For little ones eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, the days of December are measured as a countdown to the magic of Christmas morning. What better way to let the excitement build than to read a special holiday story every night? Funny, sweet, beautiful, and classic--here are 24 books to embrace the spirit of the season and send children off to sleep with dreams of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
1. Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by James Dean and Eric Litwin
In this new spin on the traditional tale The Night Before Christmas, Pete the Cat proves that giving your all in the spirit of Christmas is the totally groovy thing to do.
2. The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
The holidays are filled with joyful noise. But Christmas is sometimes wrapped in quiet: "Searching for presents quiet," "Getting caught quiet," and "Hoping for a snow day quiet." Irresistibly cute, soft colored pencil illustrations of bunnies, bears, and more paint a magical holiday picture.
3. Turkey Claus by Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper
Turkey needs Santa's help so he won't be eaten for Christmas dinner. He made it through Thanksgiving without becoming a turkey dinner, but now it's almost Christmas, and guess what's on the menu? Turkey decides the only thing to do is to ask Santa for help. He sets off for the North Pole, but getting in to see Santa at Christmastime isn't easy.
4. Christmas at the Toy Museum by David Lucas
One very special Christmas Eve, Bunting and the rest of the toys in the museum are gathered around the tree -- but what's this? There are no presents! What can they do? The normally reserved Bunting has a wonderful idea. Why don't the toys give themselves to one another as gifts, and learn about the true gift of giving?
5. The Nutcracker by Alison Jay
The tale of The Nutcracker has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. Based on the Balanchine ballet, Alison Jay's snow-globe version combines her stunning artwork with slightly abbreviated text for a perfect read-aloud.
6. How Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
From decorating the tree to wrapping presents, little dinosaurs love to celebrate Christmas. But when the stockings are hung on the chimney, and the cookies are left out for Santa, how can little dinosaurs calm down and go to sleep?
7. Charlie and the Christmas Kitty by Ree Drummond and Diane deGroat
In this hilarious follow-up to the New York Times bestselling picture book Charlie the Ranch Dog, this is a story to get you into the holiday spirit and find the good in all. Even though Charlie may not have put a kitty on his Christmas list, he learns that if you keep an open heart, new friends can come in unexpected packages.
8. An Otis Christmas by Loren Long
Everyone's favorite tractor, Otis, comes to the rescue during a Christmas Eve snowstorm in this warm, feel-good Christmas story.
9. My Pen Pal, Santa by Melissa Stanton
A thank you note to Santa is the beginning of a year-long correspondence between 6-year-old Ava and her new pen pal, Santa Claus, in this charming epistolary picture book.
10. A Very Fuddles Christmas by Frans Vischer
Fuddles--the fat, pampered cat--mistakes all the holiday trimmings for cat treats, and ends up put out the door into a snowy wonderland. When he can't find the door, Fuddles uses one of Santa's tricks to get back into the warm, cozy house, just in time for some Christmas cheer.
11. Tallulah's Nutcracker by Marilyn Singer
It's Christmastime, and Tallulah finally gets a part in a real professional production of The Nutcracker. She may only be a mouse but Tallulah feels like the star of the show, until an opening night disaster reminds her that things don't always go according to plan.
12. The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert
In this Nordic tale filled with extraordinary photographs, a little girl named Anja wants to be one of Santa's elves. After leaving a note for her family, she heads off into the snowy wilderness where a menagerie of animals helps her find Santa.
13. Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Modugno
When Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear go out for a walk on Christmas Eve and leave their Christmas pudding to cool, who should arrive but Santa Claus, playing the part of Goldilocks in this festive twist on a classic tale.
14. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Susan Jeffers
In a new version of the classic song, a broken snow globe of a partridge in a pear tree brings Santa to the rescue. Each of the traditional gifts of the twelve days of Christmas shows up from Santa, but without all the repetition.
15. The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter Reynolds
When Roland sees the tiny present waiting for him on Christmas morning, he wishes for something bigger, and bigger, until he discovers that what he's wished for really isn't what he wants at all. A lovely story about the perfect holiday gift: family.
16. Zoomer's Out-of-This-World Christmas by Ned Young
The lovable dog Zoomer is back and looking for signs of Santa with his brothers on Christmas Eve, when aliens land in their backyard! When it looks like their new friends won't make it home in time for Christmas, Zoomer comes up with a simple solution to save the day.
17. Snow Bunny's Christmas Wish by Rebecca Harry
The only present Snow Bunny truly wants for Christmas is a friend. She thinks Santa will be able to help, but discovers that it was her own kindness toward others that made her Christmas wish come true.
18. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
One of the most beloved Christmas stories, the Grinch is as much a part of Christmas as stockings and candy canes in the classic tale of a small, cold heart transformed by the spirit of the season.
19. Little Santa by Jon Agee
Ever wonder what Santa was like as a child? In this picture book tale of Santa's beginnings, readers will see how Santa came to meet the reindeer and elves who would become a part of his family.
20. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Gorgeous illustrations take readers on a fantastical nighttime journey to the North Pole aboard the Polar Express. This timeless story reminds the young and old of the wonder and warmth of believing in the magic of Christmas.
21. Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
Waiting for Christmas is hard to do, even as Llama and his mama busy themselves with shopping, baking, and decorating. But a snuggle from mama reminds an impatient Llama that the best gift of all is being together.
22. Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner
How do snowmen spend Christmas? Why, they gather together to celebrate the season by decorating a tree and enjoying tasty icy treats with their snowy friends and family.
23. A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel
On Christmas Eve, Bad Kitty opens all of her many presents but this naughty kitty still wants MORE! This Christmas adventure takes three runs through the alphabet in typical Bad Kitty style before she discovers the true meaning of Christmas.
24. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore and Holly Hobbie
Acclaimed watercolorist Holly Hobbie gives a fresh look to Clement Moore's classic story. A new character, a toddler who stumbles across Santa at work, adds to the warmth and wonder of Christmas Eve.