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24 of the best children’s books to get you in the Christmas spirit

Opening a book on every day of advent will get your family feeling festive. These are our favourite Christmas stories for each day of December...

24 of the best children's books to get you in the Christmas spirit

Classic Christmas Books for Children

In the whirlwind of the season, it can be hard to find time to slow down and find some time together when you’re juggling working at home/life admin, children and well, just the day to day.

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So snuggling up for a bedtime story with your child is the perfect way for both of you to relax and bond all while building up that festive feeling in the Christmas run up (which is the best bit anyway!).  We’ve picked out a selection of our favourite classic and current, sentimental and stylish Christmas reads for children of all ages – in fact, one to enjoy on each day of the December count down – to create a Christmas Book Advent Calendar, if you will.

Each of these Christmas books will get the whole family in the mood for the big day and they all make excellent gifts too. In no particular order we reveal our Christmas Book Advent.

24 Children’s books to get you in the Christmas mood…

1. Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis (Walker Books)

  • Perfect for: kicking off the festive season.
  • Ideal for: age 3 -5 yrs
  • Published: 2017

Story: The tradition of choosing a tree and decorating it with your loved ones is at the heart of this delightful rhyming tale. It follows a family as they select the perfect pine, bring it home, break out the tinsel and baubles, and invite friends to help them trim up. The evocative book ends with a sparkling switch-on of the lights that will make every heart soar, while the illustrations by Jarvis have a magically retro feel.

2. Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Henry and Lawrence (Walker Books)

  • Perfect for: building the excitement
  • Ideal for: age 3-5 yrs
  • Published: 2013

Story: It’s Christmas Eve, and the house in Exeter Street is full to bursting. There’s a guest in every nook and cranny from top to bottom – and even a baby sleeping in the kitchen sink! Will Father Christmas be able to find them all? This gorgeously illustrated and atmospheric picture book about a house packed full of guests is a beautiful story about the real meaning of Christmas – it’s not about what you get, but about being together and sharing. A book that perfectly captures the sense of excitement and sharing that goes hand in hand with this very special time of year.

3. The Christmas Pine by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Victoria Sandøy (Alison Green Books)

  • Perfect for: a little Christmas history lesson
  • Ideal for: age 2-6 yrs
  • Published: 2021

Story: Based on a true story. The Christmas Pine celebrates a special tradition that stretches back over seventy years, when every year the Mayor of Oslo in Norway presents the British people with a spectacular Christmas tree. The tree is a symbol of peace and friendship, and a thank you for the UK’s support during World War II. With perfect rhyming text (as we expect from Donaldson) and beautifully detailed illustrations, this tale begins deep in a snowy wood where stands a little pine tree with a special destiny: when it grows up, it’s going to be the famous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square!

4. Elmer’s Christmas by David McKee (mini-hardback edition) (Andersen Press)

  • Perfect for: teaching the joy of giving not to receive.
  • Ideal for: age 2 – 5t yrs
  • Published: 2015

Story: The much-loved patchwork elephant teams up with Papa Red to give the young elephants a Christmas surprise to remember as they travel to see snow for the first time and get to spot someone special flying in. In return for this magical experience, the children learn a valuable lesson about the importance of giving to others. The sweet mini hardback edition has a delightfully sparkly cover and is just the right size to fit into a stocking or changing bag to read on the move.

5. Last Stop On The Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck, illustrated by Karl James Mountford (Little Tiger Press)

  • Perfect for: children missing a loved one.
  • Ideal for: age 3 -6 yrs
  • Published: 2018

Story: Being apart from a parent at Christmas is the subject of this striking story, where heroine Mia boards a mysterious reindeer to deliver her card to Daddy, who she is missing terribly. The little girl travels through the sky, over snow-filled landscapes and beautiful cities, until she arrives at a house in the cold mountains. Who could be inside? The folksy festive artwork and clever lift-the-flap, peep-through-pages add to the charm of this really touching book that teaches how you can still feel someone’s love without being together.

6. The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb (Puffin)

  • Perfect for: ensuring good behaviour for the whole of December!
  • Ideal for: age 3- 6 yrs
  • Published: 2013

Story: Twin sisters Sam and Charlie share the same birthday and appearance but the similarities end there. Charlie can be a rather mischievous little miss and her family fear that she is on Santa’s naughty list. But when Father Christmas sets out to teach Charlie a lesson, an unfortunate mix-up results in an act of kindness that proves this bad girl is actually the most loving of sisters. A truly charming and funny tale by award-winning director Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill). 

7. Christmas Lights by Ruth Symons and Carolina Rabei (Templar Books)

  • Perfect for: creating a sense of cosy festiveness
  • Ideal for: age 3-5 yrs
  • Published: 2020

Story: With lyrical text and beautiful artwork this book follows a little girl and her father on their drive home for Christmas. Children will delight in the interactive lift the flaps pages, spinning the wheels to watch stars shoot past and the fairy lights that twinkle. A book that will capture their hearts – and yours!

8. Robin’s Winter Song by Suzanne Barton (Bloomsbury)

  • Perfect for: teaching your child the seasons.
  • Ideal for: age 2- 6 yrs
  • Published: 2016

Story: This beautiful book tells the story of that most Christmassy of birds, the robin. The hardy little creature sees the leaves starting to fall and wonders why his friends are making preparations for something scary called winter. But when it arrives and the countryside is coated with snow, he realises what a magical season it is. A touching and gentle story that features wonderful animal illustrations and gorgeous collage effects.

9. Christmas for Greta and Gracie by Yasmeen Ismail (Nosy Crow)

  • Perfect for: learning about being a good sibling.
  • Ideal for: age 3-5 yrs
  • Published: 2015

Story: Sisters Greta and Gracie share many similarities except that Greta is chitty-chatty and Gracie loves to listen. It means the younger sibling can sometimes be dominated by the older – until her quiet nature means she spots a special visitor to the house on Christmas Eve… It’s brilliant book if you have one child more outgoing than the other and we adore the clever way the story is conveyed, in part by standard text and in part through speech bubbles from the characters. Boy, does Greta love to talk!

10. A Child’s Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Peter Bailey (Orion)

  • Perfect for: sharing a story with older children who normally read for themselves.
  • Ideal for: ages 9- 11 yrs
  • Published: 1952

Story: The Welsh poet’s memories of his own childhood Christmases in the 1920’s is charmingly nostalgic for a simpler time. We love the affectionate retelling of family gatherings with snoring uncles among handmade decorations and the hilarious debacle of the fire in Mrs Protheroe’s house on Christmas Eve. This classic book is the ideal introduction to this famous author’s work, with rich language to expand your child’s vocabulary. Peter Bailey’s simple drawings really capture the spirit of the stories, too.

11. The Christmas Department Store by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Illustrated by Hoang Giang  (Little Tiger Books)

  • Perfect for: for kids who need a little Christmas magic
  • Ideal for: age 3- 6 yrs
  • Published: 2021

Story: Christmas has lost some of its magic for Benji – as this year his family can’t afford a tree, or even a turkey. Then he stumbles upon the most extraordinary department store, where polar bears talk and the presents are out of this world. This festive tale with breathtaking illustrations is a heart-warming story of love, laughter and family – all sprinkled with a little festive magic.

12. Dream Snow by Eric Carle (Puffin)

  • Perfect for: an interactive read.
  • Ideal for: age 2 – 4 yrs
  • Published: 2000

Story: When a farmer falls asleep on Christmas Eve, he wakes to find his dream of snow has come true. It has covered his beloved animals and the whole world in a gorgeous white blanket. But he needs to get his presents to his creatures – named One, Two, Three, Four and Five – so he pulls on his warmest clothes (which leave him looking suspiciously like Father Christmas…) and sets off to deliver them. With flaps to explore, numbers to learn and Carle’s signature collage illustrations, this book is made for exploration.

13. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Pavilion)

  • Perfect for: discovering the true meaning of Christmas spirit.
  • Ideal for: age 9- 12yrs
  • Published: 1843

Story: It’s one of the most famous festive stories of all time. What Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the tale of mean-spirited miser Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption after being visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve? Charles Dickens’ classic work has been retold many times over, by everyone from the Muppets to Michael Rosen, but this luxurious edition illustrated by the incomparable Quentin Blake makes a stunning addition to your family library and a wonderful gift. There’s a fascinating foreword from the man himself too, explaining the enduring appeal of this book.

14. Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares (Walker)

  • Perfect for: experiencing the magic of New York at Christmas.
  • Ideal for: age 3 -7 yrs
  • Published: 2017

Story: The power of love is at the heart of this epic tale about two birds separated when the proud pine they call home is chosen to be the Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree. Lulu is asleep in the branches when the men come to take the tree away, leaving her mate bereft. Red’s journey to New York and search across the city, to be reunited with Lulu thanks to the song O Christmas Tree, is beautifully illustrated and reminiscent of a classic festive film.

15. The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Alison Ritchie & Marisa Morea (Simon & Schuster)

  • Perfect for: a bit of festive fun for animal lovers
  • Ideal for: ages 3 yrs +
  • Published: 2017

Story: The traditional seasonal song gets turned on its head with this riotous tale about a little puppy getting ready for his first ever Christmas. Your child will laugh to see two dachshunds delivering cards, four bulldogs picking a tree and five comical  golden retrievers drooling at the sight of ‘rings’ in the bakery window. It’s hugely entertaining and the illustrations by Marisa Morea are full of energy and humour. Who doesn’t love a puppy in a Santa hat, after all?!

>> And, for feline fanatics there is the follow up book The Twelve Cats of Christmas – a festive rhyming treat that will have everyone giggling at these cheeky cats. 

the twelve cats of christmas

16. Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children’s)

  • Perfect for: introducing your child to this classic character.
  • Ideal for: age 2- 5 yrs
  • Published: 2020

Story: The late Judith Kerr’s forgetful feline gets herself into a Christmas conundrum when, already unnerved by all the decorations and visitors at home, the sight of a seemingly walking, talking tree sees her flee to the roof. The Thomas family try everything to coax their beloved moggy down to no avail, and fear the festive season is ruined until a furry present arrives down the chimney… This adorable seasonal story about this lovable cat also has the most fabulous 1970s illustrations that will have parents and grandparents feeling all nostalgic.

17. That’s Not My Elf by Fiona Watt (Usborne)

  • Perfect for: getting your baby excited about Christmas.
  • Ideal for: ages 0-2
  • Published: 2016

Story: This elf-themed edition of the celebrated ‘That’s Not My…’ board book series will let the youngest members of your family join in with Christmas story time. The textured patches, repetitive language and simple drawings are just made to grab your baby’s attention. And there’s a lovely sparkly bell at the end to enjoy. We also love all the other Christmas titles in this series and there is sure to be one to appeal to your little one. ‘That’s Not My…. Penguin, Christmas Fairy, Snowman, Robin, Angel, Reindeer, Santa and Polar Bear.

18. All the Colours of Christmas by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by Gillian Gamble (Convergent Books)

  • Perfect for: teaching how Christmas is about making memories and learning colours for younger readers
  • Ideal for: age 4- 7 yrs
  • Published: 2020

Story: In his trademark style, Matthew Paul Turner celebrates the Christmas season, particularly the colours that come with the holiday and all the memorable sensations connected to those bright hues. Young readers will be taken in by whirling ribbons of the familiar reds and greens, and also other festive hues, including white, gold, blue, and brown. The lyrical text explores what makes the season so colourful, magical, and personal to our hearts – while reminding readers that Christmas is YOU. The holiday season is nothing without being with the people we love, celebrating traditions, and making new memories – all in vivid colour!

19. The Christmas Eve Tree by Delia Huddy, illustrated Emily Sutton (Walker Books)

  • Perfect for: teaching your child that there is more to Christmas than presents.
  • Ideal for: age 5 -7 yrs
  • Published: 2017

Story: A triumphant tale about the runt of the Christmas tree litter who sees all the other pines find happy homes while he is left alone in the shop. But then a homeless boy comes along who doesn’t mind that he is crooked and small, and his love allows the tree to become part of an impromptu Christmas Eve celebration to remember. Your child will especially love the surprise pop-up scene in the middle of this heartwarming book, which has a classic feel while being a thoroughly modern story.

20. Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans (Scholastic)

  • Perfect for: inspiring budding feminists.
  • Ideal for: age 4 – 7 yrs
  • Published: 1985

Story: Feisty French schoolgirl Madeline is the epitome of small but strong. In this festive rhyming tale – first published in a magazine in 1956 – the iconic character spreads Christmas kindness, caring for her flu-stricken teachers and friends, and taking in a magical carpet seller. He rewards her good deeds with a trip home from boarding school for all the pupils in time to see their families – the best present!

21. The First Christmas by Rod Campbell (Macmillan)

  • Perfect for: teaching the nativity story from a young age.
  • Ideal for: age 0-2 yrs
  • Published: 2014

Story: The bestselling Dear Zoo author gives the nativity story a simple retelling in this sweet board book that will appeal to babies as well as older children. The drawings are in Rod’s classic style, with distinct outlines and appealing faces, while the text is uncomplicated and easy to follow. It’s a great introduction to the main characters and events around the birth of Jesus.

22. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (Andersen Press)

  • Perfect for: helping children understand the value of presents
  • Ideal for: age 3-6 yrs
  • Published: 1985

Story: A magical and classic Christmas tale about a boy who, late on Christmas Eve, after the town has all gone to sleep boards a mysterious train, The Polar Express, which is heading to the North Pole. When he arrives there, Santa offers him any gift he desires. The boy modestly asks for one bell from the reindeer’s harness. It turns out to be a very special gift, for only believers in Santa can hear it ring. This is a book to keep and remember.

23. Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs (Puffin)

  • Perfect for: giving both parent and child a giggle.
  • Ideal for: age 2- 5yrs
  • Published: 1973

Story: The wonderful Raymond Briggs gives a very human take on this Christmas character, depicting him as a slightly grumpy man living in a normal house with only his pets for company and happily partaking of a few wee drams as he delivers his gifts to children around the world. The comic strip style sequences and limited words just add to the humour, as our man ponders how to get into a caravan, curses too tight chimneys and worries he’s catching a cold. It’s so well observed and has lost none of its charm, no wonder it won the prestigious The Library Association’s Kate Greenaway Medal.

24. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Angela Barrett (Orchard Books)

  • Perfect for: a Christmas Eve bedtime story.
  • Ideal for: age 3+
  • Published: 1823

Story: Is there anything better for building Christmas anticipation than this cherished Clement C. Moore poem? In this lovely edition, the well known verse about a visit from St Nick is given an atmospheric treatment by award-winning illustrator Angela Barrett. We just love the main man’s traditional white fur coat and the magical moonlit and snow-covered setting for the story. It’s super stylish and truly embraces the spirit of the season.

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>> WANT TO READ MORE CHRISTMAS BOOKS?  Take a look at our round-up of Beautiful Keepsake Christmas Books that children will love

(PICTURE CREDITS: OPENING & MAIN PICTURE: both from GettyImages)