If holiday read alouds are not part of your family traditions this time of year, I hope this book list will encourage you to start! In addition to your picture book read alouds, if you have older kids, you will find that reading novels as a family can be very satisfying!
Sometimes I set out to make a book list that I think will be quick but it ends up being harder than I thought. I didn't want this list to be redundant in the wake of my winter chapter books and Christmas chapter book lists. Additionally, I wanted it to include books that would also be good reads in the run up to Thanksgiving. I didn't want the list to be a strange hodgepodge, but it sort of ended up like that anyway. So think of this list as a November-December read aloud list!
(Note: covers and titles are affiliate links.)
The Toymaker's Apprentice. I very rarely put a book on a list that I haven't read (and I always tell you when I do) but this book just did not arrive from the library in time for me to finish this list. I'll update this review when it arrives. I am so intrigued by this tale based on The Nutcracker. Stefan Drosselmeyer is apprentice to his father, but when his father goes missing, he and his cousin embark on a magical journey to find him.
Greenglass House. I just finished reading this intriguing book. Milo lives with his adoptive parents in a strange and mysterious smugglers' inn. During the holiday break a series of guests arrive, all with a secret connection to the inn. The adventure begins when Milo finds a curious map and things begin to go missing. He and his friend, Maddy determined to find the culprit behind the thefts start to unravel the mystery tied to the house and its guests. I love the atmosphere of this book, seeping from every page. I think it would make a great read aloud, but may be over younger kids' heads, so I recommend it for ages 9 and up.
The Tale of Rescue. So I admit that stories about dogs (and horses) are not generally my thing, but this is a compelling story and the illustrations are gorgeous. A 10 year old boy and his parents caught in a blizzard are rescued by a brave and determined dog. The narration sounds very much like an old-fashioned tale and perfect for a cozy holiday family read aloud, especially because younger children will love looking at the illustrations.
Winterfrost. When I heard about this book last year I could not contain my excitement. An entire novel about nisser! A nisse is the Danish version of tomte (you will find lots of tomten on my list of Swedish Christmas and holiday books), a small creature in Scandinavian folklore who looks after the farm. Families are supposed to leave the nisse a traditional bowl of Christmas pudding on the eve of the holiday, but this year, Bettina's family is beset by troubles and they forget the pudding. In a fit of mischief, the local nisse, Klakke, steals the family baby! Bettina sets out into the woods to find her sister and encounters more mythological creatures and adventure in this tale of magic and kindness. Break out the pepparkakor because you will love this story.
The True Gift. This is a short, lovely novel about siblings Lily and Liam, who go to spend Christmas with their grandparents. Liam thinks his grandparents' cow, "White Cow" looks lonely and sets out to raise money to buy it a companion. He even sells his beloved collection of books. The community comes together to create a wonderful Christmas surprise for both the cow and the children. If you are looking for a heartwarming story that could be made into a Hallmark movie, this is it. (Although this books is much better than most Hallmark movies.)
Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories. This book of short Jewish folktales that will be enjoyed by families of all religions. It seems to me that the holidays are a great time for folklore and homespun humor. Chelm is a village of fools and the seven Elders are the most foolish of all. There are seven stories in all, each with a little lesson to be gleaned, but read them for the light-hearted humor and a few giggles.
A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale by Marcia Berneger. This time traveling short novel is best for listeners ages 8 and under. Siblings Devorah and Benjamin can't wait to open their Hanukkah presents. But when Bubbe and Zayde finally arrive for the festivities, the pair are disappointed to find that what they got was an odd, old dreidel. But when they spin the dreidel it transports them to the land of the ancient Maccabees. Devorah and Benjamin help their new Maccabee friends battle against Antiochus. A fun and imaginative tale.
Nancy and Plum. This 1952 book from the author of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the perfect recipe for an old-fashioned read aloud: two orphaned sisters, an unctuous boarding school mistress who feeds them hard oatmeal, a wealthy bachelor uncle, a Christmas setting and a feel-good ending in which the bad fail and the good triumph. Read it aloud over the winter break when the kids are home from school. This is from my Christmas read aloud book list.
May B. This is from my list of chapter books written in verse. 13 year old May and her family live on the frontier and in order to help out, May's parents find her a place working for another family fifteen few miles away. When the couple mysteriously disappear and leave May alone, she must find a way to survive the oncoming winter. A thoughtful touch is May's strong interest in learning and reading, even as she struggles with dyslexia (although, unlike modern readers, May doesn't know dyslexia is her problem).
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. With a knowing nod to my neighbors in New Jersey, you have to admit that any book which couples "Hoboken" and "Chicken" in the title has got to be hilarious. When there are no turkeys to be found anywhere in Hoboken for Thanksgiving dinner, Arthur returns home with a chicken. The problem? The chicken is 266 pounds. Hijinks ensue. I read this aloud to my sons and they loved it. If you would like more books about Turkey Day, head over to my list of Thanksgiving chapter books.
Children of the Longhouse. November is Native American Heritage Month, as well as a good time to read a bit more about the American Indians other than the fact that some of them attended the first Thanksgiving. This is a historical novel narrated in alternating viewpoints between Ohkwa'ri and his twin sister Otsi:stia. The siblings are Mohawks living in the 15th century in what would later become upstate New York. Ohkwa'ri tells the elders he heard another boy planning activity that would break a peace accord with a neighboring tribe. His resentful new enemy plans to get his revenge during a game of what we might call lacrosse. There is so much wonderful information about Native American life, culture and traditions in this book. Also see my list of Native American folktales.
The Children of Noisy Village. I debated about putting this book on the list because it takes place over the course of a year, instead of being centered on the late fall/early winter period, but then decided since it's my book list, I could do what I wanted. Ha ha ha. Astrid Lindgren's charming and wonderful book about a group of neighbors is a snuggle-down book. The middle chapters are devoted to snow, Christmas and New Year, so head straight for those chapters if you must.
Although poetry does not count as a chapter book read aloud (to state the obvious), include some of it in your read aloud time this holiday season. Here are a few of my favorite winter themed collections that go beyond "The Night Before Christmas".
Finally, I want to recommend this poetry audio book which includes poetry for many different holdiays. Jack Prelutsky is one of my favorite children's poets and this recording is lots of fun.
Don't miss our other seasonal read aloud book lists:
- Christmas chapter books
- Winter chapter books
- Summer read aloud chapter books
- Fall read aloud chapter books
More holiday lists:
- Swedish Christmas and holiday books
- Picture books for interfaith kids
- Winter picture books
- Multicultural Christmas books
- Multicultural Thanksgiving books
What's your family holiday read aloud tradition?