Stocking-sized readers for every little book lover.
Winter holidays are right around the corner, and with them comes the opportunity to share books with our kids about why we celebrate. Books also help mamas get into the holiday spirit and quietly reconnect with our kids.
The team of teachers and librarians at Best Kids' Books selected books about different holidays celebrated by American families including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Lunar New Year (sometimes called Chinese New Year) and Nochebuena. Use these as an opportunity to teach your children about the traditions that other families celebrate, as well as your own.
Enjoy a hand-picked selection of books to read to kids to celebrate the winter holidays:
Newborn - 2
This board book, with its lovely, detailed illustrations, is a nice introduction to the traditions of Hanukkah. Lots of smiles here and a sense of fun.
Ezra Jack Keats' paper collage artwork accompanies the lyrics of the popular Christmas song The Little Drummer Boy, with its beautiful cadence and all the fun-to-sing rum-pum-pum-pums. It tells the story of Mary, baby Jesus and a boy who has no gift to offer other than what he can create on his drum, a tune which reverberates through time and creates calm. Little ones as well as older children will enjoy the rhythm of these lyrics being spoken or sung, and may even join in or memorize them.
This counting book helps toddlers and preschoolers master their numbers, but it includes gorgeous illustrations and an entrance point to learn about Tet, the Vietnamese New Year's celebration. The illustrations were embroidered onto cloth and then photographed, making them interesting to study, but the vibrant color choices steal the show.
Little Pookie, the sweet little pig star of many of Sandra Boynton's popular toddler board books, is at it again with Christmas antics this time. A pig couldn't look much cuter in a snowsuit! Toddlers will appreciate this one.
Age 3 - 5
This is a cute, cuddly one. Li'l Rabbit feels too small to help prepare for Kwanzaa, and with his grandma sick, decides to go in search of a special treat for her. He thought he failed at his task, when in fact he helped pull off the "best Karamu ever" with all the forest animals contributing to the Rabbit's holiday feast.
This book imagines what Santa would be like as a child—it's the origin story of the reindeer, the elves and even the sleigh. Pick this book to add some silly to your holidays.
A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong
This is a special book. It will pull at the heartstrings of anyone missing a loved one who is far away, or separated due to the pandemic. Readers unfamiliar learn about Chinese New Year in a subtle way, and even those accustomed to the holiday will enjoy the perfect complement of outstanding illustrations and gentle storytelling.
In this kooky tale, Bubba Brayna seems to not be able to see or hear very well in her old age and mistakes a bear for her Rabbi. She treats him to all the latkes in her house and shrugs it off with a giggle after realizing the case of mistaken identity. Combine a reading with the recipe for latkes at the end for a holiday treat.
This rhyming book describes the Latino Nochebuena celebration. A great choice for any child learning either Spanish or English, as well as bilingual children, as a heavy dose of Spanish is included here.
Age 6 - 8
This is a striking book in every way. The bold illustrations—created with intricate woodcuts—complement the story of seven African brothers who leave behind arguing to work together for the greater good. The preface explains the origins and principles of Kwanzaa. A real standout.
This moving story of a young boy who journeys from his village to New York, only to be stranded on an iceberg after his ship sinks, is action-packed and dramatic. The boy relinquishes his seat in a lifeboat to a fellow passenger, befriends a polar bear and is rescued. Description of Hanukkah traditions are woven into the story, making it educational as well.
Created with gorgeous collage by the talented Rachel Isadora, this rendition of Clement Moore's famous 1822 poem allows children with brown skin to see characters that look like them. This poem and presentation are a perfect combination of the old and new—a fantastic opportunity to make 200-year-old language accessible to our little screen sophisticates. Make a tradition of reading this book every Christmas Eve for extra fun.
Written by a famous cartoonist, this book is the story of a cat on a hunt to get his dog-bestie an amazing gift. TYhe lesson learned: love and companionship are the best gifts of all. Pick this as a conversation starter on why we give gifts, on our cultural tendency toward consumerism, or just as a sweet nudge to pull your little loved ones a little closer.
A small girl searches for a gift to bring the Baby Jesus at Christmas Eve midnight Mass, only to find nothing. She hears a voice tell her to bring the weeds outside the church inside as her gift; she does so, only for them to turn into beautiful star-shaped red flowers as she approaches the altar. This book is inspiring and full of hope.
Age 9 - 10
This book, gorgeously illustrated by James Ransome, introduces young ones to the fantastical plot of the popular holiday season ballet, The Nutcracker, complete with a mouse army battling toy soldiers. With characters named after Adelaide Hall and Cab Calloway, performers popular during the Harlem Renaissance, it also offers an opportunity to introduce children to the music of the 1920's, the setting for the story.
This book tells the true story of the author's mother as a little girl on her grandparents' farm in Michigan—and one particular holiday when scarlet fever was going farm to farm bringing serious sickness with it. Her grandparents, having come to Michigan from Ukraine and Soviet Georgia, celebrate Hanukkah. Their neighbors celebrate Christmas, but can't decorate or cook for the holidays due to illness. Her family remedies this, bringing decorated trees, gifts and food to their neighbors homes.
This book is a heartbreaking look into the lives of two older women who spent time during their childhoods in a Nazi work camp for Jews in Germany during World War II. The story centers on the beloved candle they were able to burn in their barracks during Hanukkah all those many years ago, and the hope and resilience it engendered. A touching, beautiful and unfortunately necessary book that should definitely be considered when the time is right.
Note: this book should only be shared with children developmentally ready for the content and only when the adult reader has the time and background knowledge to answer questions and talk through the delicate and complex subject matter.
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