’Tis the Season … for Reading!

Advent and Christmas Children’s Book Picks

It’s the time of year when every flip of the calendar seems to bring another joyful event. Although December is often jam-packed, don’t miss the opportunity that the days of Advent provide. In spite of the busyness, the days offer a great opportunity to spend time with kids and invite them to be full participants in every aspect of the holy days. Here are some books to help young readers mark this special time of waiting and to savor the sweetness of the season.


Christmas Stable

Written by Juliet David

Illustrated by Sophie Hanton

Candle Books, 2014

14 pages, $11.99

The basics of the Christmas story are told — from the Annunciation to the birth of Jesus — with direct, child-friendly language and bright, warm illustrations. Children will love the way the book concludes with an oversized pop-out manger scene. Ages 3-6.


The Gifts They Gave

Written and illustrated by Patricia Reeder Euba

Sterling, 2013

24 pages, $9.95

Readers will find a familiar, traditional carol in the pages of this book: “Jesus, our brother, kind and good,/ was humbly born in a stable of wood./ And the friendly beasts around him stood./ Jesus, our brother, kind and good.” As each stanza unfolds, the stable animals take turns telling of the special gifts that they gave to the Christ Child. The charming illustrations depict cozy images of the animals snuggling with Jesus and the Holy Family. A great choice for read-alouds — or sing-alongs — with little ones. Ages 3-8.


Who’s Hiding

Written by Vicki Howe

Illustrated by Krisztina Kallai Nagi

Liguori, 2010

20 pages, $12.99

This sturdy board book has a twist. Each of the eight Christmas vignettes, from the Annunciation to the Epiphany, prompts readers to guess. “It’s someone who’s hiding behind the door. Who it is we can’t be sure. Open up a little more ...” Lift the flap and discover the many familiar characters and their Christmas stories: Mary, the innkeeper, an angel and others. Ages 3–8.


Star Bright

Written by Alison McGhee

Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Atheneum, 2014

40 pages, $16.99

A very special baby is about to be born, and everyone is excited! On earth, the Magi are preparing to bring gifts to the baby, and in heaven, all the angels are shining bright with joy! But the newest, littlest angel can’t seem to find the perfect gift. Feeling small and lonely in the darkness, the angel wonders if this new baby might feel the same way; and, suddenly, she knows just what to do. The angel flutters toward earth, stopping and sitting exactly where she is needed most: She shines her glorious light in the darkness to bring comfort to the Holy Family and to guide others who will come to visit the Baby. This sweet story brings together a host of modern angels and the classic Nativity tale in a warm, whimsical and reassuring way. Ages 4-8.


The Legend of the Candy Cane

Written by Lori Walburg

Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey

Zonderkidz, 2012

32 pages, $15.99

Is the candy cane just a minty, striped treat? In this story, young Lucy is thrilled to discover that a candy store is about to open in her town. When the kindly shop owner shares a candy cane with her, he explains that the treat can help to tell the story of our faith. Held one way, it can look like a “J” for Jesus. Held another, it looks like the crook of the shepherds, who kept watch in the fields. The red can remind us of Jesus’ blood, while the white can stand for his purity. The stripes remind us of the way that Jesus suffered for our sins. Both Lucy and the shop owner decide that this is a sweet tale that must be told — and they share it with all the townspeople on Christmas Eve. Ages 4-7.


Christmas Fun

Written by Leena Lane

Illustrated by Roma Bishop

Pauline, 2015

32 pages, $9.95

This hands-on activity book provides lots of fun and learning-filled experiences to help children celebrate Advent and move into the Christmas season. The story snippets trace the Nativity narrative, beginning at the Annunciation and continuing through the birth of Jesus. Each is accompanied by a puzzle, maze, coloring page or craft project. Ages 4-8.


The Christmas Cat

Written by Maryann MacDonald

Illustrated by Amy June Bates

Dial, 2013

32 pages, $16.99

Like all babies, Jesus cried! On the night Jesus is born, each of the stable animals tries to calm the crying infant, but none can do so. Finally, a tiny kitten emerges from the shadows. Her soft fur and gentle purring are irresistible — and soon the Baby falls fast asleep. This reassuring story follows Jesus and the kitten as they grow — with the cat saving the day during the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Inspired by an ancient legend and Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of the Madonna of the Cat, this beautiful book is sure to delight. Ages 3-8.


The First Christmas Night

Written by Keith Christopher

Illustrated by Christine Kornacki

Ideals Children’s Books, 2013

32 pages, $16.99

“’Twas the very first Christmas,/ when all through the town/ not a creature was stirring/ there was not a sound.” Presented in the tradition of Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas, this book presents a rhythmic, rhyming retelling of the Nativity story. The large, richly detailed illustrations and familiar poetic cadence make for a joyful tale. “And now we that know/ can say with delight,/ Jesus was born on/ the first Christmas night!” Ages 3-8.



Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by Helen Cann

Eerdmans, 2014

32 pages, $16

This collection presents a fresh look at the Christmas story, as told from the perspective of each of the different stable animals. Beginning with the rooster, who announces dawn, each animal commemorates Christ’s birth and honors him in a special way. The selections, written by a host of well-known poets, convey a quiet, intimate tone and are complemented by a series of graceful, mixed-media illustrations. Don’t miss the beautiful end papers that hint of the story to come. Ages 4-8.

The Crawford sisters

write from Pittsburgh.