Christmas 2020 Children’s Book Picks

Good reads to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.

Nine books will interest young readers this season.
Nine books will interest young readers this season. (photo: Book covers)

The Grumpy Old Ox

Written by Anthony DeStefano

Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey

Sophia Institute Press, 2020

36 pages, $16.95

The sight of the innkeeper’s prideful ox has dimmed, and his heart has shrunk. Cantankerous and mean, he shelters in the stable (“The stable was dark / but he didn’t mind. / He stayed there alone, / just bitter and blind.”). His bitterness gives way to curiosity and, then, compassion when a poor couple arrives and the young woman gives birth. The old ox reaches deep into himself and gives from what he has — a pail of water and his manger (“He looked at the woman / in ox-talk he said: / ‘Take my straw manger / for your baby’s bed’”). Through the special grace of Christmas, the once-grumpy old ox is transformed and his sight restored in more ways than one. Ages 8-12. Online at or call (800) 854-6316; Item: 1787.


The Tiny Star

Written by Arthur Ginolfi

Illustrated by Pat Schories

Good Books, 2019

32 pages, $14.99

Poor Starlet! The smallest star in the sky, no one can see her twinkle. “How big or small you are is not important,” the wise, old moon tells her. “Someday, somewhere, someone will see you.” Years and years pass. Suddenly, Starlet finds herself tumbling through the darkness. Landing on the roof of a small stable, Starlet hears a baby crying and peeks to see how she might help. As tiny Starlet’s rays of light shine on the newborn, something amazing happens! Ages 3-6.


The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale

Written by Carole Gerber

Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

Familius, 2019

32 pages, $17.99

“The gentle beasts of sky and earth / prepare their stable for Christ’s birth.” So begins this beloved story of the humble gifts offered by the animals. There is a quiet beauty to the rhyme of this story as well as its illustrations. The tale of the animals surrounds the gentle story of when Love came down to earth and was embraced (“Mary counts His tiny toes / and wraps the Child in swaddling clothes.”). Angels beckon the shepherds to join in the celebration of joy in the stable. Ages 3-8.


The Shepherd’s Story

Written by Jimmy Dunne

Illustrated by Ivan Kravets

Loyola, 2019

32 pages, $19.95

Take Clement Moore’s famous poem; keep the rhythm; stir in its touchstone phrases; change the narrator; situate it in Judea; and tell a new but ancient story. “’Twas the very first Christmas, when all through the hills, / the towns of Judea were perfectly still,” a young shepherd boy recalls; and, later, “When what to my wondering eyes should appear, a glorious angel saying, ‘Nothing to fear …’” The first Christmas comes to life as seen through the boy’s eyes. Large, cheerful illustrations accompany this upbeat, hope-filled tale that could become a new family tradition. Ages 5-11.


The Gospel Told by the Animals

Written by Bénédicte Delelis

Illustrated by Éric Puybaret

Ignatius, 2018

32 pages, $14.99

Animal narrators share the good news of Jesus in this collection of 12 stories, each having a full-page illustration. “A Faithful Dog” and “A Thoughtful Ox” are ideal for Christmas. Readers follow the dog and his master, the shepherd, in search of a baby in a manger. There, the old ox, surprised by the birth of a newborn, remembers, “I breathed on him gently to warm him … born in my poor little stable.” More stories unfold — some expected (“A Lost Sheep”) and some delightfully less expected (“An Overburdened Camel” who gets stuck in the eye of the needle). Ages 5 and up.


Baby’s First Nativity

Illustrated by Nomar Perez

Little Bee Books, 2019

16 pages, $6.99

This colorful board book introduces the birth of Jesus in the simplest, age-appropriate way for the youngest of readers (or listeners!). On each sturdy page, a bold, bright picture with just a word or two will acquaint little ones with those who were there in Bethlehem. Readers will meet Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, along with angels, shepherds and kings. The stable, manger and animals also have a role to play. Sharing a board book with a baby in your lap helps your little one to associate reading with cozy feelings. And it helps you to plant the seed that the birth of Jesus is precious to you and to your child. Ages baby to 3.


The Phantom of the Colosseum (In the Shadows of Rome series, Vol. 1)

Written by Sophie de Mullenheim

Ignatius, 2020

203 pages, $10.99

Older readers will enjoy unwrapping this first book of a planned five-volume Christian adventure series set in Rome. It is the year 303. Together, a trio of young teens encounters the hidden and often dangerous world of Christians living in the shadows. Ages 10 and up.


ABC Get to Know the Saints With Me!

Written by Caroline Perkins

Illustrated by Valerie Delgado

EWTN Publishing, 2020

56 pages, $17.95

This delightful alphabet book serves up the saints in a fun way.  Saints who are well known (for example, John Paul II) and lesser known (Xantippa) — as well as a saint just right for the Christmas season (Nicholas) — are introduced to young readers. The simple rhyming text (“Aa is for Anthony for when things are lost. / Bb is for Benedict fighting evil at all cost.”) cheerfully draws kids’ attention, and the full-page illustration for each saint sustains it. Children of today are frequently shown side by side with these holy men and women who encourage them to become saints, too. Ages 4-10. Available at or (800) 854-6316. Item: 81012.


God the Father and the Best Day Ever

Written by Gracie Jagla

Illustrated by Jacob Popcak

OSV Kids, 2020

32 pages, $16.95

It’s a tall order to trace salvation history, but this book gives it a go — and successfully does it, in joyful rhyme, no less. Paired with bold illustrations, it tells of the profound love of the Father since the beginning of time. Despite Adam and Eve’s sinning, God had a plan leading to eternal life (“He looked on his people / And promised with love, / I’ll join you below / Then you’ll join me above!”). Young readers will better understand how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection will change their lives forever. Ages 5-8.



The Crawford Sisters 

write from Pittsburgh.

Books are available at Amazon,

unless otherwise noted.