Many things about this holiday season may be different, but good books are always worth celebrating. We’ve gathered a selection of festive new titles for readers of all ages and backgrounds.
Thomas Nelson, illus. by Beth Hughes. Thomas Nelson, $9.99 (20p) ISBN 978-1-4002-2194-3. Ages 2–6.
In this interactive board book, readers are asked to help cheer a grumpy pup named Cocoa, who is “missing his Christmas joy.” He’s a wide-eyed hound with dark brown ears, a brown mask, and an underbite, clothed for the occasion in a green sweater and reindeer antlers, and he looks none too delighted by the holiday season. Readers are invited to take various actions, including “making a silly face,” taking Cocoa for a walk, clapping loudly, and even singing “Jingle Bells.”
Tomie dePaola. Little Simon, $7.99 (14p) ISBN 978-1-5344-6405-6. Ages 1–5.
This board book from the late Caldecott Honor and Newbery Honor author-illustrator features Santa as he prepares for the big night. DePaola emphasizes the urgency of Santa’s situation from the opening lines, “Hurry, Santa!” repeated throughout. A simple, resonant tale, assuring the littlest readers that even Santa must participate in everyday routines.
Aly Fronis, illus. by Yi-Hsuan Wu. Little Bee, $8.99 (16p) ISBN 978-1-4998-1147-6. Ages 2–5.
This Christmas rendition of a classic song sets the stage in a sweetly colored winter wonderland. “If you’re jolly/ and you know it,/ clap your hands,” the text instructs, as Mr. and Mrs. Claus smile at each other, dance, and clap in a goldenrod-painted room with a Christmas tree. Wu’s cheerful illustrations—particularly a gray mouse in a pom-pom-bedecked beanie and striped scarf whom readers can follow through the pages—will keep toddlers entertained.
Is It Christmas Yet?
Frederick Glasser, illus. by Edward Miller. Abrams, $9.99 (18p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4819-6. Ages 3–5.
Readers can lift the flaps to see how everyone is preparing for the holiday, including carolers, reindeer, and Santa’s elves.
Jonny Marx, illus. by Lindsey Sagar. Silver Dolphin, $8.99 (12p) ISBN 978-1-64517-505-6. Ages 3–5.
Though the title references a Christmas carol lyric summoning peace on Earth, this board book’s narrative instead focuses on the subject of the pun: everyone’s favorite spherical green legume. Circular cutouts and highlighted numbers characterize the countdown, which follows “five little festive peas” as they prepare for Christmas. As time goes on, however, each pea becomes distracted by changing surroundings and falls away from the group.
Pocket Piggies: Christmas!
Richard Austin. Workman, $6.95 (22p) ISBN 978-1-5235-1115-0. Ages up to 3.
Photos showcase the teacup pigs of Pennywell Farm celebrating the joys of the season by playing in the snow, decorating, and getting cozy.
Lara Hawthorne. Frances Lincoln, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7112-4540-2. Ages 2–5.
Artist Hawthorne deftly weaves together traditional and contemporary strands in a nuanced interpretation of this 18th-century French carol. Spotlighting a young woman’s charming cottage and the lush surrounding countryside, the illustrations share the verse’s cumulative nature. Hawthorne caps off this buoyant romp with a gleeful panorama that showcases the entire cast and offers a search-and-find challenge.
Chris Raschka. Greenwillow, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-293776-6. Ages 4–8.
Spare text and images center the titular cerulean table, around which a family gathers to share meals and gratitude. Instead of showing human figures, Caldecott Medalist Raschka showcases tabletop objects and dishes from a bird’s-eye view. A gentle picture book that celebrates the joy to be found in both everyday routines and holiday abundance. The book received a starred review from PW.
John Churchman and Jennifer Churchman. Little Bee, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4998-1019-6. Ages 4–8.
In this photographic picture book, the authors of the Sweet Pea & Friends series reveal how they transformed a 150-year-old tree felled by lightning into a barn as a Christmas gift for the animals on their Vermont farm. The indisputable stars of the book are the handsome animals themselves, each introduced by name and all clearly beloved family members. An affectionate, informative, and thoroughly moving holiday tale. The book received a starred review from PW.
Nathalie Dargent, illus. by Magali Le Huche. Eerdmans, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5537-4. Ages 4–8.
In this droll spin on the prey-outwitting-predator premise, Fox snatches Turkey to be a Christmas feast for him and his burrowmates, Wolf and Weasel. The bossy bird immediately takes charge, insisting that they fatten her up before eating her. Le Huche’s snappy pictures capture the brood’s lopsided dynamics with panache.
Jan Brett. Putnam, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-593-10979-3. Ages 4–8.
As in Brett’s classic The Mitten, a group of animals seeks refuge from the winter cold in a cramped hideout. This time, though, the refuge is a living being—a young musk ox named Cozy whom a storm has separated from his herd. During a period in which some families are spending more time together in tight spaces, the comforting live-and-let-live message is timely.
Kimberly Schlapman, illus. by Morgan Huff. Little, Brown, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-54296-8. Ages 4–8.
Schlapman, a founding member of the band Little Big Town, writes from the heart in her debut children’s book, in which a girl modeled on her daughter Daisy shares her parents’ longing for a new baby to join their family. Frustrated when wishing and praying fail to bring her a sibling, Daisy decides “it was time to take action.” With Christmas approaching, she mails Santa a letter pinpointing the sole item on her wish list.
Leslie Kimmelman, illus. by Galia Bernstein. Holiday House, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3958-4. Ages 4–8.
After a dragon causes damage that puts a crimp in preparations for a kingdom-wide Hanukkah party, Lady Sadie charges her ethnically diverse children, the Eight Knights of Hanukkah, with engaging in “deeds of awesome kindness and stupendous bravery” to undo it. Kimmelman and Bernstein’s gentle spoof employs just enough amusing medieval jokes to make the core idea fun to grasp: it takes good deeds of all shapes and sizes to make the world go ’round.
Arthur A. Levine, illus. by Kevin Hawkes. Candlewick, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9741-9. Ages 5–8.
Hanukkah isn’t Jewish Christmas, so why do some American Jewish kids get presents for the holiday? Levine answers by creating a new mythic character, “great big spirit” Nate Gadol, whose name recalls the first half of the sentence symbolized by the letters on the dreidel: nes gadol hayah sham (“a great miracle happened there”). Drawn by Hawkes as radiantly dashing in a Revolutionary War–era waistcoat, Nate has a special talent: as an answer to prayer, “He made things last as long as they needed to.”
Ellie Hattie, illus. by Tim Warnes. Tiger Tales, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-68010-208-6. Ages 3–7.
“I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Christmas!” sums up Little Bear’s feelings about the holiday, but he loves something else even more. Every time he tries to tell Mommy and Daddy Bear what it is, however, he’s interrupted by exciting holiday preparations. Until, that is, the Bear clan shares a quieter happy moment at bedtime. Warnes’s winsome images include lots of homey detail and depict a furry family overjoyed to decorate, bake, dance, and just be together.
Heike Conradi, trans. from the German by David Henry Wilson, illus. by Maja Dusíková. NorthSouth, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7358-4386-8. Ages 4–8.
Dusíková’s gauzy holiday scenes in a snowy village square bring to mind old-fashioned Christmas cards, helping to tell the story of how a reluctant church tower bell finds its sound. The tower’s three older residents—gold, silver, and bronze bells—have started practicing for Christmas, but they can’t get the newest, smallest bell to join in. Conradi’s tale accessibly ties together secular and religious aspects of Christmas.
Glenys Nellist, illus. by Sally Garland. Beaming, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5064-4875-6. Ages 4–8.
In this latest installment of the Little Mole series, the title character discovers “the biggest, the best, the most beautiful mushroom he had ever seen,” the optimal Christmas present for Mama. But as he trudges through the snow on his way back to the burrow with the white-spotted, red-capped mushroom, he encounters Little Squirrel, Little Mouse, and Little Chipmunk, who each have a need that Little Mole can fulfill—at the expense of his gift. This compassionate Christmas fable emphasizes classic morals: that the heart behind a gift matters more than the gift itself.
Kerry Olitzky and Jesse Olitzky, illus. by Jen Kostman. Kalaniot, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-9988527-5-1. Ages 4–7.
At Hanukkah, it’s the candles’ “chance to shine,” and each, including Shabbat and Havdalah candles, is clamoring to be chosen for the first night. All, that is, except a small, shy purple candle named Little Flicker. But a few of the more self-aware big candles begin to realize that Little Flicker is a real mensch who puts others’ needs ahead of his own.
Emily Gravett. Simon & Schuster, $19.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5344-7679-0. Ages 4–8.
In Africa’s Kalahari Desert, a meerkat clan is excitedly preparing for Christmas, except for Sunny, who dons a Santa cap, packs a sack, and “sets off to find somewhere more Christmassy.” Traveling the world, magazine in hand, he deems each spot less than ideal. On Christmas Eve, while visiting a mouse clan in their cozy, grandly decorated digs, as a sumptuous feast is served and snow falls outside, Sunny decides that the scenario is almost perfect—but not quite.
Jennie Palmer. Abrams, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4499-0. Ages 4–8.
Palmer, who has designed and built floats and balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, imbues her hero, a scrappy little opossum, with similar aspirations in this festive tale. This year, Milo decides to “take matters into his own paws” and realize his dream of joining the Christmas parade. Meshing Christmas, parade, and animal themes, Palmer gives triple kid appeal to her festively hued story, which culminates in well-deserved triumph for Milo.
Susan L. Gong, illus. by Masahiro Tateishi. Shadow Mountain, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-62972-779-0. Ages 5–6.
Inspired by family stories, Gong looks at Christmas through the eyes of Ming, the oldest child of immigrants in 1930s Northern California. Unwelcome in her school’s Christmas choir, presumably because she’s Chinese, Ming requests a Christmas tree at home, only to face Mama’s disapproval because it’s “not Chinese.” But a trip with her compassionate father into the snowy mountains soon transforms Ming’s perspective. A historical holiday story that poignantly explores identity and belonging from a less-seen perspective.
Tad Hills. Random House/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-17442-5. Ages 3–7.
Hills introduces a memorable pair of characters who bring humor and thoughtfulness to their sweet celebration of Christmas. Like many great duos, Mistletoe the mouse and best friend Norwell the elephant are a study in contrasts. Mistletoe loves long walks in the snow, while cozy homebody Norwell thinks it’s “too cold for this elephant.” Convinced that Norwell should join her in appreciating the winter weather, especially now that Christmas is coming, Mistletoe jumps into action.
Tracey Turner, illus. by Jenny Løvlie. Sunbird, $10.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5037-5495-9. Ages 3–7.
In Turner’s homage to Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” a mouse is indeed stirring—Mouse Santa, who introduces readers to a mouse family via his Christmas Eve visit. After a smooth landing, not on the roof but on the snowy ground, he squeezes through a crack in the wall “and into the mousehole,/ with presents for all”—including, of course, plenty of cheese. A cozy and festive Christmas Eve read.
Clement C. Moore, illus. by Kai Würbs. Arctis, $17.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-64690-005-3. Ages 6 and up.
Veering from the convivial, scene-centered graphic interpretation often associated with this classic, Würbs offers a sparer take, narrowing each scene to softly focused images that are more suggestive than representational. Building a sense of mystery until near the end, Würbs finally includes one fetching, full-frame portrait of a warmly smiling Santa. A solid choice for those in search of a sophisticated, minimalist artistic vision of Moore’s verse.
Erica S. Perl, illus. by Shahar Kober. Sterling Children’s, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4549-4088-3. Ages 3 and up.
When a family moves into a new apartment on the first night of Hanukkah, they can’t find any of the things they typically use to celebrate—neither menorah nor lucky latke pan, neither dreidel nor gelt. Siblings Rachel and Max exercise ingenuity amid the piles of unpacked boxes. When the Hanukkah items finally arrive the day after the eight-night holiday ends, Max notes that menorahs actually have nine candles, and the family invites friends over for a big celebration on night nine. A lovely tale of holiday-making and community-building in a multicultural world.
Liza Woodruff. Holiday House/Ferguson, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4099-3. Ages 4–8.
Milo wants a story, but his busy mother sends him to play in the snow instead. Miffed, he starts following a set of tiny mouse tracks beneath the bird feeder. As he picks up clues, asks questions, and knits together his observations, he makes up a tale all on his own. Woodruff depicts a richly narrative landscape—one that should inspire readers to venture outside and notice stories of their own. The book received a starred review from PW.
M. Christina Butler, illus. by Tina Macnaughton. Tiger Tales, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-68010-212-3. Ages 3–7.
Little Hedgehog and his red woolen hat, featured in Butler’s and Macnaughton’s tales One Winter’s Day and One Snowy Night, return in this holiday-flavored friendship tale. During a tree-trimming party at his house, Little Hedgehog and his pals witness “a flurry of snow [flutter] past the window” and excitedly make plans to gather the next day—Christmas Eve—to help the baby mice build snow mice.
Mac Barnett, illus. by Shawn Harris. Candlewick, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0396-7. Ages 3–7.
Barnett and Harris open with an empty sheet of heavily textured white paper. “There is a polar bear in the snow,” the text reads, and a page turn reveals a few delicate charcoal marks: the bear’s black snout emerges. “Where is he going?” Barnett asks. Barnett’s humor, just right for littlest readers, adds warmth, while Harris concentrates on the elemental beauty of Arctic life with minimalist forms. The book received a starred review from PW.
Maya Onodera. Clavis, $17.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-60537-577-9. Ages 4–9.
Over the mountain and through the snow, to Grandpa’s house he’ll go—such is the plotted course for Robin the mouse’s solo holiday trip. Determined to spend Christmas with his grandfather, who lives on the other side of the mountain, Robin fills his backpack with clothes and a gift, grabs a sleeping bag, and sets off. With snowy woodland scenes and a chipper protagonist up for any challenge, Onodera brings readers along on a suspenseful ride to a welcoming destination filled with Christmas spirit.
Jonathan Stutzman, illus. by Heather Fox. Holt, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-250-25561-7. Ages 4–8.
In this sprightly caper, Santa is feeling no holiday spirit and his body aches (“Ho, Ho, Oww”), so he summons the “magic of Christmas” to make him young again. When he morphs from an old man into a baby, the elves frantically test his Santa skills, and he fails miserably—and comically. Fox’s bustling digital cartoons and the elves’ attempts to communicate with their blathering infant boss amplify the tale’s blithe humor.
Cathy Camper, illus. by Kenard Pak. Kokila, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-18633-2. Ages 4–8.
Luminous aquatint-like views of snow-covered neighborhood streets by Pak contribute serenity to this story about senses and perception. A blizzard has ended, and Lina heads to visit her grandmother, Sitti. As she considers Sitti’s diminishing eyesight en route, Lina realizes that snow is not just seen, but heard, and starts to list its different sounds. This story by Camper is just right for winter reading.
Craig Manning, illus. by Sumi Collina. Sourcebooks Wonderland, $10.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-72820-625-7. Ages 4–7.
Manning flavors Clement C. Moore’s Christmas chestnut with barnyard imagery, recasting the poem from a curious lamb’s point of view. Collina’s digital artwork has a snow-filled, fantasy-flavored sheen that helps give this new variation a bit of the original’s timeless feel.
Timothy Knapman, illus. by Ada Grey. Aladdin, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5344-8019-3. Ages 4–8.
Breaking with tradition, Knapman turns the favorite cumulative Christmas carol into a countdown to Christmas Day. The book’s title teases the boisterous group of four-legged revelers who appear, ready to celebrate Christmas morning. Unicorn fans will delight in the narrator’s wardrobe—pajamas, headbands, and even a dress adorned with the mythical horned creatures—as well as the plethora of rainbow and glitter details throughout.
Frances Watts, illus. by Ann James. Doubleday, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-17377-0. Ages 3–7.
Australian collaborators Watts and James underscore the rewards of ingenuity and sharing in this friendly tale about Samantha, a plucky duck who is determined to celebrate Christmas. Set against pastel backdrops, James’s pictures humorously—and affectingly—convey Samantha’s spontaneity, optimism, and irrepressible holiday spirit.
Ben Clanton. Tundra, $12.99 (76p) ISBN 978-0-7352-6251-5. Ages 6–9.
His tusk-tooth and scarf both sporting red and white stripes, holiday-loving Narwhal is “feeling festive” in the fifth installment of the graphic novel series starring two earnest aquatic pals. Despite Narwhal’s holiday enthusiasm, jellyfish Jelly has no interest in “the freezing season” and longs for warmer waters.
E.T.A. Hoffmann, illus. by Natalie Andrewson. First Second, $18.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-5964-3681-7. Ages 6–10.
Andrewson renders an immersive re-imagining of the classic Christmas tale in 14 chapters. In whimsical full-color art, Andrewson fills each page with measured revelations that mimic the ballet’s drama—the Christmas tree’s appearance, the clock striking midnight, the arrival of the mice and the many-headed Mouse King—while centering the heroine’s bravery and grit. A captivating, otherworldly adaptation for old fans and new.