Combine my high standards with Toddler Bookworm’s attention span, and you know the books that make our cut are pretty unique! When it comes to holiday books (Christmas or any other), I have little patience for books that seem like a marketing ploy.
Regardless of the season, I look for books with captivating plots, memorable characters, detailed and artistically rich design, that are fun for both kids and grown ups to snuggle up with together.
Below are our favorites for Christmas, for toddlers and young preschoolers. You might call it our Books for a Two Minute Attention Span, Christmas Edition. (See the first edition here.) You should be able to find these titles at your local library; if you choose to add them to your collection, or gift them this Christmas, we appreciate your support of Librarian in the House through the affiliate links provided!
Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, creators of the Caldecott Award winning Click, Clack, Moo. I’ll admit, I was skeptical of this one, but both my bookworms loved it! We even read it three times in a row after our first read through. Sparse text and clever picture clues make this perfect for the toddler/preschool crowd. When Duck decides to deliver his present for Farmer Brown in Santa style, he gets stuck in Farmer Brown’s chimney. A progression of animals attempt to “unstuck Duck,” only to meet with a “Ho Ho Uh-Oh!” Fortunately, Santa never gets stuck and saves the (holi)day!
Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney. I’ve shared before my admiration for Dewdney’s skill at validating toddler/preschool emotions. In this holiday offering, she tackles the overwhelming nature of the season– long shopping outings, the interminable wait to Christmas, the disillusionment of stringing lights on the tree (“How come Mama isn’t done?”), which culminate in an epic tantrum: “All this waiting for one day? Time for presents RIGHT AWAY! Too much music, too much fluff! Too much making, too much stuff!” (Sound familiar?) Similar to my thoughts on Llama Llama Mad at Mama (which was on my list of Books that Aren’t About the Holidays But Kinda Really Are), this story handles typical (and understandable) childhood emotion deftly while moving to a calmer state and affirming loving relationships. (The “Llama” series also appears on my original Books for a Two Minute Attention Span list. We do love this series, which includes board books and slightly longer picture books like this one. If you’re looking for an even shorter Llama holiday book, check out board book Llama Llama Jingle Bells.)
Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle. My bookworms are big fans of Little Blue Truck, which was one of then-Baby Bookworm’s first additions to his library while I was still reading to him in utero (pre-delivery reading was a given as a librarian leading storytimes. LOL). The Christmas offering is a counting book (up to 5 and back down), and the final page includes flashing Christmas lights. It is actually quite a bit shorter than the other books in the series, with a very slight plotline (Little Blue loads up his truck with 5 trees to deliver to his friends, then keeps the final one to decorate himself.) If your bookworms are existing fans of Little Blue, they’ll likely love seeing a seasonal tie-in; if not, this isn’t going to generate any converts to the series. As of my writing, this is on sale at Amazon for $8.99 and does make a nice gift as it’s a large book (due to the built-in LED lights).
Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin and James Dean. Oh Pete, how we love you! One of our very favorite toddler/preschool series. In this edition, Pete steps in when Santa is ill, hooking up his minibus to Santa’s reindeer. In typical Pete fashion, a “jingle” repeats throughout the text, the tune to which you can find at Pete’s website along with several printable activities (which are more suitable for older preschoolers): “Give it your all, give it your all, at Christmas we give, so give it your all!”
Dear Santa by Rod Campbell. We adore Dear Zoo (which you can read about in my Throwback Thursday feature here) and were excited to find this Christmas version. Just like the original, each page features a flap to lift, predictable text, and is a perfect book to practice object permanence with little ones, and expressive language with older ones.
Carl’s Christmas by Alexandra Day. I featured the adventurous canine babysitter Carl on my Throwback Thursday series, and it is indeed a classic! This Christmas offering puts a holiday spin to Carl’s (nearly) wordless chaperone gig, this time wrapping gifts, caroling, donating to the needy, and waiting for Santa. Carl’s encounter with Santa’s reindeer is cute! Out of print, so look for this at your library or snag a used copy! Wordless books are a blast for toddlers and preschoolers. Read more about how we use them in my feature on Carl.
Wombat Divine by Mem Fox. This might be a 3-4 minute attention span, but my (very nearly) 2yo Toddler Bookworm had no trouble sitting through and enjoyed the illustrations. Wombat wants desperately to have a part in the annual nativity play, but he doesn’t seem to fit any of the roles… until the perfect one comes along. It’s a nice way to review the characters of the nativity story!
Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton. How can you go wrong with Boynton for the two minute attention span crowd?? In this title, you’ll find counting, onomatopoeia (sound words), animals, and musical instrument identification. And lots of material for an expressive read aloud!
Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! by Don & Audrey Wood. My bookworms were thrilled when I showed them that the Big Hungry Bear is back in a Christmas story! (I included the 1982 classic in my post here.) Like the original, it’s great for inferencing skills as much is told through the illustrations. It’s also terrific for discussing emotions and empathy. Such a sweet story, too!
One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson. This was included in my post Christmas Books about Jesus, but it definitely fits the bill for the toddler crowd, too: The artwork is gorgeous and draws you in from the start. A note on the title page versa tells us that the wild animals featured in the book could all be found in the Holy Land at the time of the traditional nativity story. I love that bit of historical accuracy, but more appealing is the simplicity of the story. Each of the animals cares for its young with tenderness and love until the crescendo of Mary & Joseph cradling their beloved newborn. The book ends with an Amen. Fitting. The entirety of the Christmas story is not told, instead providing a spotlight on Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the manger; but, it is short enough for the youngest readers.
Merry Christmas, friends!