Every year, Cracking the Cover compiles a list of books that make great additions to your holiday library. The following were published in 2021. All synopsizes are italicized in blue 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 AGES 2 AND UP • AGES 3 AND UP • AGES 4 AND UP • AGES 5 AND UP
AGES 2 AND UP
CONSTRUCTION SITE: MERRY AND BRIGHT: A CHRISTMAS LIFT-THE-FLAP BOOK (GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT CONSTRUCTION SITE), by Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford, Chronicle Books, Nov. 2, 2021, Board Book, $12.99 (ages 2-4)
Celebrate the holidays with the construction crew from the bestselling Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site series!
When Christmas Eve arrives, there’s just one job left for the big trucks to do—get their construction site ready for a festive night of fun! Lift the flaps on every sturdy page to reveal what each truck is bringing to the celebration, while discovering that the best Christmas present of all is the gift of being together.
This fun, interactive board book features rhyming text and familiar characters as they prepare for Christmas. It includes 7 sturdy flaps that will delight little ones. This is a fun one for parents to read aloud, too.
THE LITTLE OWL & THE BIG TREE: A CHRISTMAS STORY, by Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter, Beach Lane Books, Oct. 19, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 2-8)
There once was an owl who lived in a tree. Until one day her home was uprooted and she was taken far away from what she knew. Follow Rockefeller (“Rocky”) the owl as she journeys to the bustling center of New York City and she’s discovered among the branches of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. With human kindness and a dash of holiday spirit, can this brave little owl find a new home?
This simple, but heartwarming, Christmas story will intrigue young readers, who will likely want to know more about Northern Saw-whet Owls after reading it. Bright, bold illustrations give a sense of scale while still conveying emotion.
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, by Clement C. Moore and Antonio Javier Caparo, Little Simon; Reissue edition, Oct. 5, 2021, Hardcover, $9.99 (ages 1-6)
Enjoy the classic Christmas tale as never before with stunning illustrations by Antonio Caparo, who brought another holiday legend to life in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Rudolph Strikes Again.
Since it was first published nearly 200 years ago “The Night Before Christmas” has enchanted readers young and old with the story of St. Nicholas landing on a snowy roof, climbing down the chimney, and filling all the stockings with gifts before riding off in his sleigh, wishing “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
With bold colors and crisp lines, this modern take on a familiar tale has an almost animated feel to it. Kids could definitely see this Santa sneaking into their own homes.
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, by Clement C. Moore (Author), P.J. Lynch, Candlewick, Nov. 2, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 1-6)
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house . . .
P.J. Lynch brings his rich and atmospheric art to the well-loved holiday poem. Children will pore over every cozy detail in these warm, sweeping watercolor illustrations — from snug mice to stockings hung by the chimney with care to toys in the bundle flung over merry St. Nicholas’s back.
P.J. Lynch’s expressive illustrations in more muted tones bring a different, more sophisticated feel to this holiday classic. His sense of movement really brings the tale to life.
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (STORIES FROM THE MUSIC BOX), by Clement C. Moore and Raquel Martin Peinado, Magic Cat, Oct. 5, 2021, Hardcover, $29.99 (ages 1-6)
Bring the spirit of Christmas into your home with this unique sound book, which incorporates a windup music mechanism that sounds just like a musical jewelry box. Simply turn the crank and let the nostalgic carol “Deck the Halls” set the scene as you settle down to share Clement C. Moore’s classic story ’Twas Night Before Christmas.
The music box element of this book is what sets it apart from the many, many other versions of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. The box part is quite substantial, but the illustrations are sweet. Kids will love reading/playing it over and over again.
AGES 3 AND UP
THE ROBIN AND THE FIR TREE, by Hans Christian Andersen and Jason Jameson, Templar, November 16, 2021, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 3-7)
In a forest far away from the hustle and bustle of town grows the Fir Tree. The meadow he lives in is beautiful and serene, but the Fir Tree yearns for the excitement of the outside world. His friend the Robin brings him gifts and tells him stories of the places she’s been, the people she’s flown over, and the many things men construct out of wood. The Fir Tree dreams of adventure and wishes to be something more. He imagines a new life as a ship’s mast, traveling the world by sea. When men come to the meadow with axes one day and cut him down, the Fir Tree is eager to be chosen for a new purpose. But the Robin worries. What will become of her strong, beautiful friend?
This retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Fir Tree is one of my favorite holiday offerings this year. I could spend an hour just gazing at the exquisite illustrations. Each one has beautifully stylized details that truly make them special. And there’s a lovely touch of hope that runs throughout.
12 DAYS OF PRINCESS, by Holly Rice and John Bajet, Disney Press, Sept. 7, 2021, Hardcover, $12.99 (ages 3-5)
Inspired by the famous song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” a new holiday tradition is here: the twelve days of princess! Countdown to Christmas with Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Snow White, and Ariel. Each day brings a new magical gift, like two glass slippers or seven singing dwarfs, from one of your favorite Disney Princesses to help get you into the holiday spirit.
Though a bit silly, I can definitely see young readers singing along with princess-centric book. If your child loves Disney Princesses, then this will be right up their alley.
AGES 4 AND UP
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS, by Phillips Brooks, Lewis H. Redner, et al., Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Sept. 28, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)
From the great-grandson of renowned folk art painter Grandma Moses comes a picture book about the first Christmas. Based on the lyrics of the beloved carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” this picture book in Will Moses’s acclaimed folk art style is unlike any other.
The First Christmas is a great choice for families that want to focus on the religious side of Christmas. Moses’s illustrations pair perfectly with the carol, giving readers a sense of the place where Jesus was born.
RED AND GREEN AND BLUE AND WHITE, by Lee Wind and Paul O. Zelinsky, Levine Querido, Oct. 19, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-7)
Inspired by a true story, this is a tale of a community that banded together to spread light. It’s a holiday season that both Isaac, whose family is Jewish, and Teresa, whose family is Christian, have looked forward to for months! They’ve been counting the days, playing in the snow, making cookies, drawing (Teresa) and writing poems (Isaac). They enjoy all the things they share, as well as the things that make them different. But when Isaac’s window is smashed in the middle of the night, it seems like maybe not everyone appreciates “difference.”
Too often, we see separate religions as the things that divide us. Red and Green and Blue and White shows how they can unite us. This heartfelt story celebrates the true spirit that can permeate the holiday season — if we let it.
ROBIN ROBIN, by Dan Ojari, Mikey Please, et al., Red Comet Press, Nov. 2, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)
A chirpy young robin is adopted by a family of mice in the joyful retelling of the new animation holiday musical special from Netflix and Aardman Animation.
When her egg fortuitously rolls into a garbage dump, Robin is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent. Robin sets off on the heist to end all heists to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse – but ends up discovering who she really is.
Robin Robin may also be a Netflix special, but the book stands on its own. This charming tale about a somewhat clumsy robin and her adventures in the who-man’s house is one that will have readers giggling aloud. Kids will be drawn to the sweet illustrations and parents will enjoy reading it aloud.
Though set at Christmas, the holiday is never specifically mentioned. Rather it’s the themes of diversity, community, inclusion and acceptance throughout that celebrate the spirit of the holiday.
A CHRISTMAS TOO BIG, by Colleen Madden, Two Lions; Bilingual edition, Nov. 2, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)
Kerry’s family goes completely berserk with Christmas every year. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, her home becomes a whirlwind of lights, music, and elves, elves, elves! Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming.
This year, Kerry is desperate for some peace and quiet. Heading outdoors, she realizes a lot of her neighbors are having a Christmas too big. But not Mrs. Flores. She’s having a much quieter Christmas, complete with decorations and music from the country where she used to live. It sparks an idea: maybe there’s a way for Kerry to create her own Christmas traditions. But will anyone in her crazy Christmas house understand?
A Christmas Too Big feels a bit overwhelming at first. As author/illustrator Colleen Madden follows the family merrymaking, you, as the reader, get a very true sense of how Kerry feels. Then, everything changes. With one turn of the page, you enter a quiet, calm place. You can take a breath.
With one simple transition, Madden conveys a host of emotions. It’s a fantastic juxtaposition. As Kerry returns home, she realizes that by creating her own tradition, she can take back some of Christmas for herself.
CARLA AND THE CHRISTMAS CORNBREAD, by Carla Hall and Cherise Harris, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Nov. 2, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)
Christmas is Carla’s favorite holiday of the year. She goes to her grandparents’ house and eats grandma’s special recipe — a perfectly delicious cornbread. She listens to her grandpa Doc’s marvelous stories about traveling the world. And, best of all, she spends lots of time with her family.
But when Carla accidentally takes a bite out of Santa’s sugar cookie, she thinks she’s ruined Christmas. How will Santa know to stop at their house if they don’t leave him a midnight snack? With her grandmother’s help, Carla comes up with a plan, but will it be enough to save Christmas?
In a season where there are a lot of Christmas on-offs, Carla and the Christmas Cornbread feels like a complete story. Characters are developed, and the story — written by a trained chef — has a point to it. It’s lovely to read about one family’s Christmas traditions and the inclusion of the cornbread recipe at the end is a nice touch.
AGES 5 AND UP
WHERE’S WALDO? SANTA SPOTLIGHT SEARCH, by Martin Handford, Candlewick, Sept. 24, 2021, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 5-9)
Christmas is coming, and Santa with it—if you can only find him! Luckily, Waldo fans have a cool wand to help them spotlight the jolly old guy in the dark.
Shake your sleigh bells, pull on your holiday sweater, and join in the festive madness! These night-time scenes are bustling with Santas getting ready for Christmas Eve. With the help of a magic slider to light up one spot at a time, can you find some very specific Santas—like the one whose stocking is threadbare? Or the ones who are slimmer than most? And by the way, where are Waldo and all his friends—Wenda, Odlaw, Wizard Whitebeard, and Woof?
If there’s one holiday book that my 7-year-old has been eyeing more than others this year, it’s this one. I mean, Waldo, with a searchlight. What more could a kid want? This interactive book features super-challenging searches as well as puzzles and games. It’s a bit gimmicky, but that’s exactly what kids want in a Where’s Waldo? book.