Holiday Books: Create an Advent Calendar

Our picks for holiday-themed books for kids, plus an Advent calendar idea for kids who love to read.

I used to babysit for a family in NYC who, instead of giving their 2-year-old an Advent calendar with chocolates or small tchotchkes, had a stack of 24 books wrapped in festive paper. Each night before bed, the 2-year-old was allowed to choose a book from the stack to unwrap and read for his bedtime story.

When I told my mom about this, she commented that she loved that idea and the fact that the boy’s mom was raising a reader. This particularly impressed my mom because, as a teacher, she has difficulty getting boys to read and loves when parents instill a love of books and reading in their children.

So this holiday season, why not follow suit, or add a few books into your traditional Advent calendar? Here are our 15 picks of new holiday-themed books to include in your book-a-day Advent calendar, among others.

Holiday Books for Infants and Toddlers

Bizzy Bear Christmas Helper Bizzy Bear Christmas Helper
By Benji Davies
Set to the tune of “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around,” this rhyme is about a bear that helps Santa make Christmas a success. Plus, Bizzy Bear Christmas Helper is a board book with tabs for little book lovers to move and reveal new scenes.
Roly Poly Looks for Santa Claus Roly Poly Looks for Santa Claus
Illustrated by Jannie Ho
A Tiny Tab Book, this is the story of Roly Poly, a polar bear, who looks everywhere for Santa leading up to Christmas. This book has tabs for toddlers to pull to reveal whether it’s Santa hiding behind things or just Poly Poly’s friends.


Holiday Books for Preschoolers and Older

North Pole Ninjas: Mission: Christmas North Pole Ninjas: MISSION: Christmas
By Tyler Knott Gregson and Sarah Linden
While the concept of this book-plushie combo alludes to The Elf on the Shelf, rather than help Santa manage his naughty and nice list, The North Pole Ninjas encourage kids to give more than they get during the holiday season. Santa’s Sensei challenges kids to complete one good deed each day from the 50 that are included in the kit. Tasks include things as easy as sitting with a new person at lunch, as well as more involved things such as donating a bag of groceries to the local food bank. 
Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree
By Lori Nichols
Sisters Maple and Willow—two little tree-lovers—are on the hunt for their first live Christmas tree, but what happens when they get home and discover that Maple is—Oh, no!—allergic to the most perfect tree in the whole world? 
The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker
Illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat
This version of the popular holiday ballet is beautifully illustrated with silhouettes of people, which make the spectacular settings stand out while also letting the reader fill the characters in with their imaginations. It also features a pop-up finale, so make sure to keep an eye on the kiddos when they’re flipping through the pages—you won’t want this book to suffer the fate of well-loved flap books. 

An Otis Christmas An Otis Christmas
By Loren Long
Little truck-lovers will fall for this holiday story—trust me; a boy I used to babysit got this one year and we read it every night I was with him for all month leading up to Christmas and even for a while after the holiday—of lovable Otis, a farm tractor that saves Christmas Eve by traveling through the snowy woods to get the farm vet. Originally published as a hardcover picture book, An Otis Christmas was recently released as a board book for smaller hands. 
Madeline’s Christmas Madeline’s Christmas
By Ludwig Bemelmans
Our favorite Parisian is back for a heart-warming holiday tale featuring a magician. Unfortunately 11 of the 12 little girls in two straight lines are sick. Can the magician’s trick help them forget their sniffles? 
Christmas for Greta and Gracie Christmas for Greta and Gracie
By Yasmeen Ismail
For those of us who have older siblings, you’ll definitely relate to Gracie, who is always told what is right by her older sister Greta—from how to color a picture to what color ribbon Santa prefers. But little does Greta know that sometimes the younger sibling is right, as Gracie finds out on Christmas Eve. 
Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcake Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcake
By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
When a little mouse can’t help herself and eats Santa’s cookies, she decides to bake him cupcakes. Formatted like a comic book, you’ll join an adventure in baking cupcakes, defeating a dragon, and having a celebratory feast. 
Ready, Set, Find: Christmas Ready, Set, Find: Christmas
This easy-to-digest version of the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus includes lists of items for kids to find on each page—talk about an interactive story time. 


Holiday Books for Elementary Ages

The Christmas Boot The Christmas Boot
By Lisa Wheeler
Deep in the forest on a cold winter day, Hannah finds a boot in the snow—a magical boot at that! Everything she wishes aloud comes true, but the day the boot’s owner comes to find it, all her wishes disappear. A story of modest living, this tale embodies the true spirit of Christmas.
The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold
By Maureen Fergus; illustrated by Cale Atkinson
We all know that as kids get older, their belief in Santa becomes weaker and weaker, but what happens when Santa stops believing in the kids?  In this picture book, a grumpy Santa stops believing in Harold as the boy gets older because he doesn’t look the same as he did years ago. Read along as Santa hatches a plan to see if Harold is, in fact, real.
The Christmas Story The Christmas Story
By Robert Sabuda
I was first introduced to Sabuda’s incredible works of art 10 years ago when I was gifted his version of The Wizard of Oz, which is complete with a spinning cyclone—talk about intricate paperwork! The simplistic beauty of this telling of The Christmas Story will wow your little book-lovers, even if you aren’t actively religious. And if you want to stray from a religious-toned story, Sabuda has also created pop-ups of The 12 Days of Christmas and The Night Before Christmas. Just make sure to store these books on the top shelf so the kiddos don’t accidentally rip the delicate paper. 
Walk This World at Christmastime Walk This World at Christmastime
By Debbie Powell
“Let’s take a stroll around the world, to all four corners of the globe. Peek through windows, open doors, watch as Christmastime unfolds…” Readers will do just that as they travel across the globe to see how other cultures celebrate the holidays. Plus this book has flaps in Advent calendar fashion for kids to open and learn tidbits about each country’s holiday traditions. 
The Great Spruce The Great Spruce
By John Duvall; illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
Where do the giant Christmas trees that sit in city centers—like Rockefeller Plaza—come from? This is the story of a boy and his beloved giant spruce, and how he convinces city officials to borrow his tree rather than cut it down. 

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