Advent and Christmas 2023 Children’s Book Picks

7 Good Seasonal Reads

There is something for all the young readers on your list.
There is something for all the young readers on your list. (photo: Courtesy of the publishers)

’Twas the Day Before Christmas in Bethlehem Town

Written by Leslie Bond Diggins

Illustrated by Erin Nielson

Pauline, 2023 

40 pages, $24.95

“’Twas the day before Christmas in Bethlehem town. / Every creature was stirring — both uptown and down” begins the account of Ben, a local shepherd boy who has come to the city with his dad. Annoyed by long lines and pushy outsiders, he is surprised by his dad’s compassion for the people, obeying Caesar’s order, flocking into town. “Recall how God saved us with help from above,” he reminds Ben. “Then told us to welcome all strangers with love.” Ben does just that by being kind to those he meets along the way, a way that eventually leads to a Baby lying in a manger. Echoing the cadence of Clement Moore’s A Visit From St. Nicholas and featuring large illustrations, this is an ideal Nativity read-aloud. Ages: 5 and older.


Goodnight, Jesus: A Children’s Bedtime Story

Written by Kate Sydnor

Illustrated by Anna Morelli

EWTN Publishing, 2023 

16 pages, $17.95

This chunky board book, just right for little hands, will help children end their day with a grateful heart. With soothing repetition, small ones bid goodnight to Mom and Dad, family and friends, and all for which they are thankful. Bringing these special goodnight murmurings to a close is, “Goodnight, God! Your goodness made us. / Good night, Jesus, sent to save us.” The book concludes with the Our Father. Each page of blessing has a companion Bible verse. The illustrations, wreathed in flowers, are cast in light blues and greens and neutrals, encouraging a calm ending to a busy day. Good night, young readers! Ages: Baby and older.


Through the Year With Tomie DePaola

Written by Catherine Harmon and John Herreid

Illustrated by Tomie DePaola

Ignatius, 2023 

136 pages, $24.95

The folk art of Tomie dePaola lives on in this charming book celebrating more than a hundred feast days, holy days and even a few holidays. Taken from his much-loved books and from what he called “Art Mail” — daily postings to family, friends and social media — de Paola’s bold, bright images enliven the well-crafted stories. Young readers will encounter both familiar and less familiar saints who are our heroes-in-waiting. An ideal book for the upcoming new year. Ages: 3 years and up.


The World Waits

Written by Elizabeth Pham

Illustrated by Jen Olson

Sophia Institute, 2023 

32 pages, $16.95

A sad and tired world waits and waits. At long last, a star appears shining brightly over a stable, filling the world with hope and joy. It seems to disappear as quickly as it came. The world returns to its busy ways, but does not forget. It waits in hope for Jesus’ coming at Christmas, in the Eucharist, into our hearts, and at the end of time. Children will enjoy the simple text and the changing facial expressions of the earth and the star through this guided journey. A good book for Advent, Christmas and beyond! Ages: 4 and up.


The Mass and the Manger: My Interactive Christmas Story

Written by Jennifer Sharpe

Illustrated by Gina Capaldi

Ascension, 2023 

24 pages, $16.95

Two stories in one are beautifully combined in this interactive book coupling the birth of Jesus with the Mass. “Mary, Joseph, baby so small. / Shepherds and wise men follow God’s call. / That first Christmas long ago, / not so different from now, you know!” At the start, a full-page scene of Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem greets readers. Lift the open-out flap and see a young brother and sister heading to midnight Mass. As each scene of the Nativity unfolds, the open-out flap reveals the parallel in the Mass that the children witness. Young readers (and grown-ups, too) will look at Mass in a new and fresh way. Ages: 6 to 10.


I Believe: The Apostles’ Creed in Sacred Art for Young Children

Written by Kerri Davison

Holy Heroes, 2021 

48 pages, $15.95

In small-size bites for children, phrase by phrase, the Apostles’ Creed is introduced in this gem of a picture book. At the bottom of the page, the meaning of the phrase is explained. This format is sure to help children make this beloved prayer their own. What makes this book all the more inviting is the pairing of each phrase with beautiful sacred art on the opposite page. The full-page paintings help children to make sense of the words affirming our Catholic beliefs and stir their imagination. Ages: 4 and up.


Little Spark of Life

Written by Courtney Siebring

Illustrated by Camila Carrossine

Paraclete Press, 2023 

32 pages, $18.99

There’s a baby on the way! In this joyful celebration of life, Mom asks Big Brother, “Are you wondering just who is growing in me / How this baby of ours first came to be?” The story of God’s divine plan, his blueprint of love, unfolds as Mom explains the milestones along the way until the baby arrives. For example: “Week Five’s ushered in with a marching band’s drum / As her heart starts to beat, Ba-bum ba-bum-bum.” By the time Mom and Dad tuck their son into bed, he has learned about the miracle of a new baby, and so has the reader. This is a good read to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the feast of the Holy Family on Dec. 31. Ideal for the “bigs,” the brothers and sisters who wait and wonder! Ages: 4 to 8.

The Crawford sisters write from Pittsburgh.