Book A Day Advent Calendar/Best Christmas Books for Kids

We’ve been wrapping up Christmas books for the kids and reading one a night all during December for years and years now. It certainly isn’t an idea I originated, and I’m sure most everyone already knows about it, but I posted a photo of our stacks of Christmas books waiting to be wrapped up on Instagram last week and someone asked me to list out some of the books we use. So I decided to do a quick post about it here instead, because I don’t like typing that much on my phone.

Plus I’ve posted some type of Advent calendar idea every year that I’ve been blogging, and….this is it for this year. We usually do this plus something else, but this year the kids are performing in a play every weekend, so things seem too crazy for an activity based calendar (other than the activity of reading a story), and I really can’t get excited about going to a lot of effort to make a calendar full of candy (although I might pick up cheap ones for them at Trader Joe’s or wherever). So you get a post about the book calendar for the first time instead.

If you want to read about Advents past, you can check out my posts about Advent dinosaurs, our cone tree calendar, Christmas crackers, and Advent activity ideas for older kids.

The idea is incredibly simple: you get a bunch of Christmas books together, wrap them up, then open one every day and read it. Or, if you’re like me this year and you’ve accumulated way too many books, you wrap up TWO for every night–one for Abe and one that maybe Abe will listen to or maybe only the older kids will stick around for. I write numbers on all the books, but you might not be as obsessive as I am and like to be surprised every night along with your kids.

Can we stop for a moment to talk about how Target must have sent a spy to my house to find out exactly what kind of wrapping paper I might want before coming up with this year’s designs?

Book a Day Christmas countdown/Advent Calendar

Travel trailers AND bears?! Target–get out of my head! Or stay there and make more things I won’t be able to not buy.

There’s something enormously appealing about a giant stacked of books wrapped up like presents, don’t you think? I’ve done bags before in years past, because they are more recyclable (i.e. you can take a book out of a bag in early December and the same bag can get used again that very year), but it takes up a TON of room under the tree. And it doesn’t look as enormously appealing.

Most of our books have come from the thrift store. I keep an eye out year round, and occasionally I get lucky and come across someone’s discarded stash of Christmas books all on the same shelf and find half a dozen good ones in one fell swoop. We’ve bought some new, too, and I have a few that I either still have from my own childhood or I remember from my childhood and have re-bought on Amazon or ebay. This list is not at all comprehensive; at this point we actually have way more books than we can use in a single year, so we rotate through them….but this is a list of some of our favorites that we make sure to read year after year. Some of them are classics that everyone knows about, and some of them are a little more obscure. Amazon affiliate links ahead (if you buy from my link, you don’t pay anything extra, but I get a few cents. In some cases, you can get these books used for almost nothing, so then I guess I get a small fraction of one cent. Thanks for your support!)


xmas books
Books for toddlers/preschoolers:
*The Christmas ABC by Florence Johnson/Eloise Wilkin: there’s nothing especially remarkable about this ABC book, except that I love Eloise Wilkin illustrations
*Countdown to Christmas: this is actually not my favorite book to read–it’s one of those maddeningly repetitious ones–but my little kids have always loved it because there are so many flaps to open! And counting!
*Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear: if your kids are familiar with the Little Mouse from his trials trying to keep his red ripe strawberry away from the big hungry bear, they’ll love this sequel
*Bear Stays Up for Christmas: you can never really have too many bear Christmas books
*Carl’s Christmas: another familiar character in a Christmas setting
*Christmas in the Manger: lovely introduction to the Nativity story for the youngest set
*The Nativity, illustrated by Julie Vivas: another spin on the Nativity; the text is very standard, but the charming, humanizing watercolor illustrations make this one of my favorites. We always do this plus The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
*Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree: my older kids are still very big fans of this one
*Christmas in the Big Woods: this is part of a series of lovely picture books that introduces the youngest kids to the Little House books; I adore the whole series.
Books for elementary aged kids (and maybe older preschoolers, in some cases):
*Tree of Cranes: Truthfully, I enjoy reading these older kid books, where the messages about Christmas are a little more complicated and interesting, better than the little kid ones.
*Winter’s Gift: the older kid books can be a lot more bittersweet, too.
*Christmas Trolls: Jan Brett has a ton of great Christmas books; this one and the next two are the ones we have
*The Gift of the Magi: you can find this story anywhere, but if you can get a copy that’s beautifully illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, it will make the experience of reading it much richer.
*A Christmas Book by Joan Walsh Anglund: my mother has always loved Joan Walsh Anglund, and I still have my copy of this book from when I was a kid. Undeniably, unapologetically saccharine….but if you can’t do saccharine at Christmas, then when can you?
And a couple of bonus chapter books for older kids (i.e. you can’t wrap these up and read one every night)
*The House Without a Christmas Tree: I’ve loved this one since I was a kid. I think we’re due for a re-read this year
*A Christmas Carol: we have this illustrated one
*Letters from Father Christmas: utterly charming (and yet we’ve never made it all the way through. So many letters!)
While it is entirely true that I already have way too many Christmas books, it’s also true that that won’t stop me from buying more….so please share your favorites in the comments!
book a day advent calendar ideas


Book A Day Advent Calendar/Best Christmas Books for Kids — 16 Comments

  1. the best christmas pageant ever is one of my favorites- i watched the movie as a kid and loved it and it’s never on anymore! i also love bear stays up for christmas.

    • I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the movie! or maybe I have…I feel like I can almost picture it, so maybe a long, long time ago….

  2. Bears! And travel trailers! Yes!
    So many bear Christmas books I didn’t know existed.
    And the only only thing wrong with Best Christmas Pageant Ever would be that it has no bears. I must dig it out and read it again. I am so tired of not being fully unpacked after four years.

    • It’s never too late; I still make Ari listen to me read ;). I hadn’t heard of most of these until I started reading to my own kids…there are so many Christmas books out there!

  3. I can’t believe how many of these I don’t have. Now I need an Amazon binge, which could be problematic.

    Henry’s favorite is Merry Christmas David. It is a series they read at school and there is lots of “NO DAVID” and David running naked outside and he thinks it’s hilarious. But I dont’ think it gets any fine reading points. 😉 My in-laws have Mr. Willoby from when my husband and BIL were kids and just read it to the grandkids last weekend.

Like all human bloggers, I love comments :)