Originally published December 2023
Winter break is right around the corner, but before school lets out, why not take this opportunity to get students thinking about the many holidays and traditions that occur in December and January? To help, we’ve found 15 recently-released books that look at a number of different winter festivities. The list includes plenty of books for young readers, along with a few options to share with older readers as well. Happy holidays!
Adapted from a podcast of the same name, this holiday graphic novel is formatted like an advent calendar, with a new chapter to be read each day. In this story’s world, Santa’s workshop relies on technology instead of magic. Machines make all the toys and drones deliver them to children around the world. But just a few days before Christmas Eve, Santa learns that the wealthy businessman who gave him all of the technology is planning to use it to take over Christmas! Will Santa be able to bring back the elves and reindeer who are the source of true Christmas magic in time to save the holiday?
This delightful picture book introduces students to the different ways Christmas is celebrated around the world. In Lebanon, wheat seeds are planted to honour Saint Barbara. In Lyon, candles are placed outside windows as a tribute to Mary during the Festival of Lights. And in Poland, families keep a carp in their bathtub until the Christmas Eve feast of Wigilia. With each story they read, kids are sure to learn something new about the Christmas season!
This illustrated chapter book offers an abridged, kid-friendly version of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story. On the night of Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts that come to show him the impact of his greedy ways. Young readers can follow along as Scrooge travels from the past to the present to the future until, at last, he discovers the true meaning of Christmas.
Support equity and inclusivity in the classroom by sharing this beautiful book with young students. In Come and Join Us, students will meet children around the world who celebrate many different holidays all year long—not just during the winter! From Nowruz and Vaisakhi in the spring to Día de los Muertos and Diwali in the fall, and all the months in between, there are plenty of exciting traditions to discover. Some other featured holidays include: Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Onam, and Seollal.
Hannah Levin is upset she won’t be celebrating Hanukkah with her friends and family in New York. Instead, she’s stuck at her grandmother’s house in rural Texas, a place without much of a Jewish community—at least, so she thinks. Then she meets Noah, whose family runs the only Jewish deli in town, and he becomes determined to show Hannah that Hanukkah can still be fun outside of the big city. As she embarks on eight Hanukkah-themed dates with Noah, Hannah soon learns there’s more than one way to observe this special holiday.
Finding My Elf
By David Valdes
HarperTeen (November 2023)
Grade Level: 8–12
When NYU theatre student Cameron takes the first acting job he can get during winter break, he finds himself working as an elf in a busy Santa’s Village at the local mall. There, he meets Marco, a fellow elf who is determined to win the cash prize that will be awarded to the most festive of Santa’s helpers. Soon, Cam and Marco are in a fierce competition for the money, but will they end up seeing each other as more than just rivals? This fun and light romcom is sure to delight YA readers who are looking for an LGBTQ+ twist on traditional holiday romance novels.
Middle-grade readers will fall in love with the spirited heroine of this soon-to-be Christmas classic! After stumbling across Santa in a local park while searching for her missing mother, 11-year-old Juniper accidentally becomes entangled in a plot to steal Santa’s magic, and must turn to an exuberant cast of characters for help in this whirlwind holiday adventure.
The Last Slice introduces young readers to Three Kings Day and the special treat that goes along with it: la Rosca de Reyes, a round sweet bread with a baby Jesus figurine hidden inside. This year, Marta is finally old enough for her own slice of the yummy dessert, but she’s worried that she’ll accidentally eat the little figurine. This hilarious picture book celebrates the importance of tradition and family, while also encouraging kids to overcome their fears.
In this heartwarming holiday romance, two teens work together to save a local Black-owned bookshop from being shut down. Love in Winter Wonderland addresses plenty of critical topics such as the importance of indie bookstores, the effects of gentrification, body diversity, grief over losing a parent, and more. Each chapter is also accompanied by a playlist of Christmas songs from Black musicians.
Through bright, cheery illustrations and delightful rhyming text, Mardi Gras highlights the culture and spirit of one of America’s most unique cities. The book showcases iconic landmarks, honoured Mardi Gras traditions, and more as it tells the story of New Orleans’ world-renowned Carnival season.
Anna Hibiscus is going to see snow for the very first time! She’s never left Nigeria before, but now she is travelling all the way to Canada to visit her grandmother for Christmas. Although Canada is very different from her home country—and very cold!—Anna learns how to bundle up to stay warm and is soon immersed in a whole new world of fun Christmas traditions. This latest installment in Atinuke’s award-winning Anna Hibiscus series introduces young readers to concepts of family and cultural identity, generosity, love, and resilience.
By Charles C. Hofer
Pebble (August 2023)
Grade Level: K–3
This non-fiction informational book teaches students about the different ways people around the world celebrate the coming of a new year. Charles Hofer’s text explores the histories that gave rise to modern-day New Year’s practices, while also looking at local traditions that are still observed today.
The Night Before Kwanzaa
By Natasha Wing and Kirsti Jewel
Illustrated by Amy Wummer
Grosset & Dunlap (October 2023)
Grade Level: K–1
Teach students about the magic of Kwanzaa with the help of this charming picture book, told in the style of the classic The Night Before Christmas story. Young readers will enjoy following along with the book’s narrator as his family lights a candle each night for seven nights, learns about their family history, and celebrates Black culture.
Our Italian Christmas Eve
By Danielle Sedita and Francesco Sedita
Illustrated by Luciano Lozano
Viking Books for Young Readers (October 2023)
Grade Level: K–2
Our Italian Christmas Eve is a delicious exploration of Italian tradition, family, and, best of all, food! Siblings Francesco and Danielle are excited to celebrate Christmas Eve with their family, but this year someone forgot to bring the dessert. Uh oh! Will they be able to remember their mother’s cheesecake recipe and save the day, before it’s too late?
The Runaway Dosa
By Suma Subramaniam
Illustrated by Parvati Pillai
Little Bee Books (September 2023)
Grade Level: K–1
Inspired by the beloved Tamil rhyme Dosai! Amma, Dosai, this picture book is a whimsical retelling of the classic Gingerbread Man fairy tale, with a fun Indian twist. When Akka’s dosa comes to life and runs off her plate, she and her brother Krishna must enlist the help of mythological Indian creatures to get it back. The Runaway Dosa is offers readers a wondrous dip into Indian culture and mythology, and also includes a glossary of Tamil words, as well as a tasty dosa recipe.