Every year, Cracking the Cover compiles a list of books that make great additions to your holiday library. These books were published in 2023. All synopsizes are provided by respective publishers. Scroll down for the complete list or click or tap the following links to directly visit a section BOARD BOOKS• AGES 2 AND UP • AGES 3 AND UP • AGES 4 AND UP • AGES 5 AND UP
NORTH POLE VILLAGE, by Sabrina Makhsimova and Dinara Mirtalipova, Chronicle Books, Sept. 19, 2023, Board Books, $14.99 (ages 2-4)
Take a tour of the North Pole with these three adorable board books in one gifty package!
Step into a pocket-sized winter wonderland with this whimsical Christmas village . . . made of books! The trifold case opens up to reveal three cleverly disguised books nestled into a magical wintry village with three charming locations just waiting to be explored.
Warm up inside Mr. Klaus’s cozy cottage, share cocoa with a friendly polar bear, and take a peek inside the toymakers’ workshop to meet Mr. Klaus’s tiniest secret helpers on their busiest night of the year. Each illustrated book contains a holiday story, while the pocket-book sleeve can act as a festive backdrop for play when open or snap shut into a satisfyingly compact, easy-to-shelve package. —Synopsis provided by Chronicle Books
This 3-in-1 offering is so much fun to open and explore. Each book is short — just eight pages — but they can stand alone or as a group with ease. Rhythmic text is printed small enough that someone older would need to read them aloud. But little ones will come back again and again for the lovely, stylized illustrations.
IN THE HOLLY JOLLY NORTH POLE: A Pop-Up Adventure, by Joel Stern , Nancy Leschnikoff, Little Simon, Sept. 12, 2023, Board Book, $12.99 (ages 3-5)
Welcome to the cold North Pole,
where elves are all preparing
gifts for children around the world
for fun, and play, and sharing.
At the North Pole, Santa’s workshop is stuffed with little elves preparing for the holidays with gifts, treats, and fun! A sturdy page-turner, In the Holly Jolly North Pole is an innovative pop-up story with treats for kids of all ages. —Synopsis provided by Little Simon
This pop-up tale has a classic feel to it with full-color illustrations that transport you to the North Pole. Simple, rhyming text is fun to read aloud, but it’s really the framework for cheerfully detailed pictures that kids will peruse over and over again.
AGES 2 AND UP
DECORATE THE TREE, by Amanda Jane Jones, Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 5, 2023, Hardcover, $15.99 (ages 2-5)
Hooray! It’s time to decorate the tree! Can you help? Clap to turn on the lights. Twinkle your fingers to add some ornaments. Shake to add some more. (But not too hard; you don’t want to break one!)
This full-color interactive picture book allows little helpers to trim the tree again and again, all season long. —Synopsis provided by Harry N. Abrams
Decorate the Tree is an interactive gem that little ones will immediately love. We had something similar when my daughter was little, and we would spend a good 15 minutes at a time reading and re-reading, because this sort of book is magic. With the tap of a finger or blink of the eyes, little ones add to the décor. It’s just plain fun.
WE DISAGREE ABOUT THIS TREE: A CHRISTMAS STORY (Ross Collins’ Mouse and Bear Stories), by Ross Collins, Candlewick Press, Sept. 5, 2023, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 2-5)
Bear and Mouse have finally overcome their differences and are living together in perfect harmony . . . until it’s time to decorate the Christmas tree! Bear wants dazzling lights, while Mouse prefers gigantic ornaments. Did Mouse just put a manatee on the top of the tree? After Bear attempts an upside-down tree, it looks as if Christmas might be ruined for the pair. But maybe, just maybe, Bear and Mouse can reach a compromise in the spirit of the season. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick Press
We Disagree About This Tree is a follow up to There’s a Bear on My Chair and There’s a Mouse in My House by Ross Collins. This book takes a humorous look at disagreements that happen during the holidays — in this case, decorating the tree. Silly illustrations and text that’s easily mimicked by little ones makes this a fun one for the holidays.
RED & GREEN, by Lois Ehlert, Beach Lane Books, Sept. 12, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 2 and up)
It was a cold, wintery night, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except a small mouse!
Follow this mischievous mouse on his late-night holiday adventure. The snow is falling, the tree is decorated, and the cookies are ready for nibbling. Just be sure to keep an eye out for Santa! —Synopsis provided by Beach Lane Books
Red & Green is a deceptively simple concept that will wow readers young and new. Lois Ehlert uses The Night Before Christmas as inspiration for her nuanced picture book. Readers will delight at basic shapes and cut paper paired with simple text that creates story and illustrative surprises throughout.
AGES 3 AND UP
DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE SLEIGH!, by Mo Willems, Union Square Kids, Sept. 5, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 3-5)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year—for driving a sleigh! ’Tis also the season—for driving a sleigh! Oh, and joy to the—driving a sleigh! The Pigeon has made a list and checked it once. Can his holiday dream come true? Or will The Pigeon be left out in the cold?
You’ll share some HO-HO-HOs and HA-HA-HAs finding out in three-time Caldecott Honoree Mo Willems’ ninth Pigeon book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh! —Synopsis provided by Union Square Kids
If you or your kids are Mo Willems fans, then you need this book. It features the same silly antics you’ve come to love and adore. It’s classic Pigeon, and a delightfully different take on “Christmas stories.”
THE FRIENDLY ANIMALS: A CHRISTMAS STORY, by James Newman Gray, Gibbs Smith, Aug. 29, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 3-8)
A gentle retelling of the first Christmas through the perspective of the animals in the barn who offered their own gifts to the baby Jesus.
The Friendly Animals: A Christmas Story is taken from a centuries-old folk song now brightly and gently illustrated. This traditional Christmas story is perfect to read to small children during the holidays to teach about the nativity and the heart-felt gifts the animals at the manger gave to baby Jesus, sharing their kindness and love. —Synopsis provided by Gibbs Smith
The Friendly Animals: A Christmas Story is a gentle introduction to the Nativity story. Its simple, rhyming text makes for a good read-aloud. And its friendly illustrations are inviting. This is a good choice for people looking to add an accessible religious title to their children’s Christmas book collection.
AGES 4 AND UP
DASHER CAN’T WAIT FOR CHRISTMAS, by Matt Tavares, Candlewick Press, Sept. 5, 2023, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-8)
“If you ever get lost, just look for the North Star.”
With only one sleep left before Christmas Eve, Dasher can’t contain her excitement for her favorite holiday. With the sound of Christmas carols on the breeze and twinkling lights radiating from a nearby city, she sneaks off to visit the festivities. But as night deepens and snow starts to fall, Dasher realizes she can no longer spot the North Star in the sky to lead her home. Will the kindness of a child, an unexpected gift, and a dose of Christmas spirit get her back in time to help guide Santa’s sleigh? —Synopsis provided by Candlewick Press
Dasher Can’t Wait for Christmas is a follow-up to Matt Tavares’ best-selling Dasher. For the people who complain about Dasher being a girl, it’s a scientific fact the male reindeer shed their antlers in the fall and females shed theirs in the spring. Dasher is not necessarily a feminization of a popular myth but one that’s been updated by science. And that’s a good thing.
Dasher Can’t Wait for Christmas is a sweet story that encompasses the excitement leading up to Christmas, and Tavares’ illustrations are beautifully executed.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, STREGA NONA (A Strega Nona Book), by Tomie dePaola, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition, Sept. 12, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)
It’s Christmas time in Calabria and with Strega Nona’s annual feast around the corner, she has no time for her usual magical tasks. Christmas has a magic of its own, and no one knows magic like Strega Nona does, especially Big Anthony. But with the clock ticking on her preparations, will Big Anthony finally be able to prove that he can be counted on with some magic of his own? —Synopsis provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Tomie dePaola died in 2020, but his beloved characters live on through books old and new. This is a new edition of his 1986 Christmas tale that celebrates the magic of Christmas and the love of community. Bright colors and folk-art style illustrations are paired with comforting text.
IT’S NAVIDAD, EL CUCUY! by Donna Barba Higuera and Juliana Perdomo, Harry N. Abrams; Bilingual edition, Sept. 19, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)
A boy and his monster from under the bed celebrate Navidad—Christmas—in It’s Navidad, El Cucuy!, a festive, bilingual picture book from Newbery Medal–winning author Donna Barba Higuera and illustrator Juliana Perdomo.
Ramón is a little boy who can’t wait for Navidad. El Cucuy is the friendly monster who lives in Ramón’s bedroom. He’s not so sure that Christmas is for him. The lights are too bright, and the snowman is scary!
So if El Cucuy is hesitant to embrace the holiday cheer, then Ramón will have to bring the spirit of Navidad to him. —Synopsis provided by Harry N. Abrams
This is a sweet story of Christmas, culture and friendship that will resonate with readers. An author’s note includes an overview of the traditions behind Las Posadas, a festival beginning on December 16th and ending on Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) that is celebrated in Mexico and parts of Latin America and the United States. Simple English text that provides context for Spanish words and phrases is paired with bright, friendly illustrations.
HOW DOES SANTA GO DOWN THE CHIMNEY? by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Candlewick, Sept. 12, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)
When Santa arrives at a child’s house on Christmas Eve, does he go down the chimney feetfirst or headfirst? What if he gets stuck? What if there’s no chimney? Maybe he slides under the door, as thin as a piece of paper? Or is it possible he pours himself through the faucet? What happens once he’s inside? Whether it’s shape-shifting or impromptu laundry use, Mac Barnett’s iconic talent for earnest deadpan humor and Jon Klassen’s irresistibly funny art honor the timeless question with answers both ridiculous and plausible, mounting in hilarity as the night continues. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick
This spectacular look at how Santa might get into houses to deliver presents is hilarious. Kids and parents alike will giggle at the speculation. Kids are sure to come up with their own ideas after reading this. It will particularly appeal to those with dry humor.
ELVES ARE THE WORST! by Alex Willan, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Sept. 12, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)
Everyone knows that elves have a reputation of being the hardest workers around—especially when it comes to the holiday season—but as far as Gilbert the Goblin is concerned that’s nothing but ho-ho-hogwash. A goblin’s to-do list is just as long as any elf’s; they just don’t feel the need to sing songs about it.
To prove he can outperform any reindeer-watching, wrapper-paper-wielding, toy-tinkering elf, Gilbert puts on his merriest disguise to infiltrate Santa’s workshop. But can one lone goblin do the work of a whole team of elves? —Synopsis provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
This fun picture book will have young readers laughing out loud at Gilbert’s hijinks, and they’ll also learn a little bit about teamwork, too. Part of Alex Willan’s The Worst! series, Elves Are the Worst features simple text, bright colors, and a silly main character that kids love.
SANTA SHARK: A GREAT WHITE CHRISTMAS, by Mike Lowery, Orchard Books, Oct. 3, 2023, Hardcover, $14.99 (ages 4-8)
Jingle shells, Jingle shells, jingle all the waves! Oh, what fun it is to dive in a sea horse-driven sleigh!
While humans may count the days until Santa Claus arrives, deep in the ocean, Edgar, a goofy, toothy young shark prepares for the arrival of Santa Shark! But Lotta, his sidekick crab pal, is not as convinced. Still, Lotta helps Edgar get his home ready. In a race against time, they prepare a tasty snack for Santa, write Christmas cods to their friends, and sing Christmas corals! Will Edgar find a way to make sure everything is just right for Santa Shark’s big night? —Synopsis provided by Orchard Books
This is the year for wacky, outside-the-box Christmas books. Santa Shark is bursting with color, movement and humor.
PEAS ON EARTH (Bad Apple), by Huw Lewis Jones and Ben Sanders, Thames & Hudson, Oct. 24, 2023, Hardcover, $16.95 (ages 4-8)
It’s Christmas day and everyone is just so . . . jolly. Granny Smith has kick-started the caroling, and the Cheese family’s merriness is grating to say the least. But it’s the arrival of Pea and his extended family that really puts Bad Apple’s goodwill to the test. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas . . . but how long can the Peas last? —Synopsis provided by Thames & Hudson
Welcome to the world of Bad Apple, where grumpy is the name of the game. Well… it is for one fruit anyway. The other fruits and veggies aren’t about to let Bad Apple put a damper on their holiday cheer, even if it means the tree gets a “new” topper. This book offers up deadpan humor sure to entice young readers.
AGES 5 AND UP
THE CHRISTMAS SONGBOOK: Sing Along to Eight Classic Carols, by Amy Adele, Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 19, 2023, Hardcover, $24.99 (ages 5 and up)
Christmas is coming! Follow the Mouse Family as they choose a Christmas tree, listen to carolers in the village square, wait for the arrival of Santa Claus, and more. Each step of their adventure is paired with a classic Christmas carol. Simply press the stars on the pages to hear the songs in this interactive sound book, which also includes sheet music for budding musicians.
Sing along with these holiday favorites: “O Christmas Tree,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Joy to the World.” —Synopsis provided by Harry N. Abrams
The Christmas Songbook is one of those books that becomes an instant favorite with kids. We have some similar ones that are read and played on repeat through the holidays. The recording quality here is decent across all eight songs, and the sweet illustrations easily draw readers in. The inclusion of sheet music is a nice touch.
THE CHRISTMAS DOLL: A REPAIR SHOP STORY (Repair Shop Stories), by Amy Sparkes and Katie Hickey, Candlewick Entertainment, Sept. 26, 2023, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 5 and up)
Susan is very young when she’s evacuated from London during World War II and sent to live in the countryside with a family she has never met. Uncertain of her new surroundings and desperately missing home, she holds out little hope for the months ahead. Then, on Christmas Day, she receives a doll that she names Lizzy. It is the best present she’s ever had.
Only decades later, when Susan and her great-granddaughter Evie bring the precious doll in for repairs—and Susan narrates the tale of her tumultuous childhood—does she realize the true meaning and scope of the gift she received that long-ago Christmas morning. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick Entertainment
The Christmas Doll is based on the true story of a girl named Patricia who received a doll in 1939. Patricia brought her doll the The Repair Shop, which is also a real place where experts repair broken or damaged heirlooms. It is also a TV show. The Christmas Doll has the same warmth and wonderment of the show, with inviting text and charming illustrations.
Merry Mischief: A QUIX Book (4) (Elf Academy), by Alan Katz, Aladdin, Sept. 5, 2023, Hardcover, $17.99, Paperback, $5.99 (ages 5 and up)
The Elf Academy elves take on babysitting in this fourth and final book in a series about a young elf’s merry misadventures. Andy Snowden has to take care of his teacher’s niece and nephew who are moving to the North Pole. Has he finally met his mischievous match? —Synopsis provided by Aladdin
This fun chapter book is part of a series, but can be read independently. Short chapters feature fun characters and charming black-and-white illustrations.
S IS FOR SANTA PUZZLE: 500 Piece Puzzle, by Greg Paprock, Gibbs Smith, Aug. 15, 2023, 500 pieces, $16.99 (ages 5 and up)
Celebrate the jolliest season with the 500-piece jigsaw puzzle illustrated by Greg Paprocki, the creator of Gibb Smith’s wildly popular Baby Lit alphabet series. Featuring Santa in Greg’s signature vintage style, this puzzle is perfect for all ages. Gather around a table with family or friends or piece it together by yourself! —Synopsis provided by Gibbs Smith
This charming puzzle is sure to make for a fun family night. At 500 pieces, it’s not overly complicated. Although, those pieces are realistically too small for kids under the age of 5. The finished product is 19.5 X 14 inches, which isn’t very big. The puzzle is made out of sturdy cardboard, and the pieces were punched out well, making it easy to fit the pieces together.
Copyright © 2023 Cracking the Cover. Unless otherwise noted, all books — digital and physical — have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest and unbiased reviews. All thoughts and opinions are those of the reviewer.