Holiday Books That Aren't 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'

Everyone knows 'Twas the Night Before Christmas - It’s a classic poem (that’s actually called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”). But that’s not the only great holiday book out there. Yahoo Parenting consulted experts from the New York Public Library for their favorite options for every age group: 



Bear Noel by Oliver Dunrea

This softly atmospheric read with alliterative text and repeating themes is perfect for some of the youngest listeners. Dunrea’s wonderfully snow-filled illustrations depict the scene of animals waiting for Bear Noel to arrive, and the rising excitement as the story builds to his arrival.

- Stephanie Whelan, Seward Park Library 



Rabbit’s Gift: a fable from China by George Shannon; illus. by Laura Dronzek 

When I think of the December holidays, I think of family and friends.  So does Rabbit in this story of sharing and giving — a perfect fit for the holiday season. The colorful illustrations showcase how hard each animal works to share their gift with their neighbor and complements the simple text.  

- Sue Yee, 42nd Street Children’s Center


The Flying Canoe by Eric Kimmel

This is a French Canadian folktale about a mysterious stranger who appears before a group of fur trappers (voyageurs) stuck in the wilderness on Christmas Eve. The group is surprised when the stranger gives them a gift of a trip home to Montreal to see their families. There is, of course, a catch. The men cannot speak until they cross their own thresholds.

- Louise Lareau, 42nd Street Children’s Center


Good King Wenceslas by J. M. Neale, illustrated by Tim Ladwig

Remember this particular carol?  Tim Ladwig gives the entire song a lush treatment, with story images that match and complement the famous melody.  A beautiful picture book that can be spoken aloud, or sung.

- Stephanie Whelan, Seward Park Library



Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

While not actually focused on the holidays, this chapter book summons feelings of winter, family, local tradition and community in a way that exemplifies what many hope for from the holiday season better than some of the tree-and-snowman fare. This is a warm, gently-fun book that pays attention to details, in lyrical writing that is spot-on word-craft.  

- Jill Rothstein, Andrew Heiskell Library


Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko

Grandma’s latke recipe is Santa’s favorite treat and candy canes are
hung from the menorah branches in this family. The blending of
cultures makes a unique look at the holidays and what makes them
special – family traditions and spending time with our loved ones.

- Rebecca Gueorguiey, Great Kills


The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, illus. by Matt Tavares

On Christmas Eve, Jim and his mother make a gingerbread pirate crew
as an offering to Santa. But Captain Cookie, the crew’s fearless
leader, has never heard of this Santa bloke, or Christmas for that
matter.  A sweetly swashbuckling tale of the magic this season brings.
- Stephanie Whelan, Seward Park Library



The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco

Well-known veteran author Patricia Polacco transforms one of her holiday memories into this tale of neighbors, friendship, and two holidays coming together.  Trisha’s getting ready for Hanukkah, but when she finds her Christian friends are struck with scarlet fever, unable to prepare and decorate for Christmas, she decides to help. Kindness, generosity and people coming together in this season of light — what could be more appropriate? 


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

The unforgettable story of the year that the Herdmans — a family of kids who lie, cheat, steal and generally misbehave   join the community Christmas Pageant.  Transformations and humor abound in this chapter book that reminds kids and adults alike that there can be more to people than what you see, and sometimes all we need is a chance to shine. 

- Stephanie Whelan, Seward Park Library

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