40-Day Challenge Day 20

Change your child’s bookshelf to 24 Christmas books you have gift-wrapped, and number them 1-24. Each night, read that day’s story with your kids. This is a fun and inexpensive way for the family to count down to Christmas.

Listen …

What makes this an excellent tradition is that it is to be enjoyed over a three to four week period—not spending months waiting for a celebration that is over in a few hours of frenzied gift unwrapping. And it fulfills the need in all of us for an evenly paced holiday season. 

There are three basic types of Christmas books for children: 1) Books about the Nativity—some based on the Bible, others on legends; 2) books about Santa Claus, gift giving, and the like; and 3) books that relate to one or more of the above but don’t quite fit into any category. In order to decide what type of book you want, it’s best to take the time to read through books that interest you or to read reviews before you buy children’s Christmas books.

Don’t have money available to invest in books? Perhaps you can borrow from friends or relatives. Or put together your list at your public library, then make your reservations early so you can pick them up right after Thanksgiving. Make sure you know your library’s renewal policy. Many libraries will renew books by phone or online. 

New Christmas books are available in retail bookstores everywhere starting in early November, but you will have a window of opportunity of only about four to eight weeks. However, you can shop anytime of year at sites that offer excellent quality used books like www.half.com and www.amazon.com. I located many of the books that follow at these sites for less than a buck each, plus shipping and handling.

While this project is perfect for families, it can be easily adapted by grandparents, teachers, libraries, and Sunday School classes. No children in your life? This is a project you could put together and then send to a family in a faraway place that would not otherwise be able to celebrate Christmas every day during December. 

To help you get started with this project—and to weed through the vast number of Christmas books for children—I asked our online members to nominate their favorite children’s Christmas books. Through a process of giving additional weight to titles that had multiple nominations, we narrowed the field to this list of the 24 best children’s holiday books, including one for Hanukkah, too: 

1. The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden (Puffin,, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0142416839). Orphaned Ivy finds her Christmas wish fulfilled with the help of a lonely couple and a doll named Holly.

2. The Best Christmas Present of All, by Linda Jennings (Puffin, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0140566468). After his elderly owner suffers a heart attack, Buster the dog is sent to live with the man’s grandchildren and in the confusion tries to return home.

3. Peef the Christmas Bear, by Tom Hegg (Waldman House Press, 48 pages, ISBN 978 0931674266). A Christmas teddy bear made by Santa comes to life and yearns to belong and bring happiness to one small child.

4. Room for a Little One, by Martin Waddell (Margaret K. McElderry, 32 pages, ISBN 978 1416925187). ‘Tis the eve of Christmas—a cold winter’s night—when Kind Ox offers to share his stable by the inn.

5. The Other Wise Man, narrated by Pamela Kennedy (Ideals Publications, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0824953485). The story of the fourth wise man and his search for the Christ child. 

6. The Tale of Three Trees, by Angela Elwell Hunt (Cook Communications, 25 pages, ISBN 978 0745917436). Three trees dream of what they want to become when they grow up. Their dreams come true in the most unexpected of ways as one becomes the manger, another Christ’s boat, and the third the cross upon which he was crucified.

7. The Christmas Child, by Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson, 48 pages, ISBN 978 0849917684). This Christmas treasure, formerly titled The Christmas Cross features the story of a Chicago journalist who discovers the meaning of Christmas. 

8. Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski (Candlewick, 40 pages, ISBN 978 0763636296). A tender, elegant, poignant story about a bitter man’s spiritual reawakening.

9. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson (Harper Collins, 128 pages, ISBN 978 0064402750). A hilarious and touching story of the transformation of the Herdmans, the worst kids in the history of the world. Christmas becomes new and real in some pretty surprising ways. 

10. Eight Nights of Hanukkah, by Michael J. Rosen (Scholastic, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0439365741). A story written from a child’s perspective about how one particular family celebrates Hanukkah.

11. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0395389492). A little boy who still believes in Santa takes a magical train ride on Christmas Eve to the North Pole. 

12. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad, by Mercer Mayer (Random House, 24 pages, ISBN 978 0307118868). Trying to be good for Christmas without bungling everything is difficult for this little one.

13. A Pussycat’s Christmas, by Margaret Wise Brown (Katherine Tegen Books, 32 pages, ISBN 978 978 0061869785). A Pussycat Christmas is made up of sights and sounds that capture the mystery and beauty of the holiday. 

14. Littlest Christmas Tree, by Janie Jasin (Book Peddlers, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0916773816). The smallest seedling on the tree farm dreams about the things she could become and realizes becoming a Christmas tree is one of the many options.

15. The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Random House, 32 pages, ISBN 978 978 0679805939). Sister Bear enjoys Christmas preparations, especially getting her list ready—but on Christmas morning she realizes what Christmas is really all about.

16. The Nutcracker, by E.T.A. Hoffman (Crown, 120 pages, ISBN 978 0609610497). An engaging treatment of a classic story that is not just a Christmas story, but a wonderful parable for every season.

17. Morris’ Disappearing Bag, by Rosemary Wells (Puffin Books, 40 pages, ISBN 978 0142300046). It’s Christmas Day and Morris is missing. This warm and humorous story proves that sometimes the littlest bunny gets the last laugh. 

18. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 64 pages, ISBN 978 0394800790). The Grinch, whose heart is two sizes too small, hates Who-ville’s holiday celebrations and plans to steal all the presents to prevent Christmas from coming. To his amazement, Christmas comes anyway.

19. Max’s Christmas, by Rosemary Wells (Viking Juvenile, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0670887156). Max, the irrepressible bunny, sneaks downstairs to wait for Santa with unexpected results!

20. Red Ranger Came Calling, by Berkeley Breathed (Little Brown, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0316102490). A cynical young man, the Red Ranger of Mars, meets his match in a retired Santa. 

21. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (Sterling, 96 pages, ISBN 978 1402766909). Probably one of the most beloved Christmas stories in history, this has it all: heroes, villains, ghosts, time travel, long-lost love and a happy ending. You may want to opt for a condensed version of the full-length book.

22. Littlest Angel, by Charles Tazewell (Ideals, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0824955755). Adapted from the 1946 original about a cherub and his present to the Son of God.

23. A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Charles Schulz (Simon and Schuster, 32 pages, ISBN 978 1416913795). Everyone is getting into the Christmas spirit—except for Charlie Brown. It seems like everybody has forgotten what Christmas is truly about. 

24. The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore (Putnam, 32 pages, ISBN 978 0399231902). One of the many variations of the classic story, with delightful illustrations by Jan Brett.

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