By Denise Worthington
When I began thinking about a list of holiday books for toddlers and preschoolers, visions of the books I have loved and read aloud to my kids and my classes danced through my reading teacher head. My all-time favorite holiday book is The Best Christmas Pageant Everby Barbara Robinson — who doesn’t love those unpredictable Herdman kids? But Cliff and Emme, the toddlers I hang out with, aren’t ready to sit still for a chapter book or for the humor of the Herdmans and their outrageous antics. So I tapped my grandma crowd for their suggestions and took a field trip to my favorite book store. Below are my choices for the best holiday books for toddlers and preschoolers.
The Twelve Days of Christmas is a classic, and many authors have published versions of this English Christmas carol, originally written in 1780–ranging from one by noted children’s author Jan Brett to Elmo’s 12 Days of Christmas, the Sesame Street version. My favorite this year, published in October 2014, is by Laura Long. This is a lovely, traditional book with beautiful illustrations. The end of the book has the words and music; I’m humming the tune as I write! Little ones will enjoy the rhythm of the words, the repetitive phrases, and searching the pictures for the items in the story.
Counting books always top my list of must-reads for toddlers. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas, by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, is a brightly illustrated rhyming board book that lights up at the end. The book has engaging language, and the little truck has five trees that he delivers to his friends along the way.
Pete the Cat is a current favorite with young children. I was recently at a local library function, and one of the big attractions was a volunteer dressed as Pete. Every time a new Pete the Cat book is released the publishers put an animated video on YouTube. Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean (also the creator of Pete the Cat), is a fun take off of the traditional Night Before Christmas story.
Many famous authors have published holiday stories, Tomie dePaolo among them. An award winning author, dePaola has written over 200 children’s books. My First Chanukah is a lovely, simple to understand board book about this holiday. The illustrations are colorful and will engage the youngest reader.
Another Hanukkah book I like is Happy Hanukkah, Curious George, by H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey. This is a tabbed board book in which George and friends gather to celebrate Hanukkah. The story is told in rhyming text and covers all aspects of the holiday. One of the things I love about the book is it talks about making a mitzvah (doing an act of kindness) in easy to understand language. It also has the song “Dreidle, Dreidle, Dreidle” at the end which is a lovely bonus.
For a wonderful wintertime story, The Snowy Day Board Book by Ezra Jack Keats is a favorite. This classic story is the timeless tale of a young boy’s adventure on a snowy day. Originally published in 1976, the story and illustrations endure the test of time. It is also a Caldecott Medal winner, an award given annually to the most distinguished artists in children’s literature.
Snow, by Uri Shulevitz, a Caldecott Honorable Mention book, is the story of a boy anticipating the first snow of the season. The simple text and beautiful illustrations are engaging, and it’s a story any child can understand. While the little boy is excited, the TV news says ‘no snow,’ but the boy is a believer.
Denise Worthington is Lou’s Mom. She’s a retired teacher and children’s book author who spends her time serving on local boards, entertaining at the lake, and running for political office.