6 Great Books for Kids for the Holidays

by Melissa MacAulay

Published at 2023-12-12

Since having children, my beloved bookshelves have undergone some drastic changes. Plato and Nietzsche have had to make room for The Monster at the End of This Book and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The Chicago Manual of Style and The Copyeditor’s Handbook are now hidden behind the entire catalogues of Sandra Boynton and Richard Scarry. But I’ve embraced the change! Children’s books have introduced me to a whole new world of literature. 


Come December, my family and I love to find new books to enjoy that also get us into the holiday spirit. Here are a few of our favourite picks this year, both old and new. I’m sure you and your family will enjoy these holiday reads, however you celebrate! 


Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale (Albert Whitman & Company, 2017)
Author: Gloria Koster
Illustrator: Sue Eastland

In this Hanukkah twist on a classic fairy tale, a young girl (in a red coat, of course) is approached by a big bad wolf on her way to Bubbe’s (Grandmother’s) house. Ruthie must be as “brave as the Maccabees'' in order to outsmart the hungry wolf. At Bubbe’s house, she sits him down and makes him a giant stack of potato latkes, all the while explaining to him the significance of Hanukkah. Will her plan work? You’ll have to read the book to find out! (As a bonus, this book includes Ruthie’s very own latke recipe—yum!)


Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story (Scholastic, 1990)

Author: Fran Manushkin
Illustrator: Robin Spowart

This is the heartwarming story of the Menashe family, whose Hanukkah celebrations have been derailed by a terrible blizzard that lasts for days on end. The family gracefully perseveres through the storm, all the while teaching us about generosity, gratitude, and fortitude. The Menashes make some special friends during the storm—a stray kitten and a stray dog—and on the eighth day of Hanukkah, something very special happens. It’s a Hanukkah miracle! This book also includes a brief history of the holiday of Hanukkah, explaining the significance of the oil, the menorah candles, and the eight days of celebration.


Stick Man (Alison Green Books, 2008)
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler 

In our household, anything written by British children’s author Julia Donaldson is gold. Donaldson, perhaps best known for The Gruffalo or Room on the Broom, is famous for telling adorable stories with fun rhymes and bounding meter. These books were made to be read out loud! Stick Man is no exception. Will Stick Man manage to find his way home to his stick lady love and their stick children three before Christmas? If you don’t have the book handy, you can always listen along here.


How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Random House, 1957)
Author and illustrator: Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)

Speaking of fun rhymes and bounding meter, I’m just not sure Christmas would be Christmas without Dr. Seuss’s 1957 classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We all know the story: the notorious Grinch, afflicted with a heart that is “two sizes too small,” attempts to ruin Christmas for the cheery citizens of Whoville, but is ultimately won over by the young Cindy Lou Who, who shows him the true meaning of Christmas. Accompanied with those iconic illustrations, this story has long been capturing the hearts of all those who celebrate Christmas—and maybe even a few Grinches, too! 


Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story (Albert Whitman & Company, 2000)

Author: Angela Shelf Medearis
Illustrator: Daniel Minter

In this African tale, seven unruly brothers are given a seemingly impossible challenge: they must take seven spools of thread and turn them into gold. In order to accomplish this feat, and honour the memory of their father, they must first learn to get along. As they work together, they illustrate for the reader the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The illustrations in this book are also stunning, with geometric textures and vivid colours—especially the Kwanzaa colours of black, red, and green. 


Our Favorite Day of the Year (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020)

Author: A. E. Ali 

This last pick is one that can be read at any time of the year! In this story, a brand-new kindergarten class participates in a very special game of show-and-tell: each student shares with the class their favourite day of the year. The children get to know one another as they learn about the special holidays that their families celebrate: Eid al-Fitr, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Las Posadas, and even Pi Day (March 14th)! The result is a colourful calendar of events that they can refer to as they celebrate together throughout the year.


Whether you’ve got an Elf on a Shelf or a Mensch on a Bench at home, here’s hoping for a holiday season that is filled with quality reading time for you and your little ones! 




Melissa MacAulay is a freelance academic and non-fiction editor with a PhD in Philosophy. She can be reached at


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