Books Under the Tree

Every Thanksgiving I give my kids two Christmas books to add to our Christmas book collection. Previous years we’ve enjoyed Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht, The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss, Santa’s Underwear by Marty Rhodes Figley, and (my personal favorite) When Santa was a Baby by Linda Bailey and Geneviève Godbout.

This year, starting in August, I checked out about 50 Christmas books from my library to start narrowing down and finding the perfect books. I guess when you no longer have a social life, you pick up new exciting hobbies like reading Christmas picture books by the dozen when it is still summer.

This year’s winners (drumroll please!) are…. How Winston Delivered Christmas: An Advent Story in Twenty-Four-and-a-Half Chapters by Alex T. Smith and Home for Christmas by Jan Brett.

I’m so excited about How Winston Delivered Christmas that I’ve recommended it to nearly every person with kids I’ve interacted with in the past three months. An advent book, each of the 24 1/2 sections include a short chapter of a story and a fun Christmas activity (writing a letter to Santa, random acts of kindness, making a snow globe, and more!) The illustrations are darling and I’m ecstatic to add this book to our list of Christmas traditions.

Home for Christmas is classic Jan Brett fare – breathtaking illustrations, a cheeky sense of humor, and hidden fun on each page. My naughty kids loved this story about a troll who runs away so that he doesn’t have to follow his household rules. He quickly realizes he misses his warm home and makes it home just in time for Christmas.


Some of the runner-ups include:

Santa Rex by Molly Idle : Stylistic and tongue-in-cheek, this is a fun book for your dino-loving kiddo. Idle has a bright and retro style that really appeals to me and my kids.

The Tree That’s Meant to Be by Yuval Zommer : We always root for the underdog in this house, so this book about a crooked little overlooked tree becoming the center of the forest Christmas celebration got us all a bit emotional. Published in 2019, it already feels like a classic.

The Great Santa Stakeout by Betsy Bird and Dan Santat : This is a fun book for older kids who want to SEE Santa. It may have given my 5-year-old a few too many ideas, but it was a super fun read!

Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Change Christmas Forever and Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares : These books are gorgeous – beautiful illustrations and emotionally complex stories that stay with the reader long after they’re finished. I think these books will be contenders when my kids get a bit older.

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Berry : This classic Christmas tale was new to me this year, and I absolutely loved it. The story is fun and engaging, and the illustrations are cheerful and charming. I still have it in my cart and may make 2020 the year that I buy 3 Christmas books (I’m really living on the edge.)

Christmas is Coming: An Advent Book by Katie Hickey : This is a wonderful advent book that just barely missed the cut. We loved the cute little advent calendar on the cover, and the activities are adorable.

Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne : Silent Night is my favorite Christmas carol, so the chance to sing it accompanied by elegant, thoughtful illustrations is a Christmas dream. Now I just have to get my kids to stop yelling “stop singing”.

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins and Illustrated by Sara Palacios : Christmas looks different to each family, but all families who celebrate Christmas want to share the day together. My kids and I loved this sweet family and their ingenuity when their Christmas didn’t go as planned. And as a bonus, the illustrations are adorable.

What are your family’s favorite Christmas picture books? You can find our list here.

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