This year I want to share one of our family’s fave Christmas traditions with my friends and readers. At the start of December (or truth be told, a few minutes before they’re needed), I wrap 24 children’s books. We place the wrapped books under our Christmas tree. Each night my girlies get to unwrap one of these beloved books and we get to read them together in anticipation of Christmas.
We have a diverse – maybe even eclectic collection – that includes books from different genres from board books to poetry, from picture books to longer chapter books. These books feature Christmas traditions from around the world and winter wonderland adventures in many different climates. In the early years, I used to save money by checking some of these books out of the library. Through the years, we have added a few new ones to our collection or received them as gifts from family members.
I hope this list will encourage you to add some new multicultural children’s books to your own collection. If you have any holiday books that aren’t on my list, I would love to hear about them! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
DECEMBER 1: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
This beautiful book is our traditional advent book that we started reading as a family in 2014. That was the year my husband died and we gifted this book to all our friends in his memory. He loved to read together for the Advent season. Now all our friends read this each year in Ericlee’s memory. I love listening to my new husband Shawn read the pages from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as we all curl up together on our couch. We have a little Christmas tree and add a new ornament to the tree each night as we read through this book!
DECEMBER 2: The Hat by Jan Brett
My girlies are big fans of Jan Brett! I took them to meet her at our local bookstore several years ago. Her artwork is captivating. The kids love to point out the detailed scenes in the margins as we read this one. They give a hint of what is to come in the next scene. This story has a fun twist at the end as the creatures invent creative uses for “the hat.”
DECEMBER 3: Papa Panov’s Special Day adapted from Leo Tolstoy
This story has that magical, old-world feel. Papa Panov is an elderly shoe maker who feels lonely on Christmas Eve. He reads the Christmas story and longs to see Jesus on Christmas Day. The beauty in this story comes in the shoemaker’s realization that he has, indeed, seen Jesus. This is a wonderful story for elementary-aged kids and adults too!
DECEMBER 4: Walk this World at Christmastime by Debbie Powell
I scored this beauty at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland on a trip we took over Thanksgiving last year. I got it used-but-looks-brand-new for $10. This book takes readers on a tour of Christmas traditions across the globe. My girls love to open all the little flaps and peruse the colorful illustrations of traditions around the world.
DECEMBER 5: Voices of Christmas by Nikki Grimes
These lyrical poems are written by the talented Nikki Grimes. My girls each like to pick a poem to read about one of the key characters in the Christmas story. Each poem is written in the first-person voice of the character. I love how the sparse text and beautiful illustrations of this book draw us into thinking about these men and women in new ways.
DECEMBER 6: Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano
You really can’t read this book without breaking into song. If you want to get the full experience, give yourself permission to sing this favorite song line by line at the top of your lungs with the whole family, while pouring over David Diaz’s brilliant illustrations. The book opens by sharing about a tradition in Puerto Rican culture of caroling from house to house and bringing all the carolers to the last house for a big pig roast. We loved learning about how they celebrate Christmas in a different culture!
DECEMBER 7: Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harrell Celenza
One of our favorite holiday traditions through the years has been watching and listening to various versions of The Nutcracker. We’ve been to the ballet several times, watched a movie version, listened to Tchaikovsky’s original score and more. This book presents a jazz version and a little jazz history lesson. The illustrations by Don Tate are fabulous. We like to listen to the music while one of my daughters reads the story. The girls often finish with an interpretative dance to this jazzed up version of the Nutcracker. You can even listen to the famous Duke Ellington album online.
DECEMBER 8: The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell
We have a well-loved and slightly battered copy of this sweet book by Charles Tazewell. Tazewell uses that storytelling voice of old as he unfolds the story of a boisterous little angel who is in search of the perfect sacrificial gift for the Christ child. This is a charming book that I remember reading from my childhood.
DECEMBER 9: Dream Snow by Eric Carle
This book is another favorite from our stash. The magic is in the simple story and the mesmerizing illustrations. In his signature way, Artist Eric Carle uses cut paper designs with bright color contrasts to make this book come alive. Some pages are clear plastic overlays that make it look like snow has fallen right on the page. We love the dreaming farmer and the twist at the end!
DECEMBER 10: Tallulah’s Nutcracker by Marilyn Singer
Here’s another one of our Nutcracker books! This book is told from the perspective of a little girl who is dancing as a mouse in the Nutcracker ballet. She feels on top of the world to be in this professional production until something very embarrassing happens on stage. This year two of my daughters were cast in our local production of the Nutcracker Ballet as bon-bons. This is sweet, relatable book for them with wonderful illustrations! Great for ages 5-7 especially.
DECEMBER 11: A Christmas Present for Me by Lily Karr
This is a sweet little board book if you are looking for books for toddlers and preschoolers. My Zayla, who is 6 this year, loves counting the Christmas items on each page. The colorful illustrations engage your little one to pick their favorite trees, cookies, gifts and more. The book is made to look like a wrapped gift!
DECEMBER 12: Listen to the Silent Night by Dandi Daley Mackall
This version of the Christmas story comes to life with gorgeous painted illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. The magic is in the rhyming poetry, which as a writer I know is hard to get just right. My girls love the sounds highlighted in this book like the “flip, flap, flap” of Joseph’s sandals and the “rap, tap, tap” on the inn’s big door. A beautiful gift book!
DECEMBER 13: Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
When I was a little girl, my mama used to recite this timeless poem to me before bed. I imagined the scene. I felt the chill of the air and saw the snow dancing through the woods because of the way she delivered this poem. She loved the classic poets. This is where my love for poetry was born. In Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, the iconic Frost poem with the same title comes alive. These sweet, snowy illustrations by Susan Jeffers drew my family into the poem as they were searching for the animals in the snow. This book is new to our advent collection.
DECEMBER 14: Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
This book has long been one of our favorites. I used to read it to my Children’s Literature classes at the end of the semester, when I was a teacher. This is the story of a girl who loses her mother’s wedding ring in a batch of tamales and the funny pursuit to retrieve it. On the night we read this book, we often buy tamales from a friend or local market and serve them up for dinner. This delightful story celebrates diversity. The author, Gary Soto, is originally from Central California, where I live.
DECEMBER 15: Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
My mom gifted this book to my youngest girl last Christmas. Little Llama in this book is getting increasingly overwhelmed by all the Christmas frenzy. The book is a humorous take on how to cope with the crazy, including a sweet ending leading readers right to the real gifts that matter at Christmas. A special thank you to Anna Dewdney, who died last year from cancer, but is still reminding us all to pull our loved ones close!
DECEMBER 16: One Shining Star by Anne Kennedy
This is a rhyming counting book. My 6-year-old loves it because she can count and retell the story using clues from the illustrations. This book recounts the Christmas story and highlights different pieces in a nativity set. We love the embossed, shiny star on the cover and the goodnight ending to this book. If you have preschoolers in your house, this board book is perfect. A great read just before bed. G’night!
DECEMBER 17: Carol of the Brown King by Langston Hughes
CAROL OF THE BROWN KING is one of my all-time favorite Christmas books. This book is actually a collection of six poems by the renowned poet, Langston Hughes, with moving illustrations by Ashley Bryan in vibrant colors. I remember reading lots of Hughes’ poetry when I was a young person. This book serves as a loving and important reminder that people of all races and colors are part of the Christmas story.
DECEMBER 18: Baboushka Retold by Arthur Scholey
Tonight my girls invited a few friends over and we concluded our night together with a reading of a Christmas folktale from Russia called BABOUSHKA retold by Arthur Scholey and illustrated by Helen Cann, the book is about an old woman who was too busy to travel with the Wise Men to find the Christ Child and now searches endlessly for him each Christmas season, leaving gifts for sleeping children to honor him. Our favorite part of this book is the illustrations with details true to Russian culture like the nesting dolls, special foods, and landscapes. Another great book for learning about Christmas around the world!
DECEMBER 19: The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
Miraculously, I got my family of five to the big red couch last night for reading THE CRIPPLED LAMB by Max Lucado. My oldest chimed in that she wanted to read the book for the family – a welcome break for mama! Lucado’s carefully-crafted, descriptive tale is coupled with painted illustrations by Liz Bonham. The story appeals to all ages (even wiggly 5-year-olds!) as readers discover that the little lamb who was held back by his disability actually has the awesome opportunity to give a very special gift to the Christ child when he is born.
DECEMBER 20: Iguanas in the Snow by Francisco X. Alarcon
We dug into this collection of winter poems the other night. IGUANAS IN THE SNOW is a bilingual English/Spanish book in which the renowned Mexican American poet Francisco X. Alarcon celebrates winter in San Francisco and the mountains of Northern California. We love this book because it features the unique experience of winter in our neck of the woods. The playful and colorful illustrations by one of my fave illustrators, Maya Christina Gonzalez, make the words dance through the book. Such a fun read!
DECEMBER 21: Star of Wonder by Dan Crisp
This book, STAR OF WONDER by illustrated by Dan Crisp, was given to us as a gift when my Giada was a toddler. This unique board book tells the story of the three kings journey to meet the King of Kings. My Zayla loves following the star cutout as it grows bigger and bigger the closer the wise men get to Bethlehem. This book has a special feature too: the star actually lights up! A great gift for preschoolers on your list.
DECEMBER 22: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE OF JONATHAN TOOMEY is a longer storybook that includes a CD recording. Jonathan Toomey is the best wood carver in town. A widow and her son request that Jonathan carve a crèche and it leads to a Christmas miracle. The illustrations by P.J. Lynch transport readers to another time. A classic book to read and process with elementary or older kids.
DECEMBER 23: Nine Days to Christmas by Marie Hall Ets
This book was by Marie Hall Ets was my all-time favorite children’s book when I was a child. The story is about little Ceci, whose family is planning to host a Mexican posadas party. The story follows the little girl and her family’s preparations for the special Christmas event. Ceci’s highlight is a trip to the market to select a piñata. My mom used to read this one over and over again to me. I was especially captivated by the cultural traditions the book highlights. This book won the Caldecott for illustration in 1960. The spot color and line drawings were revolutionary for their time. Today’s this book is a well-loved classic!
DECEMBER 24: Twas, With a Twist by Richard Blackburn and Rhonda Carnahan
Grandma Chris gifted us a new book this year for Christmas called Twas, With a Twist by Richard Blackburn and Rhonda Carnahan. They take the original “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem by Clement Clarke Moore and add a fun twist. Santa makes his usual stops to deliver toys to boys and girls but then he journeys on to Bethlehem. Meilani read this one aloud to our whole family. A great addition to our collection. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
DECEMBER 25: The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
One dark November night a stranger rides into a small prairie town. The townspeople wish he were a doctor, a dressmaker, or a trader. But the children have the greatest wish of all, a deep, quiet, secret wish. Then a young girl named Lucy befriends the newcomer. Through him, she discovers fulfillment of her own wishes and her town’s dreams. I love the way the rich illustrations in this book bring readers right into the magic and mystery of the story. A perfect read for Christmas Day!