Swedish Christmas and Holiday Picture Books

Growing up the grandchild of Swedish immigrants, Swedish illustrated picture books, and especially Swedish Christmas books, were a steady part of my reading diet.

swedist holiday books

This list contains books for kids about Christmas,  St. Lucia Day, which is a festival of light celebration on December 13th, as well as winter-themed books. So go ahead, sit back and travel to the Land of the Midnight Sun. Just don’t forget your tomten guide and a few pepparkakkor (those yummy little ginger spice cookies).

Note: I personally chose only books I LOVE. Book covers and titles are affiliate links.


Christmas in Noisy Village. This is my Christmas must-read book. Join friends Lisa, Britta, Anna, Karl, Olaf, Kiersten and Bill during the holiday season as they cut down a Christmas tree, get flour all over the kitchen while making pig-shaped cookies, wrap presents with candle wax and travel to church in the pitch black cold morning. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? All my dreams would come true if I could just live in a quaint little Swedish village.


Ollie’s Ski Trip. Ollie goes off on a ski-trip where he has adventures with Jack Frost, Mrs. Snow and King Winter. Add in a snowball fight, lots of children and a few reindeer and you have a perfect winter picture book. To say that Beskow’s illustrations are delightful would be a gross understatement.


The Tomten. You cannot go wrong with this splendid classic; it’s a book that should be on every child’s bookshelf. Across Scandinavia, gnome-like creatures called tomten watch over farms while the humans sleep. They are quiet and strong and talk to the animals, comforting them during the cold winter nights.


Lucia and the Light. This book is not about St. Lucia or her namesake holiday, but it fits right into the festivities. One winter, when the sun disappears, the intrepid Lucia sets out to free the sun, held hostage by a group of trolls. A wonderful story about a courageous and clever young girl whose commitment and love for her family help her succeed in her quest. Gorgeously illustrated by Mary GrandPré, whom you might recognize as the illustrator of the US Harry Potter book covers.


The Tomten and the Fox. A solitary fox is hungry and the hens look tasty. The watchful, protective farm tomten shares his dinner with the hungry creature in this gentle companion book to The Tomten.


Boo and Baa in Windy Weather will not be an easy book to find, but if your library has a copy or you can find a used book you are so, so, so lucky. The Landströms’ trademark dry Swedish humor, a pair of sheep in a snow storm, a runaway cabbage and a comforting bowl of soup will make this book one your all-time winter favorites.


The Tomtes’ Christmas Porridge. Contemporary Swedish writer Sven Norquist penned this funny little story about a tomte family who looks forward to the rice pudding their master gives them at Christmastime.


Findus at Christmas.  Norquist has written a number of well-loved picture books about Petterson and his cat, Findus. In this installment Petterson injures himself just before Christmas, but his friends join together for a wonderful celebration.


Lucia Morning in Sweden. Three siblings prepare for St. Lucia Day by baking, singing and participating in the Lucia ceremony. The book includes recipes and crafts.


Lucia, Child of Light. This is a good book for exploring how modern day religious and secular traditions evolved from pagan folklore, legends and celebrations. The book also includes recipes, activities and tips for celebrating St. Lucia Day.


Peter and Lotta’s Christmas: A Story. In the 19th century before Father Christmas took over the holiday, the Julbocken (Yule Goat) brought the Christmas presents to good little Swedish boys and girls.  Peter and Lotta are recurring characters in several of Elsa Beskow’s books.


Astrid Lindgren’s A Calf for Christmas is a more text-heavy story than the other picture books on this list, but Marit Törnqvist’s illustrations are simply irresistible. Johan is heartbroken when his cow, Emma dies just before Christmas. His family is too poor to buy another, but not to worry, this is a Christmas story and a charming, happy ending is obligatory.

Jan Brett has a number of Christmas and winter books with illustrations inspired by Scandinavian folk art. I tend to prefer Brett’s art work to her writing but Brett fans will like Home for Christmas as well as The Wild Christmas Reindeerand Christmas Trolls. (It could be argued that the designs are more Norwegian than Swedish in nature.)


Hanna’s Christmas. This story of a young Swedish girl who must get used to the idea of Christmas in her new American home was written by Melissa Wiley (aka Melissa Peterson — thanks to Fanny Harville who left the tip in the comments, below) for the Hanna Andersson catalog. With the help of a tomten, Hanna realizes her new home may not be so bad after all and puts together a St. Lucia Day celebration for her parents.

And what about you, do you have a soft spot for Scandinavian inspired children’s literature?

I’ve expanded my children’s book board selection on Pinterest, and you’ll find even more of my book recommendations and books I am eagerly anticipating over there.

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Comments

  1. I have always loved stories about St. Lucia Day, it sounds beautiful! I would love to someday visit Sweden and experience it for myself.

    I don’t know if I want my daughter to wear candles on her head though!

    • Mom and Kiddo says:

      I adore Sweden, but only been there in summer and would love to go there at Christmastime. Most girls wear electric candle wreaths now, thank goodness!

  2. Such a sweet list! I love the Tomten books! Astrid Lindgren’s The Children of Noisy Village (picture book and chapter book versions) is also favorite of ours. And did you know that Hanna’s Christmas was written by Melissa Wiley for the Hanna Andersson catalog?

  3. This is a very nice linky! I linked up my page with several Christmas books. I have freebies to accompany all of them. We go to the Swedish Museum in Minneapolis, MN, and see it decorated for Christmas and buy holiday items there. Thank you so much!

    • Mom and Kiddo says:

      I LOVE the Swedish Museum in Minneapolis. Minneapolis is where my Swedish relatives emigrated to, so I have been there many times! It is so beautiful at Christmas.

  4. What a great list of books. Lovely idea to find new Christmas stories.

  5. You just convinced me to order Christmas in Noisy Village. I love Lindgren’s books, but don’t think that I’ve read this one.

    I added 3 recent reviews of Christmas-themed picture books. Am catching up after a trip right now, but will come back later in the week to visit other people’s reviews.

    Thanks for hosting this!!

    • Mom and Kiddo says:

      You will love it! And afterward you will probably want to read the chapter books, Children of Noisy Village and Happy Times in Noisy Village. Just saying….

  6. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again, but I am SO impressed with your book lists!!! You always feature books I’ve never seen before and come up with unique themes. We will definitely be checking out some of these titles!

    • Mom and Kiddo says:

      Thanks, Amy! It makes me so happy to know that I am introducing people to great books. I probably should have been a librarian! I hope you enjoy the selections.

  7. It’s amazing that you managed to round up so many Swedish books. I have to track down Astrid Lindgren book! It’s exciting to see so many link ups – The Children Bookshelf is really taking off!

  8. This list is inspiring me to check out some of these books and share them with my daughters – one of my sets of great-grandparents was from Sweden and it would be nice to learn a bit more about their heritage!

  9. Great list! We haven’t read many of these, but we just read through the Jan Brett books last week!

  10. Super Collection Erica! Wish I can find at least some of these at the library!

  11. Hej! I love Andersen’s books, my favourite is The Snow Queen. I’d love to read Lucia, the Child of Light. I saw this Swedish celebration here in Barcelona and it was charming. Have you heard about a wonderful Christmas book by a family (father, mother and daughter). It’s the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen:
    http://abilingualbb.blogspot.com.es/2013/12/the-most-beautiful-christmas-book-ever.html

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