Christmas for Little Ones
We’ve chosen twelve books that use text and image to capture the imagination of the very young and those who read to them! Some of these books use Scripture, some tell the story from the point of view of animals at the manger, some combine science and imagination to fill in what the Gospels don’t say.
Our advice, start with simple books that clearly tell the Christmas narrative, based on the Bible. Once children know the story, you can move on to more imaginative tellings. So grab a book and a kid and enjoy some quiet time during this season!
Text from the King James Version, illustrated by Julie Vivas
This book offers the traditional story with quirky, human characters. Gabriel shares the news with Mary over coffee, Joseph and the angel wear work boots, and there is such love and affection in each face that children cannot help but engage in the story.
A Child is Born
Text by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
This favorite has been published as a board book, with simple sentences and beautiful illustrations that portray Mary, Joseph and the baby as African and the magi and shepherds in a range of ethnicities.
Little One, We Knew You’d Come
Text by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jackie Morris
A lovely rhyming story of a family awaiting the birth of their baby. The story reflects the anticipation of the Holy birth, while connecting to every family awaiting the arrival of a baby.
B is For Bethlehem: A Christmas Alphabet Board Book
Text by Isabel Wilner, illustrated by Elisa Kleven
The rhyming alphabet couplets that help us travel with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem are combined with intricate illustrations to occupy even the busiest of eyes.
Christmas in the Manger
Text by Nola Buck, illustrated by With text from the carol The Friendly Beasts, Nola Buck’s board book is perfect for the very young. Simple line and color-fill drawings accompany each animal as they tell their role in the birth of the baby Jesus.
What Star is This?
Text by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Alison Jay
This is the story of the comet which gave light to the magi. From the emptiness of space to the streets of Bethlehem, Alison Jay’s stunning illustrations take the reader on a meditative journey from the heavens to the incarnation.
Who is Coming to our House?
Text by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
Each animal has their own task to do to make room in their stable “house” for some very special visitors. The board book pages are filled with linoleum block and wash illustrations which add vibrancy to the simple rhyming text.
Little Owl and the Star: A Christmas Story
Text and illustrations by Mary Murphy
This book brings another animal into the nativity setting, the owl. Little Owl is called out of his waiting tree by a star, which creates a sense of Advent anticipation in this book:
“It was a silent night.
I sat in my tree,
with a waiting feeling.”
Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Helen Cann
A collection of 15 poems, including those by XJ Kennedy, Jane Yolen, and Alma Flor Ada, tell the miraculous story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of the animals who witnessed it.
What a Morning! The Christmas Story Told in Black Spirituals
Illustrated by Ashley Bryan
This collection uses traditional African American spirituals to tell the story of Jesus’ birth, and includes arrangements for singing, piano, and guitar chords. Bold paintings bring immediacy to the songs.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
Text and illustrations by Robert Barry
This 1960s classic follows the top of the too-tall tree of Mr. Willowby, from grand parlor to upstairs maid, out into the forest, and back again. Each glad new recipient finds the tree too-tall and tosses the top. The rhymes and delightful illustrations are a joy for children and adults alike.
*This book has been reprinted. Be sure to check which printing you are purchasing, as some are not as colorful as others.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats
Text and illustrations by Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco is well known for combining Eastern European traditions and contemporary American lives. This story weaves together a Jewish family celebrating Hanukah and their Christian neighbors unable to prepare for Christmas. This book is longer than the others listed here, but the intricate drawings are sure to captivate everyone’s attention. (Ages 5-8)
Featured image from the cover of Christmas in the Manger (HarperFestival 2018). All rights reserved. Please do not reuse this image for any purpose apart from the book.