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Top 10 Christmas Picture Books

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Whether you are looking for a children's book about the birth of the Christ child or a book about Santa Claus and the spirit of giving, you will find a great many books available at bookstores and libraries. Here are ten children's picture books that I recommend because of the quality of the text and the illustrations.

1. Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury

Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury
This beautifully illustrated oversize book contains seven of Jan Brett's most popular picture books. All of the stories take place in winter. Four are Christmas stories and several feature trolls. While none of the stories touch on Christmas as a religious holiday, several do emphasize the Christmas spirit of generosity and sharing. (Putnam Group, 2001. ISBN: 0399237410)

2. The First Christmas

If you are looking for a book that will appeal to children of all ages and that will become part of your family's annual Christmas celebration, this may be it. The First Christmas is a pop-up book with charming illustrations in a folk art style by Tomie dePaola. The book features six different pop-up scenes, culminating in the manger scene.(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1984. ISBN: 0399210709)
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3. Antonella and her Santa Claus

Originally published in Germany, this is a nice tale about kindness and generosity. Little Antonella lives in Italy. Times are hard. Antonella wants Santa Claus to bring her new skates but doesn't know how to contact him. With the help of the balloon man and her friend Gino, and the generosity of a group of school children in Hungary, she gets her wish. (Kane/Miller, 2001. ISBN: 1929132131)
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4. The Nativity

This book serves as an excellent introduction to the story of the birth of Jesus as it is recounted in the King James version of the Bible. The text of the book is taken from the gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew, and the Book of Isaiah. The book's design and artist Juan Winjngaard's subtle, yet dramatic, watercolor paintings create a reverent mood. (Candlewick Press, 1996. ISBN: 1564029816)
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5. The Polar Express

Chris Van Allsburg's book, a Caldecott Medal winner, is wonderful. The artist's use of muted colors in his paintings creates a mood of mystery. A little boy who still believes in Santa, despite the fact that his friends don't, takes a magical train ride on Christmas Eve to the North Pole. There he encounters Santa and becomes a lifelong believer. (Houghton Mifflin, 1985. ISBN: 0395389496)
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6. A Baby Born in Bethlehem

Martha Whitmore Hickman's retelling is based on the gospels of Luke and Matthew. It begins with the Annunciation and ends with the visit of the Wise Men. The text emphasizes the joy of Jesus' birth. Giulliano Ferri's pencil and watercolor illustrations contribute to the feeling of joy that permeates this book for four to eight year olds. (Albert Whitman & Co, 1999. ISBN: 0807555223)
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7. The Legend of the Poinsettia

Tomie dePaola's folk art illustrations create a vibrant impact in this retelling of the Mexican legend of the poinsettia. When her mother becomes ill, Lucida is unable to complete a blanket as a gift to place at her church's Christmas manger. A miracle happens when the weeds she has placed with love at the manger become beautiful poinsettias. (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1994. ISBN: 0698115678)
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8. The Little Drummer Boy

This book, based on the popular Christmas carol, is excellent for three to eight year olds. Illustrated in mixed media by Ezra Jack Keats, this is the poignant tale of a little boy who goes to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. Having no other gift to give, he gives the Christ child the gift of music by playing his drum for him. (Puffin Books, 1968. ISBN: 0140567437)
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9. B is for Bethlehem

This delightful picture book was written by by Isabel Wilner and illustrated by Elisa Kleven. The author uses rhyming couplets to tell the story of Jesus' birth. The story is illustrated with Kleven's joyful mixed-media collages. The book is subtitled "A Christmas Alphabet" because the author highlights Christmas words in alphabetical order as she tells the Nativity story. (Puffin, Reprint edition, 1995. ISBN: 0140556109)
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10. All for the Newborn Baby

The quiet rhythm of this lovely cradle song that Mary might have sung to baby Jesus should make this book appealing to even the youngest child. The author, Phyllis Root, based her text on miracle tales from around the world that recounted how all of nature celebrated the birth of the Christ child. The text and the delicate, detailed, and exquisitely rendered artwork by Nicola Bayley make this book a family treasure. (Candlewick Press, 2000. ISBN: 0763600938)
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