To balance out my Christmas Books for a Two Minute Attention Span, I present to you Christmas Books with Meat on the Bones! These books have plenty of fodder for conversation about the many themes that Christmas stories lend themselves to: family, generosity, community, bravery, hope, compassion. Most of these books will enjoy years of read alouds in your families because they are able to be read on several levels as your bookworms grow. And, their messages have staying power. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!
Rather than summarizing plots, I’ve included the key themes as well as age appropriateness. Affiliate links provided. If you choose to add these to your collection, we appreciate your support through these links! They should be available through your local library as well.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. Elementary age and up. Grief, woodcarving, patience, nativity scene, transformation through relationship, stories that make me cry. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston. Elementary age. Historical fiction (WWI), strong women, hope, determination, integrity, commitment.
Santa’s Book of Names by David McPhail. Preschool, early elementary. Literacy, perseverance, patience, confidence. *Although learning to read isn’t as easy as the story might make it seem (and struggling students sometimes do need extra help, not just “patience” as Edward’s mother insists), children will see this book as an exciting story of how a little boy helped the big guy! I love that literacy is highlighted and learning to read celebrated.
One Splendid Tree by Marilyn Helmer. Early elementary-mid elementary. Historical fiction (World War II), power of community, missing someone during holidays, resourcefulness.
A Homemade Together Christmas by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. Preschool, early elementary. Family, creativity, surprises, brainstorming.
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco. Elementary age and up. Historical (family memoir, 1800s), traditions, homelessness, generosity, honesty, family, grace. (Patricia Polacco also has many other meaty Christmas stories, and meaty picture books in general. She is a great author to get to know! I hosted her for an author visit at the elementary school and devoted MONTHS reading solely her books to my classes.Time well spent.)
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo. Older preschool, early-mid elementary. Historical fiction (as backdrop- WWII), compassion, homelessness, power of community. This is a discussion starter. Where it leaves off, the discussion really begins.
An Otis Christmas by Loren Long. Preschool, early- mid elementary. Tractor, farm, bravery, perseverance, power of prayer.
The Miracle of the First Poinsettia: A Mexican Christmas Story by Joanne Oppenheim. Older preschool-mid elementary. Miracles, faith, Spanish (phrases in Spanish mixed in text), giving from the heart. See also Tomie dePaola’s version, The Legend of the Poinsettia.
Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray. Preschool, early elementary. Farming/cultivation of trees, determination, cooperation, patience, math/number sense.
Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble. Older preschool-mid elementary. Family, ingenuity, handmade gift, historical fiction (1880s).
The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubel. Early-mid elementary. Generosity, Habitat for Humanity, historical fiction (Great Depression) *note, this is a fictional story! The subtitle led me to think it was based on a true incident but it is not. It does include a historical note in the back, along with info about Habitat for Humanity.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Preschool-elementary and up. Who doesn’t love this classic? Even my busy two year old sat engrossed in this from cover to cover.
Lighthouse Christmas by Toni Buzzeo. Older preschool, early-mid elementary. Family, sacrifice, bravery, “Flying Santa Service” (founded in 1929 to honor isolated lighthouse keepers, providing both supplies and treats anonymously by plane. Note in the back of the book provides brief history.)
Home for Christmas by Jan Brett. Preschool, early elementary. Family, home, helpfulness, kindness, belonging.
Merry Christmas, friends!