Decorations are going up, trees are being lit, and every station fills our ears with songs to embrace the holidays. Heaven knows we need some distraction from what will forever be known as “the Year of 2020.” And what a year it has been.
At a very early age, I wanted to instill a love of reading into my son’s life. Before he even arrived in this world, my friends requested that guests coming to the baby shower bring a book to start his home library. So he came into the world surrounded by books in every nook and cranny. Every occasion warranted a new book, birthdays, holidays, life changes, and… Christmas. We’d amassed so many, even with donating and rotating, there was a need to buy a new bookcase this summer.
Books teach so many lessons about who we are, what we value, and open the door to things we’ve never experienced. We’ve compiled a list of books that may act as mirrors to your own traditions, windows to voyeur into the traditions of others, or sliding doors to bring forth something new this year. Whatever it brings for you, remember to learn, embrace, and give the gift of love this holiday season.
1. My Baby Loves Christmas by Jabari Asim (Ages 0-4)
This is another title to add to your Jabari Asim’s, “My Baby Loves…” collection. In this board book, you’ll discover all of the wonderful things that Baby discovers about Christmas.
2. My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz (Ages 2-5)
This is a simple and informative way to introduce Kwanzaa. The girl takes readers with her as her family celebrates the seven days of Kwanzaa. She highlights the principles and pronunciations, making it accessible to even the youngest reader.
3. Native American Night Before Christmas by Gary Robinson (Ages 3-5)
This is a lovely retelling of the classic “Night Before Christmas” tale with a Native American twist. Old Red Shirt, complete with his eight buffalo, sinks down the smoke hole, leaving toys, fry bread, and other commodities for the sleeping children before disappearing in the night.
4. ‘Twas Nochebuena by Rosanne Greenfield Thong (Ages 3-5)
“‘Twas Nochebuena and all through our casa,
every creature was kneading tamale masa.”
This retelling fills us with all of the spirit of the holidays. Follow this family on Christmas Eve as they prepare to host a night that displays their Latino traditions. From warming up with champurrado and showering in the stream of candy that falls from the piñata to worshipping at Misa de Gallo then watching the late-night fireworks, readers will be captivated by the magic of Nochebuena.
5. Roc and Roe’s Twelve Days of Christmas by Nick Cannon (Ages 3-5)
Of course, the queen of Christmas tunes, Mariah Carey, has a book featuring her twins providing their own version of 12 Days of Christmas.
6. Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne (Ages 3-6)
Based on the famous carol, this book captures the Nativity story. Bringing to life the lyrics, readers journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for their son’s birth. The illustrations are engaging, providing more detail to reinforce the lyrics. The depiction of characters with many skin tones makes this such a great find.
7. I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schoefield-Morrison (Ages 3-6)
“Peace for all, good tidings and cheer-
let’s live the spirit every day of the year.”
In this book, a little girl has the Christmas spirit. It is all around her. She hears it in the air. She sings it from her heart. She swirls and twirls around it. She chases it around the store and spreads it with her smile. Even if you are not in the Christmas spirit, this book will surely show that you can capture the joy in so many ways.
8. Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina (Ages 4-7)
As a young boy anticipates his favorite holiday, he begins thinking about the delicious food he’ll eat and the gifts he receives. But his mind drifts to thinking about all the gifts he already has and doesn’t play with, while there are kids who don’t receive any gifts at all. He thinks about the people who don’t have a place to live or food to eat. He comes to an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. This book inspires kids to think about giving to others rather than solely focusing on what they can get.
9. Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis (Ages 4-8)
In an African village lived seven brothers who constantly bickered. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual request in his will. By sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars. Will they be able to quit their bickering in time? Medearis uses the seven principles in Kwanzaa to teach readers a fundamental lesson about community.
10. A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino 12 Days of Christmas by Pat Mora (Ages 4-7)
If you can’t get enough of the 12 days of Christmas, this is definitely one to add to your library. It is written in the style of the original version but flowing with Latino traditions and culture. What’s better than a girl getting secret gifts from a friend, especially if they include dancing monkeys (burritos bailando) and sweet pastries (pastellitos)?
11. A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by ME Furman (Ages 4-7)
Take a trip around the globe to uncover the tasty treats awaiting Santa. Complete with some delicious recipes, you can try your hand at preparing a new treat this year.
12. La Noche Buena by Antonio Sacre (Ages 4-8)
This year, Nina is spending Christmas with the Cuban side of her family in Miami. She isn’t sure if this hot, humid Christmas will measure up to the snowy days that she’s used to. She learns that Noche Buena is hot, fun, and delicious.
13. The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. Murrow (Ages 4-8)
This retelling of this classic tale is set during the Harlem Renaissance. Marie loved the sounds of Christmas, yet she couldn’t seem to find her voice and was too shy to join in. Then her uncle Cab (Calloway, that is) gives her a nutcracker as a gift, sparking a night of magic. Will she ever find her song?
14. Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto (Ages 4-8)
It’s Christmas eve, the family is gathering together. Maria, her mother, and cousins are in the kitchen rolling tamales. Maria is so fascinated by her mother’s gorgeous diamond ring that when her mother leaves the room, she gets a chance to try it on. What could possibly go wrong?
15. Kwanzaa Gets an A by Steven Christopher Thedford (Ages 4-8)
A group of children gather at the library and listen to a griot explain the history of Kwanzaa. Readers will marvel at learning how Kwanzaa gets an a.
16. Damon and the Magic Christmas Tree by Tash Creates (Ages 4-8)
7-year-old Damon loves superheroes and wants nothing more than the Superman action figure for Christmas. He is not keen on spending Christmas in New York City, but when he hears about the magic tree that lights up the whole city, he gets excited.
17. Walk This World at Christmastime by Debbie Powell (Ages 5-8)
This amazing lift-and-flap book takes readers around the world, showing various ways people celebrate Christmas.
18 Kevin’s Kwanzaa by Lisa Bullard (Ages 5-8)
Join Kevin as he shows readers how he and his family celebrate Kwanzaa. The simple explanations and blurbs featured on each page make this book accessible to young readers.
19. Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford (Ages 5-8)
In this story, Kayla is looking forward to celebrating Kwanzaa with her family. She’s eagerly anticipating the arrival of her big brother Khari, but a snowstorm may stop him from arriving home in time. Will Khari make it? Will Kayla find a way for her and Khari to be together this Kwanzaa?
20. Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets, Aurora Labastida (6-10)
For generations, readers have been enjoying this classic tale. For this year’s Las Posadas, the nine days of celebrations that lead up to Christmas day, Cici, a young Mexican girl, gets to host the party on the very first night and lead the candlelight procession. She gets to choose her very first piñata, but she’s not sure if she can bear to let it go once the party begins. What will she do?