Check out this magical, globally inspired list of holiday read-alouds!
It’s that time of year again! The world is lit up with holiday magic. And with Hanukkah and Diwali just in the rearview and Christmas, Kwanzaa and the new year right around the corner, now is the perfect time for revel in the joy.
Wherever you are and however you celebrate, children’s books have an almost universal way of inspiring togetherness and creating joyful memories.
So get into the spirit (and into your cozies) and treat your kid to these beautifully illustrated holiday read-alouds honoring celebrations around the world.
Holiday Read-Alouds on Epic
Ages: 2 & under
By: Rina Singh
Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights, is the biggest, most important celebration in India. Spanning five days, people all over get together to celebrate the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. With vivid photos and lyrical prose, this digital version of the popular board book brings this festival to life for prereaders in a way that dazzles and captivates their senses. They’ll also get a primer on how people observe this special time, from the lighting of candles and sharing of sweets, to opening gifts, watching fireworks and more.
Written by: Laura Gehl
Illustrated by: Lydia Nichols
“Candles to light. More every night. Greetings to write. Happy Llamakkah!”
So begins this playful story following a little llama and his family as they practice their holiday traditions. From lighting the menorah and spinning dreidels to frying latkes, this cute rhyming book is a celebration in and of itself. Your kid can also check out the expanded information section in the back to learn more about the history of Hanukkah.
Written by: Keith Brockett
Illustrated by: Joseph Cowman
“Twas the night before Christmas, and up in the town, a theatre stood high on a hill like a crown…” Your kid will love this madcap tale set to “The Night Before Christmas” rhyme.
It’s Christmas Eve and tensions are running high as a group of children frantically prepare for opening night of a production of “The Nutcracker.” It seems doomed to fail as mishap after mishap piles up… sick stage hands, crashing Christmas trees, falling spotlights… you name it. Just when things for the ballet performance go from terribly bad to ridiculously worse, a visit from Santa Claus on his sleigh could help save the show. The rhythmic text and delightful prose make for a perfect Christmas read-aloud.
By: Eric A. Kimmel and Mike Wohnoutka
Bubba Brayna makes the best latkes in the village, and on the first night of Hanukkah, the scent of her cooking wakes a hungry, adorable bear from his hibernation. He lumbers into town to investigate, and Bubba Brayna—who does not see or hear very well—mistakes him for her rabbi. She welcomes the bear inside to play the dreidel game, light the menorah, and enjoy a scrumptious meal. After the bear leaves, the rabbi, and all of Brayna’s other friends, arrive for dinner. But there are no latkes left—and together, they finally figure out who really ate them. Complete with a traditional recipe for latkes and interesting, digestible facts about the history and traditions of Hanukkah, this humorous reworking of Eric A. Kimmel’s earlier classic tale, “The Chanukkah Guest,” is perfect for holiday story time.
Written by: Mitali Banerjee Ruths
Illustrated by: Parwinder Singh
Archie, a young Indian American girl, LOVES Diwali. And this year is extra special because she gets to teach her school friends to the Festival of Lights and join in the celebration with her family. She helps with the decorations and preparing food, and can’t wait for everyone to show up. But just when the party is getting started, a thunderstorm causes the power to go out and threatens to ruin everything. This book is a sweet intro for young readers curious about this important holiday. It even includes historic facts, a glossary and a traditional Diwali recipe.
Seven Candles for Kwanzaa (Audiobook)
By: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Kwanzaa is a uniquely African-American holiday celebrated by millions of people every year. Since ancient times, families in African countries have come together to celebrate the end of harvest and beginning of the new planting season. Today, families in the U.S.continue the tradition with five days of Kwanzaa. Swahili for “first fruits of the harvest,” it’s also a time to honor family ties, ancestors, community and gratitude. Each day everyone gathers to light a candle and tell stories, sing songs, dance and enjoy a delicious feast. This audio version of the picture book is the perfect primer on this lively annual tradition.
Written by: Lee Wind
Illustrated by: Paul O. Zelinsky
Friends Isaac, who is Jewish, and Teresa, who is Christian, have been looking forward to the holiday season for months. Even though their families and interests are different, they can’t wait to enjoy many of the same festive winter activities. Like playing in the snow and making cookies! But when Isaac’s window is smashed in the middle of the night it becomes clear that not everyone is able to appreciate one another’s differences. Inspired by a true story, this uplifting book follows these young kids as they help their community stand up to injustice and spread light.
By: Tomie dePaola
From the beloved author of “Strega Nona” (check out the animated version here), comes this charming illustrated history of Christmas trees. With bright illustrations and simple text, it follows a couple of curious kids as they shop for a tree with their parents. It answers questions like, “where Christmas trees came from,” and “who invented them?” Your kid will love this fact-filled story on the history and the legends behind this holiday mainstay. It even includes a DIY activity for making Christmas tree ornaments.
Written by: Rebecca Gyllenhaal, David Berenbaum
Illustrated by: Kim Smith
If you loved the hit comedy movie, “Elf,” you’ll love reliving the laughter with your kid in this picture book version. Your kid can follow Christmas-spirited Buddy the Elf as he struggles to fit in at the North Pole, then discovers he’s not actually an elf and that his father is on the Naughty List! Intent on fixing the situation he ventures to New York City to find his dad. With adorable illustrations, the book captures the iconic moments and memorable lines from the film.
Written by Linda Glaser
Illustrated by: Aleksandar Zolotic
Faigel makes the best Hanukkah latkes in Chelm, but she only cooks them in small batches. This year though, she can’t remember the recipe. So her husband runs to the rabbi for some wisdom. Adorable silliness transpires as she works through the ingredients. With the rabbi’s advice, she may just end up having enough to feed a village! This story is part of a Jewish storytelling tradition about a fictional town known as “the village of fools” where all sorts of hilarious tomfoolery takes place, with a few sprinkles of wisdom in each tale.
Written by: Gloria Whelan
Illustrated by: Stephen Costanza
This heartwarming and gorgeously illustrated picture book is among our favorite read-aloud books for older kids. It takes place at the monastery of St. Ambrose on the Irish island of Morcarrick. One day the Abbot decides that Brother Bede, their finest manuscript illuminator, would illustrate the Christmas story in a magnificent new book. In a mixup, mistake-prone Brother Cuthbert is chosen to assist with the lettering. Nicknamed “Smudge,” even he’s sure he’s not up to the task of helping create the greatest Christmas book of all. Nevertheless, he takes on the challenge. And in the process he discovers that mistakes are part of success, and that your greatest weakness can prove to be your greatest strength.
By: Roger Langridge
If your heart warms at the thought of a white Christmas, no winter holiday is complete without one important thing: snowmen! In this sweet graphic novel, an imaginative 9-year old little girl named Abigail moves to a small town and has a tough time fitting in. Her world changes for the better when she meets a loveable and sophisticated yeti named Claude. They become fast friends, but no one believes he’s real. When the mysterious Shadow Men show up looking for Claude, the pair embark on an adventure to find his real home. This touching story takes kids on a journey of loyalty and friendship.
Other Holiday Books
Can’t get enough holiday read-alouds? Take a look at favorite books off our platform, all available on Amazon.
- “Christmas Treasury,” by Jan Brett
- “Construction Site on Christmas Night,” by Sherry Duskey Rinker
- “Red and Lulu,” by Matt Tavares
- “The Polar Express,” by Chris Van Allsburg
- “The Shortest Day,” by Susan Cooper
- “The Seven Days of Kwanzaa,” by Angela Shelf Medearis
- “Llama Llama Holiday Drama,” by Anna Dewdney
For more holiday read-alouds, check out our posts: Holiday Picture Books for Kids of All Ages. You can also find some great titles and activity books in our 2020 Holiday Reading Guide and by exploring on Epic.
From all of us at Epic, merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah, Diwali and Kwanzaa!