We love Christmas books here at the Yankee Homestead!
As a result of owning, borrowing and loving so many wonderful Christmas stories, we’ve developed quite a list of favorites. The following titles are divided into several categories (the criteria for which is based on my own humble opinion):
- Best–These are treasured classics, worth tracking down and owning.
- Better–These also are delightful and worth adding to your personal collection, although you may wish simply to check them out from your local library. Some are on the lighthearted side, while some are more serious.
- Good–Perhaps not literary masterpieces, but other Christmas books we’ve enjoyed.
- Note: A fourth category of illustrated Christmas Carols will be covered in a separate post.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it’s subject to change. I fully intend to add more books as they occur to me 🙂 and as we discover new favorites. So be sure to check back periodically!
“Hey, unto you a child is born!” What a wonderful and unlikely tale of the true Christmas story. Mr. Native Texan just finished reading this to Older Brother, over a series of bedtimes. Older Brother loved it so much, he cried at the end. (I wasn’t there to witness it, but I suspect Mr. Native Texan misted up, too.)
[NOTE: I’m not sure why it’s so hard to find a reasonably-priced version on Amazon. One of my favorite sources for used books is Abe Books; I noticed they have many copies available of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Of course, it should be available at all local libraries. I picked up a copy at a local used book sale).
A Little House Christmas presents five of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Christmas stories from Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek, and contains colored versions of Garth Williams’ original art. Older Brother and I have immensely enjoyed reading through the Little House series. What a treasure!
We have not yet read the complete Wind in the Willows, but really enjoyed this Christmas excerpt last year.
“Readers of The Wind in the Willows will remember the Christmas chapter “Dulce Domum,” here slightly abridged and presented as a separate book. Most of the text is left unchanged; a note mentions the five paragraphs that were shortened. Though readers already familiar with Rat and Mole will find the full tale’s essential poignancy more resonant, the abridgment respects the original text, and the story works as a separate book. Hague contributes a series of gouache paintings, which are warm in color, vivid in action, and full of lively details.” ~~American Library Association
Bethlehem shares the Christmas story directly from Luke 2, in the words of the King James Version. Beautiful stained glass illustrations.
If you’re not familiar with Peter Spier’s books for children, do yourself a huge favor and check out every one of his books you can find at your local library. What an amazing illustrator! We LOVE every Peter Spier book we’ve ever read, including this one. He has such a way of capturing the details in his scenes, without a single word. You won’t be disappointed!
Country vet James Herriot shares another heartwarming story of a special feline patient. With illustrations by the talented Ruth Brown.
If you’re a crier, have a tissue ready! The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a touching account of a lonely woodcutter, a widow and her son, with a unique look at the true Christmas story.
A short Christmas novella by Newbery Award winner Marguerite De Angeli, Turkey for Christmas is based on actual experiences from the author’s childhood and told from the point of view of thirteen-year-old Bess. I love the emphasis on family togetherness in the midst of financial hardship.
Christmas Tapestry is a beautiful story of two families united through a series of seemingly unfortunate events and is based on several true stories which were combined and adapted for young readers by master storyteller and artist Patricia Polacco.
Originally published in 1955, this heartwarming story by Pulitzer and Nobel prize winner Pearl S. Buck was reissued in 2002 as an illustrated picture book (for the first time ever). Christmas Day in the Morning is a tale of love between father and son, ending with a most precious gift. Bonus: Mark Buehner is apparently famous for hiding characters in his illustrations. Be sure to look for all the traditional Nativity characters, including animals, in the clouds, woodwork, fur of animals, etc. We also found a Christmas tree and Christmas bells.
Set in rural new Hampshire, circa 1910, and based on the real-life experiences of the author’s mother, Lucy’s Christmas is a timeless story of anticipation and celebration. By Donald Hall, the author of Caldecott Award-winning book The Ox-cart Man and illustrated with beautiful woodcuts by Michael McCurdy. (See The Very Best Christmas Tree below).
Christmas in the Trenches is a poignant fictionalized account of the Christmas Truce of 1914, which took place in France during World War I. Author John McCutcheon, “one of America’s most respected folksingers,” also wrote a song by the same title. The lyrics and score are included at the end of the book, along with a historical note.
Among the many illustrated versions of O.Henry’s timeless tale of sacrificial love, this one by Lisbeth Zwerger ranks near the top.
Christmas Eve is the final story in this wonderful collection by Arnold Lobel. We never grow tired of these tales concerning the “enduring friendship of an endearing duo.” Good for beginning readers, too!
The Night Before Christmas is available in countless illustrated versions. We own a variety of copies, three of which are listed below. They’re all good, although I’ve listed them in the order of my preferred illustrators. My favorite (above) has pictures by “one of America’s most cherished and highly-acclaimed illustrators,” Tasha Tudor. The one pictured is a special tenth anniversary edition; we have an older version of the same book. (Ours has a red cover). The illustrations are simply delightful!
[NOTE: I’ve heard the version illustrated by Jessie Wilcox (pictured below) is excellent, as well.]
This version also boasts a talented and celebrated illustrator, Jan Brett. Again, the one pictured above is a tenth anniversary edition and ours is a bit different, with a red cover.
The Christmas Coat by Clyde Robert Bulla—This one is particularly relevant in our home, as it tells the tale of two brothers who start out fighting and end up working together to solve a poignant Christmas-related problem.
A good reminder for us all: “Maybe Christmas..” he thought “Doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
I came across The Very Best Christmas Tree at a local used book sale and am so glad I brought it home! It’s a short, sweet story about Mr. Bones who always buys a Christmas tree that is too big. Finally, Mrs. Bones is so sad that their friends can no longer enter through the front door, and she does something about it. In the end, (after several years of too-big Christmas trees) a compromise is reached and everyone agrees that year’s tree is the very best Christmas tree. We really enjoyed reading it in preparation for going to pick out our tree. I love the woodcut illustrations, too, by Michael McCurdy.
Night Tree is another good one to tie in with picking out a Christmas tree, with a slight, fun twist near the end. Excellent author Eve Bunting teams up with wonderful illustrator Ted Rand for this one.
A New Coat for Anna is great on several levels, telling the story of a post-WWII family in Europe. Anna needs a new coat, but there is no money to buy one. Her mother has a creative solution to the problem, which requires hard work and patience and carries them through a full year (as well as the start-to-finish process of making a coat: sheep to wool to cloth to tailor). It ends with a Christmas celebration involving all the central characters.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but we LOVE Cynthia Rylant at the Yankee Homestead. Christmas in the Country is a wonderful account of just what the title says. Love it!
B is for Bethlehem is a simple, wonderfully illustrated account of the true Christmas story.
We, especially Little Brother, LOVE all the Carl books! (Although Mr. Native Texan always wonders aloud how in the world the mother doesn’t get turned in to the authorities for her tendency to leave her baby unattended).
We also LOVE Jack Prelutsky, children’s poet extraordinaire. His poems are generally lighthearted and humorous, using words that will expand your vocabulary.
Room for a Little One is a short, beautifully illustrated Christmas tale ideal for young listeners.
What are YOUR favorite Christmas stories?
Other posts you might like:
- Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart
- The Nutcracker for Kids
- Favorite Winter Books for Children
- Gingerbread Cookies
Kathleen Henderson is the yankee behind the homestead. Follow along as we grow real food and three boys while renovating a 20-acre farm in northern Virginia. Do you love homegrown food, Paleo-ish recipes, and natural living? You’re in good company! Let’s grow together…