain, and the New York-dwelling crocodile does not disappoint in his Christmas story: Lyle at Christmas. Babar and Father Christmas is another classic as is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. If your child has never actually read the book and only knows the Grinch from films: well, then this book will make your heart grow two sizes, too. And every home should have a copy of The Night Before Christmas. My favorite — the one that was in my home as a child — is illustrated by Grandma Moses with rustic, folksy paintings of a New England Christmas. However, that version is out of print and hard to find. Charles Santore’s illustrations are beautiful and polished and have earned a comfortable place in our Book Basket.


Richard Scarry’s Christmas Books

Oh, my! We love Richard Scarry! But of these three Christmas volumes, our favorite is The Animals’ Merry Christmas. The illustrations are a different style from Scarry’s iconic Busy Town fare, and the book is a collection of sweet and charming poems and short stories about animals celebrating Christmas in a variety of ways. We have read and reread and read again each story in this book, and yet we return to it time and again at Christmas and throughout the year.