10 Best Christmas Picture Books for Children in 2014

For Families Who Value the True Meaning of Christmas

Here are my top 10 picks of Children’s Christmas Picture Books for Christian families. I chose them based on their biblical credibility, quality illustrations, child appeal, and traditional values.

There is a nice variety including: a holiday activity book, biblical accounts of the Christmas story, animals as storytellers of Jesus’ birth, and family tales that teach Christian values.

#1 — The Christmas Bible Doodle Book

The Christmas Bible Doodle BookPublisher: Zonderkidz / 2012
Paperback $12.99
96 heavy weight pages

With a red cover and black and white interior, this activity book for ages 8+ is loaded with Christmas themed outlines for sketching, dot-to-dot, Scripture fill-in-the-blanks, etc. Including over 50 black and white stickers, it is perfect for kids who love to draw and color. The outlines are simple enough for children under 8 to enjoy as long as they have some parental or older sibling help with the activity component. The book includes a combination of both biblical and traditional Christmas themes. Fun, fun, fun!

#2 — The First Christmas

The First ChristmasText: Excerpts from Luke 1–2 and Matthew 2 in the King James Version
Illustrator: Jan Pienkowski
Publisher: Random House / 2014
Hardcover $15.99 (Gift Edition)
24 pages

This keepsake book is absolutely stunning. Its illustrations are each individual works of art that viewers will want to study over and over again because of their intricate detail involving black silhouettes, brilliant backgrounds, and scrolling themed borders. While artistic liberty has been taken with the period costumes and settings, the King James rendering of the story is word for word from the Scriptures. (Children of all ages.)

#3 — The Christmas Story for Children

downloadAuthors: Max Lucado, Randy Frazee, Karen Davis Hill
Illustrator: Fausto Bianchi
Publisher: Zonderkidz / 2014
Paperback $6.99
32 pages

This is a beautiful, authentic retelling of the coming of Jesus into the world as the promised Messiah from his birth through his baptism. The vivid color illustrations are realistic and true to the period. This book provides a great way to reacquaint children of all ages with the facts of the biblical story every Christmas season.

#4 — Song of the Stars (A Christmas Story)

Song of the StarsAuthor: Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrator: Alison Jay
Publisher: Zonderkidz / 2011
Hardcover $15.99
32 pages

This is a beautiful C. S. Lewis type retelling of Jesus’ birth in which creation and the animal kingdom anticipate his long awaited entrance into the world. In the words of the animals: “The One who made us has come to live with us.” The author’s poetic license is in keeping with biblical passages like Psalm 19:1; Luke 19:40; Romans 8:19-22. The captivating illustrations and text are ideal for ages 4-8.

#5 — Manger

MangerPoems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrator: Helen Cann
Publisher: Eerdmans Books / 2014
Hardcover $16.00
34 pages

Based on a legend that all creatures are given the ability to speak at midnight on Christmas Eve, this collection of beautifully illustrated poems for children depicts the wide-eyed wonder of an array of animals who have come together for one purpose: to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Mixing childlike fancy with biblical truth, this book caters to the imaginative hearts of children (4-8 years) as they also ponder the wonder of Jesus’ birth.

#6 — Who is Coming to Our House?

download (1)Author: Joseph Slate
Illustrator: Ashley Slate
Publisher: Penguin Group / 2013
Boardbook $6.99
28 pages

This fun and fanciful rendering of the birth of Jesus is from the stable animals’ point of view as they anticipate making everything ready for surprise special visitors. The large print and colorful animated illustrations, along with the rhythm and rhyme of the text make this a perfect book for very young children.

#7 — The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant EverAuthor: Barbara Robinson
Illustrator: Laura Cornell
Publisher: HarperCollins / 2011
Hardcover $16.99
40 pages

A 1972 children’s classic, this book has been converted into a wonderful picture book edition for children 4-8. If you’ve never read it, hold onto your hat for the most uproarious Christmas children’s pageant ever with the six worst children in the world – the Herdman’s. Capturing the true transformational meaning of the birth of Jesus, this story is not to be missed and will become an essential part of your Christmas celebration. Fun illustrations help keep even young children glued to the story.

#8 — The Christmas Tree Ship

The Christmas Tree ShipAuthor: Carol Crane
Illustrator: Chris Ellison
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press / 2011
Hardcover $15.95
32 pages

Carol Crane recounts her childhood Christmas-time memories of her Grandfather telling the story of Captain Schuenemann. Year after year, Captain Christmas (as he became known) skippered the schooner Rouse Simmons from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through the treacherous waters of Lake Michigan to deliver thousands of Christmas trees to the people of Chicago. That is until 1912. Children especially boys (6-10 years old) will be intrigued by this sad, yet courageous story. The oil and acrylic paintings help bring this fictional story based on factual people and events to life.

#9 — Prairie Christmas

prairie christmasAuthor: Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
Illustrator: Ronald Himler
Publisher: Eerdmans Books / 2006
Hardcover $17.00
32 pages

This delightful story set in 1880’s Nebraska involves the interrupted festivities of the 10 year old daughter of a female physician who begrudgingly accompanies her mother to deliver a baby on Christmas Eve. As she experiences the true life drama of suffering, birth, and ultimate celebration, she comes face to face with the reality that life’s best memories are those that cannot be totally planned. With enough adventure for both boys and girls (ages 6-10), this true-to-life illustrated story of children’s hopes and dreams is an Americana classic.

#10 — The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (An Appalachian Story)

The Year of the Perfect Christmas TreeAuthor: Gloria Houston
Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
Publisher: Puffin Books / 1996
Paperback $6.99
32 pages

Based on the Christmas memories of the author’s grandmother and mother, this World War 1 era story relates the drama of an Appalachian family staying true to its commitment to provide the community’s Christmas tree in the worst of circumstances. With lots of early 20th century details surrounding a nativity pageant and varied Christmas traditions, this heart-warming story is further enhanced by the lovely acrylics of Caldecott Award winning illustrator Barbara Cooney. It is ideal for children (especially girls) ages 4-8.

garland_logoMany thanks to Horizon Books in Traverse City, Michigan, for stocking an extensive section of children’s Christmas books making it possible for me to preview all but two of these books in person.