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Beyond Polar Express: Unsung Holiday Books

© 2010 Cooperative Children's Book Center; updated annually

Looking for some holiday light and cheer? The books on this list aren't necessarily as well known as some holiday favorites but they are no less deserving of attention. From picture books and poetry to novels and non-fiction, these titles offer up everything from laugh-out-loud humor to midwinter warmth.

You can find these books at or through your local public library. If you're interested in purchasing any titles, check with a bookseller--some are out of print but may be available through local or online sources.

Click on underlined book titles to see the CCBC review of the book, and/or the cover image.
Complete list of CCBC bibliographies

For Younger Children

    Ada, Alma Flor . The Christmas Tree = El árbol de Navidad: A Christmas Rhyme in English and Spanish. Illustrated by Terry Ybáńez. Hyperioin, 1997. 32 pages. Ages 2-5

    Agee, Jon. Little Santa. Dial, 2013. 40 pages. Ages 3-6

    Arnold, reteller, Katya. The Adventures of Snowwoman. Illustrated by Katya Arnold. Holiday House, 1998. 32 pages. Ages 3-6

    Barash, Chris. Is It Hanukkah Yet?. Illustrated by Alessandra Psacharopulo. Albert Whitman, 2015. 32 pages. Ages 3–7

    Buzzeo, Toni. Lighthouse Christmas. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Dial, 2011. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

    Crossley-Holland, Kevin. How Many Miles to Bethlehem?. Illustrated by Peter Malone. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2004. 24 pages. Ages 5-10

    Farber, Norma. When It Snowed That Night. Illustrated by Petra Mathers. HarperCollins, 1993. 32 pages. Ages 4-9

    Griffith, Gretchen. When Christmas Feels Like Home. Illustrated by Carolina Farias. Albert Whitman, 2013. 32 pages. Ages 5-8

    Grimes, Nikki. Under the Christmas Tree. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. HarperCollins, 2002. 32 pages. Ages 4 - 8

    Herman, John. One Winter's Night. Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Philomel, 2003. 32 pages. Ages 5-8

    Hopkins, Lee Bennett and et al. . Manger. Illustrated by Helen Cann. Eerdmans, 2014. 33 pages. Ages 3-10

    Hughes, Shirley. Angel Mae. U.S. edition: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1989. 24 pages. Ages 2-7

    Hughes, Shirley. The Snow Lady (A Tale of Trotter Street). U.S. edition: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1990. 24 pages. Ages 3-7

    Joosse, Barbara. A Houseful of Christmas. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Henry Holt, 2001. 32 pages. Ages 3 - 6

    Kimmel, Eric A.. Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. Disney / Hyperion, 2014. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

    Kimmelman, Leslie. Hanukkah Lights, Hanukkah Nights. Illustrated by John Himmelman. HarperCollins, 1992. 24 pages. Ages 2 - 4

    Langstaff (selector), John. What a Morning! The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals. Illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Margaret K. McElderry, 1987. 26 pages. Age 3 and older

    Martin, David. Christmas Tree. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick Press, 2009. 22 pages. Ages 1 - 3

    Martin, David. Hanukkah Lights. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick Press, 2009. 22 pages. Ages 1 - 3

    McKissack, Patricia C.. The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Schwartz & Wade, 2007. 32 pages. Ages 5-8

    McMorrow, T. E.. The Nutcracker in Harlem. Illustrated by James Ransome. Harper, 2017. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

    Norris, Leslie. Albert and the Angels. Illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000. 48 pages. Ages 6 - 10

    Obed, Ellen Bryan. Who Would Like a Christmas Tree?. Illustrated by Anne Hunter. Houghton Mifflin / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 32 pages. Ages 4 - 8

    Park, Linda Sue. The Third Gift. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Clarion, 2011. 32 pages. Ages 4–9

    Paterson, Katherine . Marvin's Best Christmas Present Ever. Illustrated by Jane Clark Brown. (An I Can Read Book) HarperCollins, 1997. 48 pages. Ages 4-7

    Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Dial , 1993. 32 pages. Ages 3-9

    Ray , Mary Lyn. Christmas Farm. Illustrated by Barry Root. Harcourt, 2008. 40 pages. Ages 5-10

    Ray, Jane. The Twelve Days of Christmas. Candlewick Press, 2011. 32 pages. Ages 4-9

    Say, Allen. Tree of Cranes. Houghton Mifflin, 1991. 32 pages. Ages 5 - 7

    Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood. Illustrated by Ellen Beier. Holiday House , 2011. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

    Spinner, Stephanie. It's a Miracle! A Hannukkah Storybook. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry. An Anne Schwartz Book / Atheneum, 2003. 40 pages. Ages 4 - 8

    Tavares, Matt. Red & Lulu. Candlewick Press, 2017. 40 pages. Ages 5-8

    Tokunbo, Dimitrea. The Sound of Kwanzaa. Illustrated by Lisa Cohen. Scholastic Press, 2009. 24 pages. Ages 4 - 8

    Vidal, Beatriz. Federico and the Magi's Gift: A Latin American Christmas Story. Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. 36 pages. Ages 3-6

    Winter, Jeanette. The Christmas Tree Ship. Philomel, 1994. 32 pages. Ages 5-9

    Zolotow, Charlotte. The Beautiful Christmas Tree. Illustrated by Yan Nascimbene. Houghton Mifflin, 1999. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

For Older Children

    Capote, Truman. A Christmas Memory. Illustrated by Beth Peck. Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. 48 pages. Age 9 and older

    Chen, Pauline. Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas. Bloomsbury, 2007. 133 pages. Ages 8-10

    Fine, Anne. The True Story of Christmas. Delacorte Press, 2003. 133 pages. Ages 9-11

    Fletcher, Susan. Alphabet of Dreams. Ginee Seo Books / Atheneum, 2006. 294 pages. Ages 11-15

    Gaarder, Jostein. The Christmas Mystery. Translated by Elizabeth Rokkan, from the Norwegian. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996. 222 pages. Ages 6-11

    Goldin, Barbara Diamond. While the Candles Burn: Eight Stories for Hanukkah. Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein. Viking, 1996. 58 pages. Ages 8-11

    Goldin, Barbara Diamond. Just Enough Is Plenty: A Hanukkah Tale. Illustrated by Seymour Chwast. Viking Kestrel, 1988. 32 pages. Ages 5-11

    Haig, Matt. A Boy Called Christmas. Illustrated by Chris Mould. U.S. edition: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 234 pages. Ages 6-9

    Hartnett, Sonya. The Silver Donkey. Illustrated by Don Powers. Candlewick Press, 2006. 266 pages. Ages 10-13

    Heller, Esther Susan. Menorah Under the Sea. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2009. 29 pages. Ages 7 - 10

    Mayer, Marianna. The Real Santa Claus. Phyllis Fogelman Books / Penguin Putnam, 2001. 32 pages. Ages 7 - 11

    Paterson, Katherine. A Midnight Clear: Stories for the Christmas Season. Lodestar, 1995. 212 pages. Ages 12-16

    Rollins (compiler), Charlemae Hill. Christmas Gif'; An Anthology of Christmas Poems, Songs, and Stories Written By and About African-Americans. Illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Morrow (Revised edition), 1993. 106 pages. All ages

    Rosen, Michael J.. Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas. Illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992. 32 pages. Ages 7 - 11

    Santiago, Esmeralda and Joie Davidow . Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories. Illustrated by Jose Ortega. Knopf, 1998. 198 pages. Age 14 and older

    Thomas, Dylan. A Child's Christmas in Wales. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Candlewick Press, 2004. 48 pages. Ages 8 - adult

    Thomas, Dylan. A Child's Christmas in Wales. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Holiday House, 1985. 48 pages.

    Thomas, Dylan. A Child's Christmas in Wales. Illustrated by Ellen Raskin. New Directions, 2007, c1959, 64 pages. Age 9 and older

    Walter, Mildred Pitts. Kwanzaa: A Family Affair. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1995. 95 pages. Age 9-adult

This list may be reproduced and distributed by educational and/or nonprofit organizations so long as credit is given to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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