A wintry night. Snowflakes trickling down outside the window. You and your toddler snug as bugs in woolens and holiday-themed socks. The bed you're sitting in is warm. The sheets are soft as clouds. You have the sweetest holiday picture book spread open between you. You're smiling, laughing, and tearing up in turn. Just you, your child, and a book. Cozy, isn't it? We think so too. That's why we've prepared a list of picture books full of holiday cheer and touching moments. From titles as magical as The Polar Express to characters as memorable as the Grinch, this list packs it all. And yes, there's plenty of room for Santa, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and reindeer. Let's dive in!
An Odd Dog Christmas
Rob Biddulph is back with his Odd Dog and a Christmas adventure that has all the makings of a classic: a lovable character, a winter wonderland, and a message that hits home. In a way that's equal parts odd and cute, An Odd Dog Christmas illustrates how stepping into Christmas can help us discover answers we'd probably be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, and it does so through thoughtful illustrations that say almost as much as their rhyming counterparts. Oh, and don't blame your kid for wanting a muffler just like Odd Dog's. We want one too!
Hey, hey, hey, snowflake! Jim Reeves wasn't the only one enchanted by the beauty of those miniscule bits of winter. Snowflakes are precious little things that have a way of planting smiles on the glummest faces. And you know what else is precious? This picture book by Benji Davies! From the way it begins (with the birth of a li'l snowflake!) to the way it ends (no, we won't tell you that!), The Snowflake casts a winter wonderful spell on its readers. In a way that few books can, this holiday narrative shows us how everything and everyone has a unique, beautiful place in this world, just like your toddler!
The Fire Fox
Alexandra Page, illustrated by Stef Murphy
The holiday season is not the same for everyone. There are children and families dealing with hardship and loss. In The Fire Fox, Alexandra Page is not just aware of such children and families; she's also there for them, just like her mystical fire fox. A celebration of a Finnish myth and the tender love between a mother and child caught in the midst of tough times, this is a picture book that's beautiful in all the right ways. Love, light, and hope form a tear-inducing trio, while the illustrations and language are a source of pure joy. Page has created a simple treasure with this one!
A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa's Tasty Trip Around the World
M.E. Furman, illustrated by Susan Gal
Santa Claus is popular as a giver of treats, but did you know he also loves receiving them? M.E. Furman's A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa's Tasty Trip Around the World is an illustrated guide to the preps kids across the world make to welcome the 'Man with the Bag'. It also gives us sneak peeks at the tasty munchies they leave behind for him to snack on while they're in bed. With illustrations that transport you to homes across the globe, this picture book is a delicious opportunity to learn a thing or two about new cultures, complete with cookie recipes. And all the while, it's a colorful celebration of the very thing that unites us: food. No wonder it won two awards!
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree
Ah, the Christmas tree. It's the quintessential Christmas decoration and a source of so much joy at Christmastime. Of course, Mr. Willowby sets out to buy one for his great home. Alas, the tree is much too large, so what does he do? He cuts off the top! No, it's not a sad thing, because it sets off a chain of happy moments that prove — in the loveliest way you can imagine — that one person's trash is another person's treasure indeed. Nostalgic illustrations and quick rhymes add to the perfect beauty of this Christmassy read and seem to say that no matter how big or how small you are, you deserve to have a merry Christmas and a merrier Christmas tree!
The Jolly Christmas Postman
Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Janet Ahlberg
Trust us when we say a postman's journey has never been jollier before. “A present full of presents” indeed, The Jolly Christmas Postman is so, so much more than a children's book. It's a book that's home to fairytale creatures of all shapes and sizes, and it's got mail! The joy of the Ahlbergs' unique creation is the fact that it actually carries each character's mail within it: everything from a postcard for Baby Bear to a jigsaw puzzle for Humpty Dumpty. There's even a book within this book! Oh, and there's a little gift for our dear postman too. Can you guess who from?
What's that lyric from Frosty the Snowman? “He was made of snow, but the children know how he came to life one day.” Yes, just like in the song, a snowman comes to life in Raymond Briggs' holiday classic, The Snowman, and what a series of adventures he and his little human have. But this picture book stands out from our holiday list for a reason that has made it an absolute standout in its genre: it's completely wordless! Brought to life exclusively through illustrations, Briggs' 1978 masterpiece is an experience in a league of its own. True fans of this timeless story even reject modern-day retellings of it that use words. It's safe to say The Snowman is the embodiment of the phrase 'one of a kind'.
Christmas Day in the Morning
Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner
Prepare to have a huge lump in your throat. Christmas Day in the Morning has the power to tug at the heartstrings of anyone and everyone above the age of three. Some will argue that this picture book is a tad advanced for preschoolers, but not with those illustrations! Every picture moves you to the core just as much as the text itself. And what a story it is! An ode to simple living, this nearly 67-year-old joy captures what it truly means to give the gift of love at Christmas. It's easy to see why Pearl S. Buck has both a Pulitizer and Nobel Prize to her name. We recommend reading this one with the whole family!
Red & Lulu
If we may say so ourselves, as far as illustrations go, Matt Tavares' Red & Lulu is the clear winner on this list. When we tell you this book's artwork is 'breathtaking', we mean it will genuinely make you gasp in joyful wonder at its beauty. Every page turn of this enchanting read is a happy experience, but the story itself is a Christmas gift. What Tavares seems to have done effortlessly is to take a sad situation and turn it into a joy and an adventure forever. We haven't read many stories about little cardinals, but something tells us nothing comes close to Red and Lulu's.
That's our holiday reading list. Do you and your tiny tot have a favorite? We'll tell you ours if you tell us yours. Happy holidays!