One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is celebrating by reading Christmas picture books with my young children. Another favorite part of the season for me is singing Christmas songs. In fact, our home is one in which Christmas songs are fair game all year round! What better union, then, but to read children's picture books of favorite holiday songs! Here are some of the best Christmas songs picture books to get us ready for Christmas caroling!
This year, I took our huge stack of children's holiday picture books and wrapped them up to create a picture book countdown to Christmas! I am excited to read a favorite picture book each morning until Christmas is here.Our stack of books is full of traditional stories, both religious (the nativity story) and secular (the Santa tradition). I love all these aspects of Christmas! Here are some of the best Christmas song picture books in our stack of holiday reading.
Nativity Songs Picture Books
One favorite Christmas song picture book is Tomie dePaola’s The Friendly Beasts. I like Tomie dePaola’s illustration style for this Christmas carol, although there are many available. I believe dePaola’s simple illustrations fit the song well. He frames the carol with three boys singing, although the majority of the book illustrates the manger, the animals, and people worshiping the newborn Savior. Every other page is a two-page spread with the specific animal near the baby Jesus. When I was young, “The Friendly Beasts” was, in a way, our family Christmas carol, especially my favorite. My favorite verse is of the doves.
Another favorite Christmas song picture book is The Little Drummer Boy illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. I love how the rhythm of the drum has been kept in the text. Ezra Jack Keats' signature collage-style illustrations work very well for this carol. It is a well-done version of the song, and I love Ezra Jack Keats' style.
Santa & Friends Songs Picture Books
Here Comes Santa Claus by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman (illustrated by Bruce Whatley) has beautiful illustrations to the classic song. The realistic illustrations shift from Santa at the North Pole and in the midst of delivering presents, to a family singing carols, hanging stockings, and otherwise preparing for a happy Christmas Eve. This song about Santa Claus is a Christian one, and I enjoy the blend of Santa with the Christian Christmas cheer.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as illustrated by David Wenzel, has modern illustrations that are bright and engaging, but the words to the song are the familiar ones. It’s in an oversized hardcover format. I like the complete story of Rudolph. No, it's not the story of Hermie as in the animated version of Rudolph's story. But this story is a great illustrated version of the song!
Holiday Traditional Songs Picture Books
There are many illustrated versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas. My favorite is that illustrated by John O’Brien because it brings the ridiculousness of this carol to life. The illustrations show that he is a bit annoyed at his true love by the end. Who wouldn't be?! I mean, all those birds?
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire by Mel Torme and Robert Wells and illustrated by Doris Barrette is a whimsical look at a family gathering for a traditional Christmas evening. I love how each line of the lyrics has been illustrated with the family activity (including the pets) that correlates to it! Caroling, lazying by the fire, anticipating Christmas by waiting by the window, smiling and eating together. It is a perfect Christmas song and makes a perfect family Christmas book!
Non-Lyric Christmas Song Picture Books
I've always had a favorite place in my heart for The Nutcracker. When I was about 8, my mother sewed a beautiful satin Christmas dress for me as well as one for my sister. As a family, we went to Chicago to watch a ballet of The Nutcracker. I have always loved the music and the story of this Christmas tradition. I'm delighted that this year I snagged Jan Brett's illustrated The Nutcracker to read with my own children.
The Nutcracker by Michael Hague brings the story to life, basing his retelling on the E.T.A. Hoffman 1800’s story as well as the ballet. While I don’t always love Hague’s illustration style, it works well for this story. Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker provides another whimsical telling, this time with plenty of magic and happily ever after in bright colored illustrations. Then, Alison Jay's traditional crackle-varnish illustrations to the story in her beautiful edition of The Nutcracker. It keeps many of the details of the ballet in it, so it is one of my favorites!
Finally, I cannot end a post about Christmas Song picture books without mentioning A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It's true, it's not a book about or providing the lyrics for a Christmas song. But as its title suggests, it is a book with a message of the spirit and joy of Christmas, as all these other Christmas books are. This year, we got the lovely unabridged Illustrated Classic version of The Christmas Carol from Usborne. Here are some favorite illustrated and unabridged versions of A Christmas Carol.
Illustrated by Maria Berg
Illustrated by Lizabeth Zwerger
Illustrated by Jill de Haan
Illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova
There are many other Christmas songs I love for which I have not yet found a children's picture book, but this list is a start! Which are your favorites?