Sunday, 23 December 2018

Our favourite Christmas picture books for children

As a child it was as exciting to take out the Christmas books as the rest of the decorations.  They were all the more special because we could only read them a few weeks in in the year.  Since our 9 year old daughter was born, we have collected some beautiful Christmas books.  Today I bring you a bakers dozen of favourite books, mainly from those we own but also including a few we love even if we don't own them.

1. The Jolly Postman Christmas Book by Allan and Janet Ahlberg

If you peruse lists of best Christmas books online, this book is always included.  The Ahlbergs have to be one of my favourite authors for toddlers.  Their illustrations are so detailed and full of interest,  and their writing seems so natural and yet so much fun to read.  The Jolly Postman Christmas Book (based on the Jolly Postman book) has a brilliant premise of having envelopes on the pages that kids can dip into to find invitations, letters and presents.  And the story is magical.

2. The Naughtiest Reindeer by Nicki Greenberg

This one is lots of fun to read aloud as well as the hilarious illustrations.  This book always has us laughing at what this naughty reindeer gets up to.  And I love how Mrs Claus is your typical Jewish Grandmother.  Nicki is a local author and we are big fans of all her books.  If you like this one, there are 3 more about the naughty Rudy.

3. Room for a little one by Martin Waddell and Jason Cockroft

This is one of the best books I have seen around the Christmas story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  The illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful.  The compassion in the story is heartwarming.  The sort of sentiment that we need to remind us of the spirit of Christmas that seems so lacking in our world today.

4. The Christmas Pantomime Story by Rebecca Patterson

Another book I love reading.  The story is set in a school doing a nativity show and the personalities of the kids are spot on.  The main little boy is a tad clueless and very amusing.  We also love the important angel and the little girl with a stomach ache.  It is told by the main character in exactly the way that kids tell stories and manages to avoid the mawkishness that is so common in kid's Christmas books.  The little details around the school and the expressions on the faces is priceless.

This is a very sweet book with lovely vintage illustrations and a simple message that Christmas is a time for sharing and giving.  The little bunny called Boo is so cute as he learns about Christmas from Belle's delightful guidance.

6. Aliens Love Panta Claus by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

This is a really fun book with lots of amusing aliens doing silly things with underpants.  Our favourite page is the tree decorated with underpants.  In fact there was a tree not so many years ago that had a few pairs of underpants thrown on it in homage to this book.  Fortunately the slew of scatalogical Christmas books has happened a bit late for Sylvia so most have passed us by and we have just had lots of underpants laughs.

7. Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Hendry and John Lawrence

This gorgeous old fashioned book, illustrates the meaning of generosity and community so much more beautifully and meaningfully than most Christmas books.  It is about what we have to give and share when others are in need.  Many people come to the house on Exeter Street and are given shelter whether it be on a mantelpiece, in a dresser shelf or in a kitchen sink.  We love the large picture of all the rooms in the house towards the end and counting all the people within it.

8. How many sleep til Christmas? by Mark Sperring and Sebastien Braun

This book about Daddy Grizzle and Little Pip is beautifully illustrated.  It takes the bears through all the fun preparations for Christmas, reminding us that the festive period is a journey not just a destination.  It is written to appeal to both excited kids and tired parents but I like that it acknowledges tired parents can get excited too.

9. Grumpy Cat's First Worst Christmas by Stephanie Laberis

This book is Sylvia's choice.  She tells me she loves it because it is so funny and Pokey is so cute, especially covered in sprinkles.  Grumpy Cat is unrepentently anti-Christmas.  Sylvia's favourite Grumpy Cat moment is when he knocks the E and L off the NOEL on the mantlepiece, not just because it is funny he wants NO to replace NOEL but also because there is something very amusing about cats batting things off a table or shelf.

10. A Little Cowboy's Christmas by Marcia Martin and Eleanor Dart

This was a favourite book of ours as kids.  In a family of 7 kids we usually shared everything rather than owned individually.  So I was surprised to find I had written my name 4 times on this book when at home recently.  My mum said it belonged to all of us!  It is about a little boy who asks Santa for a horse for Christmas and how he gets his wish but not in the way he expected.  Understanding that we can be happy with presents even if they aren't exactly what we expected (or don't own books even if we write our name in them 4 times) is a an important life lesson.  Another life lesson for me is that a book can still read well even if one page is missing!  We loved our Christmas books and they got a lot of wear and tear.

11. Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

This book is worth reading just for Pig's Christmas list at the back of the book.  We have spent many happy evening laughing over these.  Some of my favourite are "a unicorn (real not fake)", "false teeth" and "a pet (giraffe would be good)".  But the whole story is a great laugh.  Pig is such a greedy selfish pug but you still have to giggle at someone who dares to call Santa "you old yuletide galoot".  And he gets his comeuppance at the end in such a wonderfully festive way.

12. Stickman by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer

This is the only book in the list that I have not actually read in full.  We love the Julia Donaldson telemovies of her book and this one is a favourite.  From what I have seen the book is filled with the same delightful prose and illustrations as the movie.  I really love the yearning to be with loved ones that can be part of the Christmas delights and sadness.

What do you wish for? by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker

This is one of the most charming and magical Australian Christmas books.  There are lots of great Aussie Christmas books but it is very hard to strike a balance because the long warm days in the sea and sun in Australia with the cosiness of watching sparkling festive lights in the cold and dark that are the traditional Northern Hemisphere Christmas.  What do you wish for is the story of a group of kids writing down their wishes before holding a play in a park.  It finds that moment in Australian Christmas nights where the dark descends late on a balmy evening and the twinkling fairy lights bring a little Northern Hemisphere magic.  We love reading all the wishes and picking our favourite kids.

And what do I wish for?  I am now on leave for a month but I wish for more time to tidy and bake before Christmas, I wish for more time with family and friends, I wish for quiet time curled up with a book, I wish for time for another blog post before Christmas and I wish you a happy time in the crazy period leading up to Christmas.

There are lots more lists of favourite Christmas books online.  Here are a few I really like which remind me there are many more beautiful and entertaining Christmas books to read:
Red Ted's Art's Reader's Favourites 2013
Guardian Reader's Favourites 2010
Children's Books Daily 2018

Let me know if you have a favourite Christmas book.


  1. Wow, I have never heard of these books. They sound fun.

    1. I am not surprised cakelaw - there is only one that I had as a kid in here - and I think there has been a lot of great Christmas books published since that might have passed you by if you haven't been looking for them. But when you are next in a good bookstore around Christmas check out the kids section.

  2. Wow I don't think we had many Christmas books but I remember loving Christmas movies. I still do and can happily watch the same ones over and over!

    1. Thanks Lorraine - we didn't have lots of Christmas movies but there were a few I loved and still love. Though I think like the Christmas books, I have discovered so many more movies since I was a kid.

  3. Greetings from a Jewish Grandmother, here in the Frozen North. I'm amused to be compared to Mrs. Claus. But maybe I'm not typical?

    best... mae at

    1. Hi Mae - maybe it is just Nicki's grandmother rather than all Jewish grandmothers - she is very funny when she does an author reading of the book.

  4. I was the only one in my house into reading books, but not Christmas ones, nonetheless its nice to see Sylvia's collection as well as a some of yours from childhood. Wishing you a Happy Happy Christmas Johanna to you and your little family (enjoy the month off).x

  5. What a great round up and most of these I don't know! Thanks Johanna.


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