The Best Holiday Books for Kids to Celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah

The winter holiday season is upon us and, as always, we turn to books for sustenance and celebration. You might be looking for stories that capture the spirit and meaning of the season, or maybe you are looking for books to help you explain the traditions and accoutrements of your faith or that of your neighbors or classmates.

Here are some holiday books for kids that can help you do just that as you and your students learn about and celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Children's Books

Happy Hanukkah, Curious George by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey

On the eighth night of Hanukkah, George and the Man in the Yellow Hat attend a Hanukkah party. They light the menorah, spin the dreidel, make latkes, and learn the importance of mitzvah. The tabbed board book makes sections easy to spot. Included is a latke recipe and instructions for making a dreidel, along with the rules for playing the dreidel game. (Ages 3–6)

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland

A young girl in a shtetl of folk tale picturesqueness does a kind deed for an old woman, who gives her a magic pan that will fry up latkes at will. Her brothers overhear the secret words that start the cooking but not the ones that will stop it. It’s a funny and rollicking Hanukkah children's book, good for reading aloud, and it will make you hungry for latkes. (Ages 5–7)

One Yellow Daffodil: A Hanukkah Story by David A. Adler, illustrated by Lloyd Bloom 

Morris is a Holocaust survivor who owns a flower store. On the first night of Hanukkah, a brother and a sister invite him to their home to celebrate and make him feel like he is part of their family. Later, he brings over his menorah—his only possession from before the war—and tells them his story. The book is out of print but is worth tracking down in a library. The illustrations are beautiful, and their use of light and dark capture not just the season and the holiday candles but also the essence of human experience. (Ages 8–10)

Menorahs, Mezuzas, and Other Jewish Symbols by Miriam Chaikin, illustrated by Erika Weihs 

Many traditional religious symbols—not all of them tied to Hanukkah—are described here in thoughtful and interesting text. The history and meaning of many objects, symbols, and ideas—not all of them familiar to the nonobservant—are included. The illustrations are elegant and useful. (Ages 9–12)

Children's Christmas Books

The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Two thousand years ago in a desert on the Arabian Peninsula, a boy learns from his father how to gather the valuable sap called myrrh that seeps like tears from certain trees. They then go to the spice market to sell the myrrh for use as medicine, flavoring, or incense. Three men in splendid robes eagerly buy their best selection and add it to their already purchased gold and frankincense. The boy and his father are astonished to hear they plan to give it to a baby, and the final scene is the boy looking in wonder as the three men ride their camels through the desert to Bethlehem. In this Christmas book for kids, Park includes details on myrrh and on her inspiration for writing the book. The illustrations are marvelous, providing both the scientific detail and the spiritual wonder of the story. (Ages 6–9)

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say

A Japanese boy feels sick, and his mother puts him to bed. Meanwhile, the boy notices his mom making many paper cranes and digging up a small tree from their garden. She tells him she was born in California and that today is a special day there, called Christmas. It’s a day when people decorate trees and give presents. Together they place the cranes on the tree and then light candles. The next day, he wakes up to find a samurai kite by the tree. It’s a quiet but lovely story of sharing memories and traditions in new ways. (Ages 4–7)

The Christmas Gift/El Regalo de Navidad by Francisco Jiménez, illustrated by Clare B. Cotts

Francisco Jiménez shares his own poignant Christmas memory in this book with bilingual text. A young boy from a family of migrant farmworkers knows his family has very little money, but he still wants to have a ball of his very own. When he and his siblings receive only a bag of candy on Christmas morning, they are disappointed. Seeing tears in his mother’s eyes, he hands her and his father each a piece of candy to say thank you. It’s a tender story of love, hardship, and grace. (Ages 4–7)

Books About Christmas Traditions

A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa's Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman, illustrated by Susan Gal

This book takes readers across the globe to see all the treats that families put out for Santa on Christmas Eve. The Christmas-cookie traditions of 32 places are each described, including the type of cookie, the local name for Santa, and fun, related Christmas customs. The front endpapers show a map with all the locations marked as a continuous journey for Santa, and the back endpapers repeat the map but with the addition of illustrations of the cookies. Recipes for nine of the cookies are included! (Ages 4–7)

A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora, illustrated by Magaly Morales

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is given a Latino spin in this colorful and festive book with piñatas in place of partridges, plus burritos bailando (dancing donkeys), lunitas cantando (singing moons), and much more. Spanish words and pronunciations are included for everything given in the song, and a glossary is included as well. (Ages 4–7)

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

The letters, drawings, and even stamps that Tolkien created for his children between 1920 and 1942 are reproduced in this book. Written by hand, they tell tales of a chaotic life at the North Pole—with the reindeer, an accident-prone polar bear, and wars with a horde of goblins living in caves beneath the garden. Tolkien put as much effort into creating the world of the North Pole for his children as he did with Middle Earth and the Hobbits. (All ages)

Curious George Christmas Carols with musical artwork by H.A. Rey

This is eBook of classic Christmas carols combines 30 minutes of original recordings (click on the page to play) with H.A. Rey’s original and charming illustrations. What makes this book noteworthy is that Rey used different images from the songs to stand in for all the notes in the musical notation, making this book fun for any child who knows—or wants to know—how to read music. For example, there are camels for “We Three Kings” and the bells above for “O Come All Ye Faithful.” (Ages 4–7)

The winter holidays are all about celebrating together with your family and friends. We hope that reading one or two of these books will enhance your joy of the season. Happy holidays from HMH!

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Find more lesson plans and classroom resources oShaped. You can also find winter holiday activities for the classroom here.

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