Holiday Picture Book Gift Guide

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted at the Broke and the Bookish blog. Each week a different topic is introduced and it is fun to see what everyone writes each week. Check out their blog for more information.

This week I’m talking about Christmas and winter books which would make great gifts for a young child. With one exception these are all books our children enjoyed reading when they were little.



The book on the left (which is the version we have which I read to my children) is good-king-wenceslas-nealout-of-print and there is no photo on Goodreads so I’ve linked to Amazon. The book to the right by John M. Neale looks like it would be a great substitute for the book we read to our kids.

Good King Wenceslas

Illustrator: John Wallner

Age Level: 4 – 10 years

Publication Date: 1990

32 pages

Summary: A retelling of the old song of the good king, who went out into the countryside at Christmas time to share with the poor. Includes music.


We had The Polar Express and read it to our children long before the movie with Tom Hanks.

The Polar Express

Author & Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg

Age Level: 4 – 7 years

Publication Date: 1985

32 pages

Awards: 1986 Caldecott Winner, Kentucky Bluegrass Award (1987), Buckeye Children’s Book Award for K-2 (1991), Nevada Young Readers’ Award for Primary Category/Picture Book Category (1988), Little Archer Award (1986), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Nominee for Picture Book – Honor Book (1986)

Summary: Late on Christmas Eve, after the town has gone to sleep, a boy boards a mysterious train that waits for him: the Polar Express bound for the North Pole. When he arrives there, Santa offers him any gift he desires. The boy modestly asks for one bell from the reindeer’s harness. It turns out to be a very special gift, for only believers in Santa can hear it ring.


Jan Brett’s books are some of my favorites from my children’s childhood. I love the illustrations and stories.

The Mitten

Adapted & Illustrated by: Jan Brett

Age Level: 4 – 8 years

Publication Date: 1989

32 pages

Summary: When Nicki drops his white mitten in the snow, he goes on without realizing that it is missing.

One by one, woodland animals find it and crawl in; first, a curious mole, then a rabbit, a badger and others, each one larger than the last. Finally, a big brown bear is followed in by a tiny brown mouse and what happens next makes for a wonderfully funny climax.

As the story of the animals in the mitten unfolds, the reader can see Nicki in the boarders of each page, walking through the woods unaware of what is going on.

Once again Jan Brett has created a dramatic and beautiful picture book in her distinctive style. She brings the animals to life with warmth and humor, and her illustrations are full of visual delights and details faithful to the Ukrainian tradition from which the story comes.


Our children loved snow and snowy days.

The Snowy Day

Author: Ezra Jack Keats

Age Level: 2-5 years

Publication Date: 1962

40 pages

Award: 1963 Caldecott Medal

Summary: No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.

The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.


This was a great fantasy–to go out in the woods on a winter night with our children. But my husband and I were always too tired!

Owl Moon

Author: Jane Yolen

Illustrator: John Schoenherr

Age Level: 3 – 7 years

Publication Date: 1987

32 pages

Award: 1988 Caldecott Medal

Summary: Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird.

But there is no answer.

Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don’t need words. You don’t need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn’t an owl, but sometimes there is.

Distinguished author Jane Yolen has created a gentle, poetic story that lovingly depicts the special companionship of a young child and her father as well as humankind’s close relationship to the natural world. Wonderfully complemented by award-winning John Schoenherr’s soft, exquisite watercolor illustrations, this is a verbal and visual treasure, perfect for reading aloud and sharing at bedtime.

the-night-before-christmas-brettWhen I was a little girl my father read The Night Before Christmas to my brother and I every Christmas Eve. I have that very old and battered book which I read to our children. I couldn’t find the exact edition we read and our Christmas books are still packed.

The Night Before Christmas: A Poem by Clement Moore

Author: Clement C. Moore

Illustrator: Jan Brett

Age Level: birth to adult!

Publication Date: 1823

32 pages

Summary: Who’s that peeking out of the sleigh?

As St. Nick and eight tiny reindeer descend through a brilliant night sky onto the roof of a Victorian house in a snowy New England village, the famous Christmas poem begins. The father of the family narrates the words just as Clement Moore wrote them, and artist Jan Brett captures the spirit in brilliant illustrations that reflect this memorable night. Visually she extends this favorite Christmas story for children, who will delight in watching the two mischievous stowaways from the North Pole enthusiastically exploring the sacks of gifts on the roof while St. Nick, unaware, journeys down the chimney… until the toys spill down onto the lawn and he turns with a jerk!

Antique toys and exquisite ornaments frame the borders in which sometimes the father, St. Nick, or the family cat and dog look on, as the story unfolds.

A unique and beautiful edition to be cherished for years to come by all the family, especially the youngest, who find the night before Christmas perhaps the most exciting night of the year.


I remember The Grinch from when I was a child and, of course, the TV Christmas special is all mixed up in my mind, too. This is such a classic and well worth reading as well as watching.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Author & Illustrator: Dr. Seuss

Age Level: 5 – 9 years

Publication Date: 1957

64 pages

Summary: “The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.”

Dr. Seuss’s small-hearted Grinch ranks right up there with Scrooge when it comes to the crankiest, scowling holiday grumps of all time. For 53 years, the Grinch has lived in a cave on the side of a mountain, looming above the Whos in Whoville. The noisy holiday preparations and infernal singing of the happy little citizens below annoy him to no end. The Grinch decides this frivolous merriment must stop. His “wonderful, awful” idea is to don a Santa outfit, strap heavy antlers on his poor, quivering dog Max, construct a makeshift sleigh, head down to Whoville, and strip the chafingly cheerful Whos of their Yuletide glee once and for all.

Looking quite out of place and very disturbing in his makeshift Santa get-up, the Grinch slithers down chimneys with empty bags and stealing the Whos’ presents, their food, even the logs from their humble Who-fires. He takes the ramshackle sleigh to Mt. Crumpit to dump it and waits to hear the sobs of the Whos when they wake up and discover the trappings of Christmas have disappeared. Imagine the Whos’ dismay when they discover the evil-doings of Grinch in his anti-Santa guise. But what is that sound? It’s not sobbing, but singing! Children simultaneously adore and fear this triumphant, twisted Seussian testimonial to the undaunted cheerfulness of the Whos, the transcendent nature of joy, and of course, the growth potential of a heart that’s two sizes too small.


This is a book I’d forgotten about, but my daughter reminded me about it and now that I see the cover I remember it, too.

Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad

Author & Illustrator: Mercer Mayer

Age Level: 3 – 7 years

Publication Date: 1982

24 pages

Summary: Little Critter approaches Christmas with the intention of being a good helper. When he makes a mistake, he has a logical explanation. He couldn’t wrap the Christmas package because the tape got too sticky. He couldn’t buy his parents a present because there were too many toys to look at. He couldn’t put up the tree lights because they were just too tangled. Little Critter means well, but every funny illustration shows him as tangled up as the Christmas lights.


Beautiful illustrations and a great book for very young children since it’s just the illustrations.

The Snowman

Author & Illustrator: Raymond Briggs

Age Level: 0 – 3 years

Publication Date: 1978

32 pages

Awards: Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1979), Zilveren Griffel (1979), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Picture Book (1979)

Summary: Illustrated in full color, this is a wordless story. The pictures have “the hazy softness of air in snow.” A little boy rushes out into the wintry day to build a snowman, which comes alive in his dreams that night. The boy invites him home and in return is taken on a flight high above the countryside.

the-twelve-days-of-christmas-in-canadaI have a nephew-in-law who is Canadian and his children have this book. His four year old daughter “read” it to our adult daughter over Skype!

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Canada

Author: Ellen Warwick

Illustrator: Kimberly Smith

Age Level: 5 – 8 years old

Publication Date: 2015

40 pages

Summary: O Canada, in Christmastime! Come with Juliette and her “crazy Canuck cousin” as they take a holiday trip across the country, all the way from Prince Edward Island and Vieux-Québec to Winnipeg and Vancouver. Along the way Juliette gets really cool Canadian gifts—like 8 bears a-swimming, 6 Mounties marching, and a loon in a maple tree!


This isn’t the edition I read to my kids, but I think the illustrations by Lisbeth Zwerger are beautiful. And the story is a wonderful one to read to children when trying to show the wonder of giving a gift.

The Gift of the Magi

Author: O Henry

Age Level: 8 – 12 years

Publication Date: 1905

26 pages

Summary: One dollar and eight-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure—her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift.