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There is no greater pleasure than reading brilliant books with children, and it is even more special and exciting around the festive season!

We have chosen 20 of our favourite and most loved, children’s books – each one of them guaranteed to raise the Christmas spirit! Why not make a cup of tea (or even better, a hot chocolate!) grab a mince pie and make a wish-list of books to add to your Christmas collection!

1. Stick Man

Written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler


Poor Stick Man goes out for a jog and is chased and carried away by a dog. A whole series of mishaps mean he ends up being taken further and further from his home and family. Will he ever be able to get back to them? A surprising and magical meeting with Father Christmas eventually turns his fate around.

For inspiring activity ideas linked to this book click here.

2. The Jolly Christmas Postman

Written by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Janet Ahlberg

Full of the same charm as ‘The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters’, this follow-up book has become a Christmas classic. We revisit the postman as he once again delivers letters- but this time they are Christmas cards, greetings and presents. Humpty Dumpty receives a jigsaw of himself, Red Riding Hood gets a ‘Get out of the Woods’ board game and finally the postman himself receives a beautifully illustrated surprise of his own!

3. A Boy Called Christmas

Written by Matt Haig, illustrations by Chris Mould

This is the ‘true’ story of how Father Christmas came to do what he does and is essential reading for children aged 7-11. It has brilliant Roald Dahl-style ‘baddies’ and a great mix of dark adventure and comedy. A film based on the book is due for release next year.

For inspiring activity ideas linked to this book click here.

4. The Snowman

By Ramond Briggs

First published in 1978, this story has become a real Christmas tradition, partly due to the beautifully animated film shown on TV every year. The book, and of course the film, have no words, and the story is told purely through pictures. What do your children feel about this? How does Raymond Briggs convey what is happening and especially the emotions of the characters? There is scope for so much discussion and all kinds of related activities.

5. The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey

Written by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

This is the story of an extremely bad-tempered and disagreeable woodcarver and the miracle that happens when a widow asks him to carve a nativity scene for her bereaved son. The illustrations are incredible, and the story is heart-warming and tear-jerking, so make sure you have tissues to hand!

6. Red and LuLu

Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares

Red and Lulu are two birds who live in a huge tree. One day, while Red is foraging for food, the tree is chopped down, and Lulu is taken away with it. The story follows Red as he searches for Lulu. Part of the song ‘O Christmas Tree’ is used in the story and it would be great to learn this so children could sing along!

“O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches!”

7. The Polar Express

Written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

Another book that has become a Christmas classic. First published in 1985, the illustrations are evocative and mysteriously beautiful, and the story is every child’s dream. Told in the first person, a boy boards the Polar Express from outside his house on Christmas Eve and with a train full of other children, he rides to the North Pole. The unnamed boy receives the first gift of Christmas from Santa – a small silver bell from a reindeer’s harness. A completely magical tale for people who truly believe!

8. Last Stop on the Reindeer Express

Written by Maudie Powell-Tuck, illustrated by Karl James Mountford

Mia is missing her father and makes a special card for him, but sadly, it is too late for the Christmas post. At a festive market, Mia finds a special post box. It is magic, and she is whisked away on a flying reindeer to deliver her card in person!

This is a wonderful way to open a discussion about not being with loved ones at Christmas – unfortunately very pertinent for many this year.

9. A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens Re-told by Gaby Goldsack, illustrated by Caroline Pedler

There have been so many versions of this brilliant story of redemption. This one is in rhyme, which makes it great for reading out loud and accessible for a younger audience. Of course, for older children and adults, nothing beats the original!

“I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

10. The Empty Stocking

Written by Richard Curtis, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

A lovely, heart-warming and funny story by the writer of ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.

Everyone knows about ‘the naughty list’ and nobody wants to be on it! Twin sisters Charlie and Sam could not be more different. Unlike Sam, Charlie really doesn’t deserve any presents at all, but on Christmas Eve, Santa makes a bigmistake, and it is up to Charlie to sort it out!

11. The Gruffalo’s Child

Written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ is not really a Christmas story as such, but has a wintery theme and is so good, it has to be included!

The Gruffalo’s child is bored and desperate for an adventure, so she ignores warnings from her father and leaves their warm cave in search of the Big, Bad Mouse. It doesn’t really exist, does it? The young Gruffalo is determined to find out!

12. The Nativity

Re-told by May Eliot, illustrated by Richard Johnson

Every Christmas book list should include the Nativity in some form. This is a simple, well-told version of the traditional story for young children with gorgeous illustrations.

13. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Written and illustrated by Theodore “Dr Seuss” Geisel

“Christmas doesn’t come from a store…Christmas perhaps means a little bit more”

First published in 1957 and still as popular and apt as ever, this book is a joy to read out loud and really does make reading fun. The cold-hearted Grinch is a character in the same mould as Scrooge and seems to have no redeeming features. He intends to make Christmas miserable for the residents of Whoville by stealing it away, but they all discover a different kind of Christmas spirit and that a heart “two sizes too small” can be changed for the better!

14. The Christmas Eve Tree

Written by Delia Huddy, illustrated by Emily Sutton

With stunning illustrations, this book is perfect for showing what Christmas can mean and how lucky most of us are.

A homeless boy is given the last bedraggled fir tree from a big store. (It is poignant that both he and the tree live in cardboard boxes.) Rather than buying food with his last few coins, the boy buys candles to decorate his tree and attracts a large crowd who sing Christmas songs and stop the traffic! The ending is hopeful, but not too twee and gives lots of scope for discussion.

15. Father Christmas

Written and illustrated by Raymond Briggs

Raymond Brigg’s Father Christmas is a bit different to the usual genial character! He is not particularly happy to wake up on Christmas Eve, in fact he is quite grumpy (“Blooming Christmas here again!”) but he feeds his cat and dog, makes his breakfast and prepares a flask for his long night’s work.

Of course, just like ‘The Snowman’, there is a superb, animated version of this book too.

16. The Night Before Christmas

Written by Clement Clarke Moore, illustrated by Richard Johnson

This poem was originally published in 1823 and is also known as ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’. It is one of the most famous poems ever written and is said to have influenced the original concept of Santa Claus and what he looks like.

“His eyes–how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.”

17. Dogger’s Christmas

Written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes

At last! A sequel to one of the best-loved children’s books of all times – Dogger! Newly published in 2020.

Once again, we join, Dave and his family, and this time they are preparing for Christmas. Dave and Bella have a new brother and are a few years older, but Dave still has his special friend Dogger! He couldn’t possibly go missing again, could he?

18. The Christmasaurus

Written by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Shane Devries

This chapter book has everything you could want in a Christmas story – magic, adventure, Santa, elves, reindeers, and of course a dinosaur! Set off on a fantastical journey with a boy called William Trundle. Children (and adults) will be enthralled and laugh out loud at this wonderful and uplifting book.

19. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Written by Robert L May, illustrated by Antonio Javier Caparo

The original story of the best-known of Santa’s reindeers. Written in 1939 in rhyming verse, children will love hearing all about their favourite animal helper and how he came to lead the sleigh.

Can you memorise all the reindeer names and, of course, learn the song?

20. Madeline’s Christmas

Written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans

Madeline books are always unique and slightly surreal, and this one is no exception!

In this festive tale, Madeline is the only one at her boarding school not to come down with a strange winter bug. She helps look after all her friends, as well as a strange man who visits the school selling rugs! Her kindness results in a special treat for all the pupils, involving magic carpets and a trip home in time for Christmas.

We hope you have enjoyed this selection and would love to know what books would you add to the list.

Happy Christmas Reading from all at TTS!

With thanks to Beverley Smalley for writing this blog. Beverley is an education specialist, writer and former primary school teacher.


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