Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without gift books, and a variety of impressive-looking new treatments of family classics aims to fill that niche. Michael Hague's many fans will embrace his copiously illustrated version of The Nutcracker, based both on the E.T.A. Hoffman story and on the famous ballet. (Chronicle/SeaStar, $16.95 48p ages 5-8 ISBN 1-58717-254-2; Dec.)

Hague's admirers and Oz aficionados may also be interested in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum. First published in 1902, the book follows Santa Claus from the time he's a baby through his years of toy-making and on to his role as deliverer of Christmas gifts; Hague contributes red-ink drawings as well as watercolors. (Holt, $24.95 192p ages 6-up ISBN 0-8050-3822-1; Oct.)

Another gifty edition of the E.T.A Hoffman story, The Nutcracker: The Heirloom Edition, illus. by Don Daily, features an oversize trim, unjacketed red cloth cover with gold foil accents and a ribbon page marker trimmed with a gold-tone nutcracker. (Running Press, $16.95 56p all ages ISBN 0-7624-1668-8; Sept.)

Images from New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art share space with holiday poems in 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and Other Seasonal Favorites, ed. by Edward Lach. Illustrations range from 15th-century German stained glass to Arthur Rackham works, while the verse takes in not just Clement C. Moore but Ogden Nash, Joseph Brodsky, classic carols and more. (Abrams/MMA, $16.95 48p all ages ISBN 0-8109-4592-4; Dec.)

Anita Lobel's 1984 rendering of Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas is reissued in a small, hand-size hardcover edition. The New York City setting—inspired by Lobel's former home in Brooklyn—supplies a unique urban appeal. (Knopf, $8.95 32p all ages ISBN 0-375-92414-0; Oct.)

A 1937 edition of The Night Before Christmas with illustrations by Reginald Birch is now available in a miniature, stocking-stuffer edition. Booksellers take note: the publisher has sold more than 1,000 of its 10-copy miniature red-sleigh countertop displays. (Harcourt, $7.95 56p all ages ISBN 0-15-204803-0; $79.50 10-copy display -204953-3; Oct.)

That perennial favorite, A Christmas Carol, forms the centerpiece of Dickens' Christmas: A Victorian Celebration by Simon Callow, whose one-man Dickens show appeared in the West End and on Broadway. Along with the unabridged work, the volume includes an overview of how Christmas was celebrated before and during Dickens's time, biographical information about the author and art by contemporaneous illustrators. (Abrams, $24.95 160p all ages ISBN 0-8109-4534-7; Nov.)

Reproductions of early-20th-century ephemera and children's book art grace 'Tis the Season: A Classic Illustrated Christmas Treasury, compiled by Cooper Edens. Included are lyrics to "Silent Night" and "Winter Wonderland," verse by Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll, a retelling of "The Elves and the Shoemaker" and other nostalgic treats. (Chronicle, $19.95 80p all ages ISBN 0-8118-3768-8; Nov.)

In Vernon Grant's Santa Claus, ed. by Mary Lynn Norton, sentimental text (e.g., an excerpt from "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus"; "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus") accompany 45 seasonal images by the artist whose best-known work might be his Rice Krispies cereal-box pictures of Snap, Crackle and Pop. (Abrams, $14.95 64p all ages ISBN 0-8109-4518-5; Dec.)

Board books let youngest readers share in the holiday spirit. In a starred review of the picture book published in 200o, PW called A Child Is Born by Margaret Wise Brown, illus. by Floyd Cooper, (available in board book here for the first time) "a posthumous holiday gift" from the author of Goodnight Moon. Floyd's "artistic interpretation—a multiethnic cast, including a black Holy Family—is one of a harmonious world community, sure to be appreciated by all." (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $6.99 22p 6 mos.-4 yrs. ISBN 0-7868-1840-9; Sept.)

Also new to board book, the 1998 The Story of Christmas by Vivian French, illus. by Jane Chapman, provides a peppy prose version of the Nativity, with bright, child-friendly art. (Candlewick, $5.99 22p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-7636-2202-8; Oct.)

Board-book originals include an adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker, illus. by Thea Kliros, which pares the holiday classic to a length suitable for toddlers. (HarperFestival, $5.99 22p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-06-052745-5; Oct.)

Photos of babies dressed in red and green fill the board book pages of Jingle Bells by Michael Scott. (Hyperion, $5.99 12p ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 0-7868-1920-0; Sept.)

The bilingual word book My First Spanish Christmas Board Book/Mi primer libro de la Navidad features photos of holiday decorations ("los adornos"), children staging a Nativity pageant, more. (DK, $6.99 36p ages 5-8 ISBN 0-7894-9520-1; July)

The board book Baby Einstein: Baby Santa's Very Merry Christmas by Julie Aigner-Clark, illus. by Nadeem Zaidi, pairs seasonal poems and photos. (Hyperion, $6.99 10p ages 18 mos.-up ISBN 0-7868-1845-X; Sept.)

Two zippy-looking shaped board books, Angel and Santa by Saviour Pirotta, illus. by Bettina Paterson, use gold and silver foil accents to highlight cut-paper illustrations. (S&S/Little Simon, $4.99 each 12p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-689-85214-2, -85213-4; Oct.)

Glittery accents on the covers draw attention to a quartet of holiday-themed board books: Santa Claus and Christmas Angel, both by Laura Dollin, illus. by Rosalind Beardshaw, and Friendly Snowman and Santa's Reindeer, both by Catherine Schoolbred, illus. by Liz Pichon. (Candlewick, $5.99 each 12p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-7636-2144-7; -2142-0; -2145-5; -2143-9; Oct.)

On a more religious note, the board book original Tell Me the Christmas Story by Joni Walker juxtaposes jovial pictures of its contemporary young narrator with equally happy scenes of the Nativity. (Concordia, $4.99 14p ages 2-up ISBN 0-7586-0508-0; July)

Soothing rhyming text delivers the news of Jesus' birth in the board book Mary's Happy Christmas Day by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illus. by Susan Banta. "Quiet, quiet,/ cows and sheep!/ Baby, baby,/ go to sleep!" (Zonderkidz, $8.99 28p 6 mos.-4 yrs. ISBN 0-310-70482-0; Oct.)

The board book Sleepy Jesus by Pennie Kidd, illus. by Susie Poole, describes God's preparations for the Nativity: "God put the twinkle in the stars, pushed up the moon, and sprinkled frost everywhere." (Augsburg, $7.99 28p ages 3-8 ISBN 0-8066-4499-0; Sept.)

Little Lamb's Christmas by Josephine Page, illus. by David Milgrim, an oversize board book, describes a little lamb's journey to Bethlehem; Milgrim's cartoon-style illustrations depict the shepherds as friendly-looking children. (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $7.99 14p age 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 0-439-52464-4; Oct.)

Sparkly gold foil shines out through a die-cut star that grows with each spread in the board book Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas Star by Christine Harder Tangvald, illus. by Valerie Imhof. (Zonderkidz, $7.99 12p ages 6 mos.- 4 yrs. ISBN 0-310-70570-3; Oct.)

Sparkles and die-cuts are the novelty features in the board book My Merry Christmas: And the Real Reason for Christmas Joy by Sally Lloyd-Evans, illus. by Linda Clearwater. Rhyming text describes the religious meaning of holiday rituals: "The lights that glitter on the tree/ Tell us Jesus came to be... / A light for us, and so we say,/ ... / 'Light our path, dear Lord, we pray.' " (Standard, $9.99 14p ages 3-up ISBN 0-7847-1449-5; Aug.)

The small-format paper-over-board Is It Christmas Yet, God? by Elspeth Campbell Murphy, illus. by Jim Lewis, pairs poems in a child's voice with passages from the Scriptures; quotations are chiefly from the International Children's Bible, New Century Version. (Bethany, $7.99 32p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-7642-2750-5; Oct.)

A gold-foil star adorns the cover (and final spread) of Mary Murphy's unjacketed picture book Little Owl and the Star: A Christmas Story. An adorably drawn owlet follows a star to witness the Nativity: "What a happy, happy baby!" he says. (Candlewick; $12.99 32p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-7636-2268-0; Oct.)

A Christmas Stocking Story by Hilary Knight, originally published in 1963 as part of the Christmas Nutshell Library, is now available as a full-scale picture book. Enlarged art and the same succinct rhyming text relay the humorous story about a stocking mix-up that wreaks havoc on an animal community. (HarperCollins, $14.99 48p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-06-000985-3; Oct.)

Also reissued, Susan Jeffers's 1984 Silent Night pairs the words of the classic carol with paintings of the Nativity. Her transcendent, large-scale compositions do indeed suggest a night when all is calm, all is bright. (Dutton, $16.99 32p ages 4-up ISBN 0-525-47136-7; Sept.)

The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer, illus. by Lisa McCue, is also newly available. The 1958 text, about a puppy who asks his mother for a boy for Christmas, was illustrated by McCue in 1985. (HarperCollins, $14.99 32p ages 3-8 ISBN 0-06-052696-3; Oct.)

Leonard Weisgard's pictures of a bipedal animal cast continue to light up The Golden Christmas Tree by Jan Wahl, a 1988 picture book reissued as a Big Little Golden Book. (Random/Golden, $8.99 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-375-82747-1; Sept.)

Some favorite children's book characters put in new holiday appearances, including Lucy Cousins's mouse, Maisy. Glittery "snowflakes" on the jacket of Maisy's Snowy Christmas Eve embellish an already colorful story about a celebration disrupted by a snowstorm. (Candlewick, $12.99 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-7636-2196-X; Oct.)

Maisy also appears in the diminutive (4½" square) lift-the-flap paper-over-board book Merry Christmas, Maisy. Shiny foil and mini-flaps stud every spread, topped off by a closing gatefold. (Candlewick, $4.99 16p ages 3-up ISBN 0-7636-2241-9; Oct.)

Mayor Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber preside over the oversize VeggieTales board book Yuletide: Ice Cube Fair by Karen Poth, illus. by Ron Eddy and Robert Vann. The results of an ice-carving contest remind readers that Christmas means more than "the big, the bright, the new." (Zonderkidz/Big Idea, $6.99 20p ages 6 mos.-6 yrs. ISBN 0-310-70630-0; Oct.)

Rosemary Wells's irrepressible bunny welcomes Christmas in the shaped board book Max's Christmas Stocking. When Santa leaves his glasses in his sleigh, guess whose presents wind up in his big sister Ruby's stocking? (Viking, $5.99 16p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-670-03667-6; Sept.)

The bunny family previously convened for Little Bunny's Easter Surprise gathers once more for Little Bunny's Christmas Tree by Jeanne Modesitt, illus. by Robin Spowart. Here they choose a just-right tree for the holiday. (S&S, $12.95 32p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-689-84342-9; Oct.)

Based on the characters created by Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff, the paper-over-board title Babar and the Christmas House features newcomers to the town of Celesteville who decorate their house for Christmas in attention-grabbing ways. (Abrams, $9.95 32p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-8109-4583-5; Aug.)

As John Prater's series heroes Baby Bear and Grandbear prepare for the holiday in Is It Christmas?, Baby Bear wonders who their "special visitors" will turn out to be. (Barron's, $13.95 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-7641-5668-3; Aug.)

The famous white feline greets sled, sugarplum and more in Hello Kitty, Hello Christmas!, illus. by Higashi Glaser. Eight ready-to-hang punch-out ornaments are included: "hello trimmings!" (Abrams, $12.95 24p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-8109-3543-0; Dec.)

The Holly Pond Hill Christmas Treasury by Paul Kortepeter, illus. by Susan Wheeler, features the Boxwood bunnies celebrating the Christmas season with stories, poems, recipes and songs. (Dutton, $14.99 48p ages 5-up ISBN 0-525-46156-6; Sept.)

David McPhail's cub protagonist returns in Henry Bear's Christmas. As Henry and his friend Stanley search for the perfect tree, they stumble upon the meaning of Christmas. (S&S/Atheneum, $16.95 40p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-689-82198-0; Oct.)

In Little Whistle's Christmas by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Tim Bowers, the eponymous guinea pig helps his toy friends in Toytown when they wonder if Santa made them. (Harcourt, $16 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-15-204590-2; Oct.)

Elliot the moose, met in his eighth adventure, can hardly wait to open a big box that has been left for him just before Christmas. But in Elliot's Christmas Surprise by Andrea Beck, he learns that it is better to give than to receive. (Kids Can, $12.95 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 1-55337-474-6; paper, $5.95 -661-7; Oct.)

Adapted from a chapter book series, the picture book Santa Paws by Ellen Emerson White, illus. by Robert J. Blake, relates the miraculous feats of heroism and derring-do performed by a nameless, homeless dog. (Scholastic, $16.95 40p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-439-32438-6; Oct.)

The beloved schoolteacher heroine of Catherine Marshall's novel Christy comes to a picture book audience with Christy: Christmastime at Cutter Gap by Marshall's daughter-in-law Nancy LeSourd, illus. by Bill Farnsworth. Here Christy helps an injured student and reminds everyone that the greatest gift of all is Jesus. (Zonderkidz, $15.99 ages 4-8 ISBN 0-310-70571-1: Oct.)

Fans of TV character Lizzie McGuire will clamor for A Very Lizzie Christmas, a paperback original that centers on Lizzie's rock 'n' roll float for the Christmas parade, and then on her efforts to land a part in a holiday music video. (Disney/Volo, $4.99 paper 128p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-7868-4617-8: Sept.)

A companion book to A Pioneer Thanksgiving, A Pioneer Christmas: Celebrating in the Backwoods in 1841 by Barbara Greenwood, illus. by Heather Collins, combines a narrative about a fictional Canadian pioneer family with facts and history, along with activities for readers. (Kids Can, $14.95 48p ages 8-12 ISBN 1-55074-953-6, paper $7.95 -955-2; Oct.)

Continuing James Rice's Night Before Christmas series, Country Music Night Before Christmas by Thomas N. Turner, illus. by Rice, features Santa as a Nashville music star. (Pelican, $14.95 32p ages 5-8 ISBN 1-58980-148-2; Sept.)

From the Sing-It series, the paper-over-board titles Go Tell It on the Mountain by Debbie Trafton O'Neal, illus. by Fiona King, and O Christmas Tree by O'Neal, illus. by Ande Cook, set the words of the traditional songs to pictures; endnotes include instructions for family activities and craft projects. (Augsburg, $8.99 each 32p ages 3-8 ISBN 0-8066-4559-8; -4560-1; Aug.)

Another classic song occasions The 12 Days of Christmas by Helen Haidle, illus. by Laura Knorr. Haidle associates the lyrics with religious themes (for example, she asks readers to let the five golden rings remind them of the first five books of the Bible), and pairs each with a quote from the Bible. Gold accents in Knorr's art create a gifty feel. (Zonderkidz, $14.99 40p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-310-70038-8; Sept.)

Unexpected textures, unusual formats and other flourishes jazz up new novelty titles. Embroidered fleece covers surround two Cuddle Me board books, Snowtime Fun and Reindeer Games, illus. by Melanie Mitchell. Fun features a snowman appliqué on its green cover; a reindeer adorns the red cover of Games.(S&S/Little Simon, $6.99 each 12p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-689-85391-2; -85390-4; Oct.)

"Hang me in your stocking!" announces the stocking-shaped board book Santa's Stocking by Nancy Rindone, illus. by Mircea Catusanu; layered die-cut shapes affixed to the cover make that feat possible. (Readers Digest, $5.99 10p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-7944-0261-5; Oct.)

Flaps, touch-and-feels, pull-tabs, pop-ups and more entice readers in My First Jumbo Book of Christmas: Learning Fun for Little Ones! by James Diaz, Melanie Gerth and Francesca Diaz. The oversize volume functions as a word book, its busy scenes festooned with labels. (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $9.95 10p ages 3-up ISBN 0-439-52111-4; Oct.)

Die-cut pages hide surprises in the paper-over-board Ho! Ho! Ho! by Lark Carrier, in which a puppy spends Christmas Eve snooping around for his present. (Scholastic/ Cartwheel, $5.95 28p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-439-38224-6; Oct.)

Gatefold flaps conceal four calling birds (on the phone) in The 12 Days of Christmas: A Carol-and-Count Flap Book by Tad Hills. (S&S/Little Simon, $9.99 28p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-689-84976-1; Oct.)

Oversize pop-ups lurk behind gatefold flaps on the large pages of Santa's Surprise: A Pop-up Storybook by Keith Faulkner, illus. by Jonathan Lambert. (Dial, $12.99 16p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-8037-2903-0; Sept.)

Six sturdy puzzle pieces add an interactive element to the oversize board book The First Christmas: A Nativity Playbook by Allia Zobel-Nolan, illus. by Luana Rinaldo. (Readers Digest, $9.99 10p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-7944-0222-4; Oct.)

The touch-and-feel board book A Very Mice Christmas by Wendy Wax incorporates fabrics and scratch-and-sniff features within zippy photo-collage illustrations. (HarperFestival, $6.99 12p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-06-052321-2; Oct.)

Pull-tabs turn black-and-white drawings into color in the Magic Color book series addition A Colorful Christmas by Kim Ostrow, illus. by Dana Regan. (Sterling, $5.95 12p ages 3-up ISBN 1-4027-0991-9; Nov.)

Black-and-white transforms to color once again in the Magic Window title The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illus. by Anne Yvonne Gilbert. (Running Press, $12.95 10p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-7624-1573-8; Sept.)

The Moore classic also inspires the text for the touch-and-feel oversize board book Santa Teddy by David Ellwand, illustrated with photos of an indisputably cute stuffed-animal cast. (Handprint [Chronicle, dist.], $12.95 12p ages 6 mos.-5 yrs. ISBN 1-59354-004-3; Dec.)

A matching game is the focus of My Christmas Shape Sorter Book, illus. by Christine Mau. A slide-out box of die-cut cardboard "toys" can be placed into the shaped holes in the attached book. (Innovative Kids, $14.99 10p ages 18 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 1-58476-208-X; Oct.)

The stand-up easel packaged inside Disney Trim-a-Tree with 24 Book Ornaments holds 24 miniature board books, each with a picture of a Disney character on its cover, and each with gold-cord loops that allow double-duty as tree decorations. (Disney, $14.99 all ages ISBN 0-7868-3458-7; Sept.)

Crafts-loving readers have a selection of new titles, including some that feature favorite characters. Angelina Ballerina's Christmas Crafts, illus. by Helen Craig, shows admirers of the mouse ballerina how to make a 25-day Christmas-countdown paper chain, then offers a project for each of the days. Gift tags and stickers are included. (Pleasant, $9.95 paper 56p ages 3-7 ISBN 1-58485-752-8; Sept.)

For fans of the American Girls Collection, the spiral-bound Samantha's Christmas Crafts includes instructions for 35 projects along with sequins, beads, jingle bells and glitter. (Pleasant/American Girls Collection, $15.95 56p ages 7-up ISBN 1-58485-723-4; Sept.)

Christmas Crafts from Around the World by Judy Ann Sadler, illus. by June Bradford, offers projects based on craft traditions from 14 countries, from a Dutch Sinterklaas sack to a Mexican party piñata. (Kids Can, $12.95 40p ages 7-11 ISBN 1-55337-427-4; paper $6.95 -428-2; Oct.)

A companion to Homemade Halloween, the stylish, small-format Homemade Christmas: Creative Crafts for Santa's Elves comes with sparkly and decorative paper, stickers and stencils. Instructions are addressed to adults, not to kids directly. (Chronicle, $9.95 paper 32p ages 5-up ISBN 0-8118-4015-8; Nov.)

Christmas Cookies! by Susan Devins, illus. by Barbara Lehman, packages three plastic cookie cutters inside a spiral-bound cookbook; the sticky-finger-friendly glossy pages detail 17 cookie recipes. (Candlewick, $12.99 40p ages 5-12 ISBN 0-7636-1632-X; Oct.)

Tony Medina asks readers to think of those whose Christmases may not be so bright in Follow-up Letters to Santa from Kids Who Never Got a Response, illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Poems written in the voices of (mostly) inner-city kids petition Santa with requests for everything from help with crack-addicted mothers to shelter for the homeless people around them. (Just Us, $6.95 paper 48p ages 9-up ISBN 0-940975-75-0; Dec.)