Ho ho ho! We’ve got a list of wholesome holiday books for the whole family to enjoy this season. From babies to teens, from Christmas to Hannukah, there’s a little something for everyone.
Merry Christmas, Gus By Chris Chatterton Penguin, 2021, $17.99
Thanks to his pup friend, a grumpy hound named Gus dons a scratchy Christmas sweater and embraces holiday joy – until the two canines discover a feline surprise under the tree. The contrast throughout between Gus’s grumpy expression and the pup’s look of wonder are sure to spur giggles.
Hanukkah Bear By Eric Kimmel Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka Holiday House, 2013/2020, $7.99
A delightful classic gets a board book format with oodles of tot appeal. Bubba Brayna mistakes a hungry bear for the rabbi and welcomes the creature inside, feeds him latkes and wipes his hairy chin. Little ones will love the vibrant illustrations and cheery Hanukkah tale, which finishes with a surprised human rabbi in Bubba Brayna’s kitchen and a contented bear snoozing in his den.
ages 3 – 7
Carla and the Christmas Cornbread By Carla Hall Illustrated by Cherise Harris Simon & Schuster, 2021, $17.99
The holiday traditions and foods of her childhood inspired this first picture book by Washington chef and cookbook author Carla Hall. In this endearing story, young Carla accidentally eats the special cookie set aside for Santa, but with help from her grandmother, ends up fashioning him an even tastier treat. Youngsters will get a kick out of cooking this treat themselves, courtesy of the included recipes for cornbread and cinnamon butter.
Jan Brett’s The Nutcracker By Jan Brett Penguin, 2021, $18.99
Acclaimed author/illustrator Jan Brett re-tells the story of the popular ballet for youngsters, complete with young Marie, the Mouse King and of course, the Nutcracker prince. Especially fun for kids are the animals – foxes, rabbits, reindeer, bears – that stand in for the human dancers and musicians. Snowflakes and yummy goodies swirl through a book sure to become a winter classic, like Brett’s “The Mitten.”
The Night Before Hanukkah By Natasha Wing Illustrated by Amy Wummer Penguin, 2014, $4.99
This new paperback edition of a well-known picture book playfully re-casts the iconic Christmas poem by Clement Moore into an engaging tale about a contemporary family and the eight days of Hanukkah. There are visions of chocolate gelt, rather than sugarplums, dancing in the children’s heads and visits with cousins instead of from Santa Claus.
Jump at the Sun By Alicia D. Williams Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara Simon & Schuster, 2021, $17.99
Warm-toned illustrations and lively language imbue this biography of the celebrated writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston with grace and style. Sprinkled throughout the book are snippets of the folktales she collected from the American South, Haiti and the Bahamas as well as details about her own storytelling and accomplishments. This book honors the Kwanzaa principles of Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination) and Kuumba (creativity) and would be a lovely read-aloud for Kwanzaa and all year long.
ages 8 – 12
The People Remember By Ibi Zoboi Illustrated by Loveis Wise HarperCollins, 2021, $15.99
Through powerful free verse, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi connects the seven principles of Kwanzaa to the history of African descendants in America. Historical events such as the enslavement of Black people, the Great Migration and the Civil Rights protests are highlighted and the musicians, writers and poets (Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison) honored as Zoboi explores the unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility and faith that sustained Black people from the past into the present moment.