Every year, Cracking the Cover compiles a list of books that make great additions to your holiday library. The following were published in 2020. All synopsizes are italicized in gray and provided by respective publishers. Reviews are by Jessica. Scroll down for the complete list or click or tap the following links to directly visit a section. BOARD BOOK •AGES 2 AND UP • AGES 3 AND UP • AGES 4 AND UP • AGES 5 AND UP • AGES 6 AND UP
BOOKSCAPE BOARD BOOKS: CHRISTMAS CHEER, by Ingela P. Arrhenius, Chronicle Books; Illustrated edition, Sept. 29, 2020, Board Book, $8.99 (ages 0-3)
Explore a festive winter wonderland with this addition to the Bookscape Board Books series.
Christmas Cheerfestively depicts the colorful, dynamic scenes of Christmas time—from caroling to baking, building a snowman to decorating the tree, and more.
Each uniquely shaped page overlaps with the next to create a complete landscape when closed—and an immersive world to explore with each turn of the page when open. —Synopsis provided by Chronicle Books
This fun picture book is not only a delight to read, but it’s a sweet decoration as well.Return to Top
AGES 2 AND UP
MOUSE’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, by Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini, Nosy Crow; Illustrated edition, Oct. 13, 2020, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 2-5)
It’s Christmas Eve, and everyone is fast asleep except for a lonely mouse that lives in the grandfather clock. When Santa arrives, lost in a blizzard and called by Mouse’s wish, it’s Mouse who is there to show Santa the way. Together they embark on a magical sleigh ride, delivering presents all around town. But the best present of all is for Mouse: his wish to make a new friend to share Christmas Day with has finally come true. —Synopsis provided by Nosy Crow
With nods to the source material (‘Twas the Night Beofre Christmas), this sweet tale follows a friendly mouse who’s happy to help. Charming illustrations immediately draws you in. Children will love this one.
12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS (THE CHRISTMAS CHOIR) by Lara Hawthorne, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books; Illustrated edition, Oct. 6, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 2-5)
Celebrate the magic of Christmas time with this well-loved traditional poem, The Twelve Days of Christmas, beautifully illustrated by Laura Hawthorne.
Take a walk through each beautiful scene brimming with details that will remind you of the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. Perfect to read with your true love. —Synopsis provided by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Stylized folk-art like-illustrations differentiate this version of the classic poem from others. A section about the carol and a hidden picture challenge are a nice surprise at the end.Return to Top
AGES 3 AND UP
MISTLETOE: A CHRISTMAS STORY, by Tad Hills, Schwartz & Wade; Illustrated edition, Sept. 29, 2020, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 3-7)
Mistletoe loves everything about Christmas–the twinkling lights, the cookies for Santa, and, most of all, the gently falling snow. Her best friend, Norwell, is an elephant who likes sitting by the fire and watching the snow from the comfort of his cozy house. On one particularly snowy walk, Mistletoe stops to appreciate the beauty and peace of a snow-covered world. She knows Norwell would love it too… if he weren’t so afraid of the cold. Then she has an idea! Mistletoe knits from morning to night–when she’s reading, when she’s baking, and even in the bath (which isn’t easy). By the time Christmas morning arrives, she puts down her knitting needles. Her gift for Norwell is ready–and it is perfect. —Synopsis provided by Schwartz & Wade
This tender picture book about friendship embodies the spirit of the season. Tad Hill’s charming illustrations are immediately inviting.Return to Top
AGES 4 AND UP
THE THREE WISHES: A CHRISTMAS STORY, by Alan Snow, Pavilion Children’s, Nov. 3, 2020, Hardcover, $19.95 (ages 4-8)
A young boy is herding his family’s reindeer when they are drawn into a mysterious cave. The cave is the holder of eternal summer, looked after by three strange characters. Once entered, the cave cannot be left without time in the outside world standing still. In his sadness at not being able to leave, the boy is granted three wishes and chooses freedom, happiness, and time.
After the first year of working hard in the summer cave, the boy is allowed to see his family in the outside world. Time stands still as he visits his parents, and he leaves gifts behind to show that he has visited. As the years go by, this annual visit continues and he begins to call on more and more families…. —Synopsis provided by Pavilion Children’s
This is a decidedly different and fresh take on the Santa myth. Snow’s stylized illustrations are the highlight of this unique holiday tale.Return to Top
AGES 5 AND UP
MING’S CHRISTMAS WISHES, by Susan L. Gong and Masahiro Tateishi, Shadow Mountain Publishing; Illustrated edition, Sept. 29, 2020, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 5-8)
Ming wishes for three things at Christmas. First, to sing in the school Christmas choir. Second, to have a Christmas tree like the one in the department store window. And third, to feel she belongs somewhere.
As a daughter of immigrants in 1930s California, Ming is often treated differently than other children at school. She’s pointedly not invited to sing in the Christmas choir. At home, when Ming lobbies her parents for a Christmas tree, her mother scolds her for trying to be American. Ming doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere: she’s not quite American enough at school, not quite Chinese enough at home.
Seeing his daughter’s unhappiness, Pop takes her into the mountains to visit a wise old friend. Always happy for an adventure with her kind father, Ming hopes to persuade Pop to bring home a mountain pine to be their Christmas tree. But he has something else in mind, something that will help Ming draw strength from nature, from their Chinese heritage, and from deep and enduring family ties. —Synopsis provided by Shadow Mountain Publishing
I’m always on the lookout for books that celebrate different cultures and customs. This is a story about being true to your roots while building new traditions as well.
THE HANUKKAH MAGIC OF NATE GADOL, by Arthur A. Levine and Kevin Hawkes, Candlewick; Illustrated edition, Sept. 8, 2020, Hardcover, $19.99 (ages 5-8)
Nate Gadol is a great big spirit with eyes as shiny as golden coins and a smile that is lantern bright. He can make anything last as long as it is needed, like a tiny bit of oil that must stretch for eight nights, a flower that needs to stay fresh to cheer up someone ailing, or a small lump of chocolate that grows to allow the Glasers to treat their children over the holiday and, during a harsh winter when medicine is needed more than sweets, spurs them to share what little they have with the O’Malleys. This is a mythical, magical take on the way Jewish families came to give and receive gifts over Hanukkah, just as their Christian neighbors do at Christmas, thanks to a loving spirit named Nate Gadol working behind the scenes—together with a certain jolly old soul. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick
We celebrate Christmas in our home, but focus on other faith traditions as well. When my daughter was 3, she insisted we light a menorah. This book offers a nice bridge between the two faiths. Beautiful gold accents throughout the illustrations take this one over the top.Return to Top
AGES 6 AND UP
CHRISTMAS ROCKS!, by Lori C. Froeb, Silver Dolphin Books, Sept. 15, 2020, Paperback, $15.99 (ages 6 and up)
‘Tis the season to be jolly—and creative— with this Christmas-inspired rock-painting kit. Inside, kids will find 6 rocks (3 white rocks, and 3 gray), 6 paint pots, 2 paintbrushes, and a 32-page, full-color, easy-to-follow instruction guide on how to paint super-cute snowmen, Santas, snow globes, and more on the included rocks. Painted rocks make fabulous gifts and wonderful holiday decorations, so get in the holiday spirit and start creating! —Synopsis provided by Silver Dolphin Books
The second my 6-year-old saw this, she wanted to start creating. This is a dream for creative kids. While her work isn’t exactly perfect, she’s had a blast with this set, and that’s all I care about. The publisher’s suggested age is 8-12. I think going younger is fine as long as you’re prepared to help when needed.Return to Top