The Ultimate List of Advent Books for Kids

Here's a list of 50 of the best Christmas books to help you you create a special tradition for your family. Includes traditional and modern classics, and lists for preschoolers and older children., too!

My favorite part of Christmas is not the gifts, the food, and not even the excuse to fill my house with fresh greenery (although that is high on the list!). For me it’s always been traditions. Be they unique or simple, I love that comforting feeling of doing the same thing at the same time of year, over and over again. All the good memories from previous years rise up in you as you embrace a tradition, filling the moment with more joy and depth than opening a single gift or indulging in one more Christmas cookie.

At least, that’s how I feel. 

Growing up, our family of 9 had some pretty unique holiday traditions, thanks to my mom being a Dutch immigrant (chocolate sprinkles on toast, anyone?), but one of our favorites was when we’d get the Christmas decorations out and with them came our stack of Christmas children’s books. We were a family that loved books, and as a child I used to chaff a bit that these particular titles were kept in storage 11 months out of the year, but as I grew older I began to appreciate the depth of this tradition.

Each December we had a stack of stories we hadn’t read in a whole year, all to do with the season, and each page was filled with that rich scent of memories. We’d pile on the couch and read through the picture books together, sometimes all in a single afternoon, and then challenge ourselves to make it all the way through each of the chapter books during advent. Older siblings would read aloud to younger, and everyone would join in on favorite lines (or the whole book!).

A New Twist on a Family Tradition

I’ve always wanted to recreate this tradition for my children, and then I heard about building an advent calendar with kid’s Christmas books–where you wrap 25 books and open one a day leading up to Christmas. That’s it. I was sold. This year, I’m going to begin this tradition with our family, and help you, too!

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Here's a list of 50 of the best Christmas books to help you you create a special tradition for your family. Includes traditional and modern classics, and lists for preschoolers and older children., too!

Here’s a full list of treasured advent books for kids, from classics to modern favorites, for young children and older ones, so you can customize this tradition for your family…

Christmas Books For the Very Young

Claude the DogClaude the Dog: A Christmas Story by Dick Gackenbach. This was the first book I added to my own kid’s advent book collection because I felt Christmas would not be complete without this adorable story with its simple reminder of what really matters at Christmas (friends and family, not the gifts). My siblings loved this one so much, and asked for it to be read so repeatedly, that we began the tradition of reading it over and over in a single sitting, using a different accent or funny voice each time. We even read it backwards and in pig latin. Good memories, people.

The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola. This is actually a Christmas Carol with illustrations. We always sing it when we read it (also with accents. Go figure.)

The Animal’s Christmas Eve by Gale Wiersum. My friend Jessica says this is a favorite with little ones–and she has triplet 2 year olds, so she would know! She says, “The sing-song words are sure to catch a child’s attention…particularly one that loves animals.”

Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate. I’ve gotten this one from the library before and my young children loved the gentle repetition in the story. It’s also one of Rebekah’s top picks 

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson. Whitney recommended this one to me–she says, “Mortimer is a staple. I always cry. As he pushes and pulls out the nativity pieces to make room for himself, he tells Jesus that there is no room for Him. For me it’s a reminder that I do that, too!”

The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown. From the author of Goodnight Moon, a sweet and simple classic.

Christmas Books by Popular Authors

I love when a favorite author comes out with a Christmas book (like one’s favorite band making a Christmas album, right?) These are ones I KNOW my children will love because other books by the author have become favorites.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?How do Dinosuars say Merry Christmas by Jane Yolen. Jesse’s first real picture book was from the “How Does a Dinosaur…” series, so we’ve had a soft spot for the the chaos and hilarity of these almost-domesticated dinosaurs ever since.

Llama Llama Jingle Bells and Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney. There’s always drama with llamas, right? I’m always inspired by how Mama Llama deals with the drama with cuddles and communication. And my kids love the rhyme and rhythm of these books!

Petunia’s Christmas by Roger Duvoisin. Oh, clever Petunia. In this story she employs all of her wiles to prevent a handsome gander from being served up as the Christmas entree at Windy Farm.

Home for ChristmasHome for ChristmasThe Mitten and The Twelve Days of Christmas By Jan Brett. My favorite thing about Jan Brett’s books are the subtle sub plots and clues she hides in her detailed illustrations.

I Spy Christmas by Jean Marzollo. Get this book only if you want your kids to fight over it all month. Just warning you. It’s totally engrossing and hard to share.

Gifts of the Heart, An Orange for Frankie, The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco. Patricia gets to the heart of Christmas like no body else with her warm tales of unique families and traditions.

Carl’s Christmas by Alexandra Day. I’ve always enjoyed the wordless, beautifully illustrated books from this author, allowing you to narrate the story to your child in your own words.

Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow by Holly Hobby. I’ve always loved the simplicity of Toot and Puddle’s friendship, and this Christmas story brings that simplicity to the challenge of giving the perfect gift.

Christmas Day Kitten by James Harriet. I love how they’ve taken favorite Jame’s Harriet stories and packaged them with illustrations for children!

Madeline’s ChristmasMadeline's Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans. If you love that old house in Paris, covered in vines, then you’ll love this unique Christmas tale (no Santa, no Nativity, but still a sweet story!)

The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. One of my favorite by Miss Potter. I adore the diligent thoughtfulness of the mice, how the cat gets what he deserves, and the detailed illustrations.

Richard Scary’s Best Christmas Book Ever by Richard Scary. Besides the fun adventures with Huckle Cat and lovable Lowly Worm, there are also songs, games, a list of Christmas words, and instructions for making a great gift for Grandma!

Dream Snow by Eric Carle. Carle’s illustrations are like candy for the eyes and this book has one of those built in surprises we’ve come to expect from this author.

Bear Stays Up by Karma Wilson. If your kids loved Bear Snores On then you have to get this adorable, rhyming Christmas book to add to your collection.

Traditional Christmas Classics

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. Bringing Suess’ clever and crazy rhymes to Christmas.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This beautifully illustrated edition will have the whole family gathered around for this classic Christmas ghost story with a very satisfying conclusion.

The Twelve Days of ChristmasThe Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long. This well known Christmas song deserves lavish illustrations, and this edition exceeds expectations.

The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats. There are plenty of versions and variations of this story, but this one illustrated by Keats caught my eye.

Gift of the Magi by O’ Henry. My friend, Caroline, recommended this version to me for its lovely illustrations.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck A precious story of a 15 year old boy who creatively figures out how to bless his father for Christmas despite having no money to spend.

Christmas Books for Older Kids

These would make great read-alouds for any age, but would be especially fitting if you have older kids that want to read a chapter book on their own.

The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin. This one will make you cry. But I like a good cry every once in a while!

The Worst Best Christmas Pageant EverThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. Katie says, “This one’s always good for a laugh!”

Christmas in My Heart by Joe Wheeler. Chantel reminded me of this collection. We had the first volume when I was young–now there are over 20 volumes of these collections of Christmas short stories. I loved re-reading these each year.

The Story of the Other Wiseman by Henry Van Dyke. Often retold as the tale of the fourth wiseman, and even turned into a movie, this is an unabridged version by the original author, who also penned the words to the Christmas carol, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee. 

Christmas from Heaven: The True Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber by Tom Brokaw. A true story of American Army pilots’ compassion on the children of bombed-out Berlin, this beautifully illustrated book also includes documentary photos and doubles as a history lesson!

Actual Advent Books

Make sure these get unwrapped at the beginning of the month so you can keep up with the daily readings!

The Advent Book. This was given to us for Jesse’s first Christmas, and opening a new door each night to reveal another part of the Christmas story is my children’s favorite tradition.Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas I held this book in my hands the other day at a friend’s house and saw what all the hubbub was about. It’s beautiful, and I loved that ornament downloads come with the book.

The Truth in the Tinsel. Ebooks count, right? We used this advent craft guide two years ago and the kids LOVED it. I’m going to do it again as soon as my younger children’s motor skills develop further so all 4 kids can do it together.

The Voices of Christmas by Nikki Grimes. This isn’t an advent book, but because it contains 14 different readings, I though I’d include it here for those who might want a lighter reading schedule. Sarah recommended this one to me, and I love that it’s poems from 14 different characters in the Christmas story–including the people that are often overlooked in other books, like Anna, Simeon, Elizabeth, and Zachariah.

Modern Christmas Classics

These are a selection of newer Christmas books that are sure to become heirlooms. I’ve put many of these on my personal wish list.

Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer. I have a thing for camels. I think I would love introducing Humphrey to my kids.

The Christmas WishThe Christmas Wish by Lori Evert. The illustrations look gorgeous, and the heroine shares the same name as my sister, Anja.

Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray. We love the u-cut experience, so I’m sure we’ll love this story of how a Christmas Tree Farm began.

One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham This one was recommended to me by Gretchen. The illustrations and the scope of the story are both impressive.

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg. Anne says she loves this book because it assigns “meaning to something we see all season long that would otherwise be trivial.”

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. Another touching Christmas tale illustrated beautifully by P. J. Lynch.

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect  by  Richard H. Schneider. This special edition includes a dressed up cover with glitter and a sticker sheet that children can use to decorate a picture of a pine tree in the back of the book.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas TreeThe Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston. I was so excited when my friend, Jeni, showed me that one of my favorite illustrators, Barbara Cooney, had illustrated a Christmas book! She says you must read this one with a southern accent to get the fullest enjoyment out of this Appalachian tale.

The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden. I’ve enjoyed Godden’s other books about specially loved dolls–this one looks like a real treat with illustrations from Barbara Cooney again!

The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel. I’m a sucker for the illustration side of a book, but this one sounds like the story is as beautiful as the pictures.

What favorites would you add to this list? Share in the comments!

6 responses to “The Ultimate List of Advent Books for Kids”

  1. […] If you’d like to start building some traditions into your family’s Christmas, just pull out a co… You’ll be well on your way to creating a beloved Christmas tradition that your family will cherish for years to come. […]

  2. […] The Ultimate List of Advent Books for Kids from Trina Holden […]

  3. […] The Ultimate List of Advent Books for Kids from Trina Holden […]

  4. Josalyn Avatar

    The Polar Express of course, and my husband loves to read The Forgotten Carols to our kids over December. It has songs that go with it and my girls love it.

  5. […] The Ultimate List of Advent Books for Kids from Trina Holden […]

  6. Maria Avatar

    We didn’t have lots of holiday traditions, but a few years at Christmas my dad read us the little book “On That Night” by Elizabeth Yates. It’s more for the grown-ups or teens, but it is a beautiful story which I think about every Christmas.

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