Holiday Gift Books for Kids: 41 Fun Favorites


Is there anything cuter than a child in jammies, curled up in a blanket fort, reading a book? With the holiday break — and lots of free hours — coming up, it’s time to restock the shelves at home with festive new holiday titles, plus picture books and chapter books for young story-lovers. Tip: If you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle, any of these Parnassus staff picks would make a perfect gift under the tree, too.

Recommended by Katherine

The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains Cover ImageThe Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains 

OK, this is the most adorable story ever about the friendship between a boy and a Christmas tree — who both love trains! Add this to your Christmas picture book stack and it will beg to be revisited because it is just so delightful and will make everyone feel cheerful.

Recommended by Stephanie

The Broken Ornament Cover ImageThe Broken Ornament 

Such a poignantly told, beautifully illustrated story about learning to see the true spirit of Christmas.

Recommended by Stephanie

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Tennessee (Twelve Days of Christmas in America) Cover ImageThe Twelve Days of Christmas in Tennessee (Twelve Days of Christmas in America) 

This is a truly unique twist on a holiday classic, accompanied by Nashville illustrator Mary Reaves Uhles’ outgoing watercolors. Our autographed copies would be the perfect choice for every stocking in Tennessee.

Recommended by Stephanie

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express Cover ImageLast Stop on the Reindeer Express 

I love all the fun interactive elements in this gorgeously illustrated book! Such a sweet story, especially for families who can’t all be in the same place for the holidays.

Recommended by Stephanie

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah Cover ImageAll-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah 

Children’s author Emily Jenkins has written a Hanukkah story featuring the characters from Sydney Taylor’s beloved All-of-a-Kind Family books. Little Gertie wants to help her sisters make latkes on the first night of Hanukkah, but Mama tells her she is too little to help peel potatoes, chop onions, crack eggs, or use the frying pan. What can one little girl do to help? Paul O. Zelinsky’s expressive illustrations perfectly capture the warmth and affection among the family members in this wonderful picture book.

Recommended by Stephanie

Hanukkah Hamster Cover ImageHanukkah Hamster 

Edgar is a cab driver who is very surprised to discover that a hamster has been left behind in the backseat of his cab. As he tries to figure out which one of his fares left the hamster behind, he and the hamster (who he names Chickpea), get to know each other as they celebrate the nights of Hanukkah. I loved this warm story of unexpected friendship and kindness.

Recommended by Opie

Santa Bruce (Mother Bruce Series) Cover ImageSanta Bruce (Mother Bruce Series) 

Ryan T. Higgins’s stories about grumpy Bruce are some of my favorite picture books. I know how Bruce feels! Sometimes I just want to sleep in the office, but Andy says I have to come out into the bookstore and do my shop-dog job. I guess it’s not so bad getting lots of pets and treats from children, and unlike Bruce, I don’t have to wear a silly hat.

Recommended by Devin

Don't Touch My Hair! Cover ImageDon’t Touch My Hair! 

Aria is proud of her beautiful natural hair and loves to wear it in ways that draw admiration from other people. Sometimes, though, Aria has to remind others to respect her personal space and not touch her hair without permission. If you like this, check out Sharee Miller’s other picture book, Princess Hair!

Recommended by Rae Ann

Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus Cover ImageLove, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus 

Agnes the octopus corresponds by postcard with creatures in the sea and above on the pier. A fun book about relationships, with lots of info about the octopus. Perfect for read-aloud fun and science fans.

Recommended by Rae Ann

Sometimes Rain Cover ImageSometimes Rain 

This lyrical picture book celebrates the four seasons with beautiful spreads about nature.

Recommended by Jackie

Hansel & Gretel Cover ImageHansel & Gretel 

I love fairy tales, and I love fairy tale retellings. If you feel the same way, be sure to check out this version of Hansel and Gretel! The illustrations are fantastic, especially the facial expressions of the characters.

Recommended by Katherine

My Heart Is a Compass Cover ImageMy Heart Is a Compass 

The illustrated maps in this picture book are enough to make you love this book, but the thoughtful, well-told story about Rose trying her best to find a unique item for show-and-tell will inspire conversation and occupy dreamers for a long time. You’ll want to linger on these pages.

Recommended by Stephanie

Brave Enough for Two: A Hoot & Olive Story Cover ImageBrave Enough for Two: A Hoot & Olive Story 

“So long as I’m here and you’re there, and here and there aren’t very far apart, we can never be lost.” This picture book, with exquisite illustrations and a story about friendship and bravery, is destined to be a new classic. Even better: Our copies have been autographed by author/illustrator Jonathan Voss!

Recommended by Stephanie

The Thank You Book Cover ImageThe Thank You Book 

This lyrical meditation on what it means to show gratitude is accompanied by tender illustrations that prove there are lots of things to be thankful for!

Recommended by Stephanie

Loved to Bits Cover ImageLoved to Bits 

Rhythmic language and chunky, friendly illustrations tell the sweet story of the relationship between a child and their beloved teddy. This is the perfect picture book to snuggle up with and read aloud.

Recommended by Stephanie

Mon Petit Busy Day Cover ImageMon Petit Busy Day (Board Book)

This book is so fun and beautifully designed. It has loads of interactive elements to keep little hands busy for hours.

Recommended by Stephanie

Lorraine Cover ImageLorraine 

This story about a girl who finds courage thanks to the power of music also happens to be the debut picture book by Old Crow Medicine Show frontman, Ketch Secor. The power of its words are perfectly matched by Higgins Bond’s vibrant illustrations. Plus, our copies have been autographed!

Ann’s Favorite Board Book of 2018

But Not the Armadillo Cover ImageBut Not the Armadillo 

Earlier this year, Ann Patchett wrote, “Sandra Boynton is to the board book what Dr. Seuss was to the picture book, what Maurice Sendak was to illustration, what Shel Silverstein was to children’s poetry. It’s just her up there at the top and then a whole lot of other people sharing second place.”

Need more ideas? Our staffers also loved: 

Recommended by Stephanie

Lions & Liars Cover ImageLions & Liars 

Think of this book like Holes meets The Sandlot: It’s a hilarious story of friendship and survival with characters you’ll be sad to leave behind at the end of the book.

Recommended by Stephanie

Voyage of the Dogs Cover Image

Voyage of the Dogs 

When the Barkonauts wake up from hypersleep to discover that their human companions are gone from their spaceship, they resolve to finish their mission no matter what. I loved this story of science, survival, and friendship!

Recommended by Stephanie

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster Cover ImageSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster 

After a fire awakens the mysteriously warm lump of coal that chimney sweep Nan Sparrow has carried in her pocket for years, the lump transforms itself into Charlie, a soot golem. This gorgeous Dickensian tale is hands-down the best book for advancing readers I’ve read all year.

Recommended by Kevin

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge Cover ImageThe Assassination of Brangwain Spurge 

Wow. This is a spy thriller about two scholars, an elf and a goblin, who struggle to see past their stereotypes of one another. When I wasn’t laughing like a madman (every page), I was drooling over the illustrations (sorry if you got my copy). It was shortlisted for the National Book Award!

Recommended by Katherine

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone Cover ImageThe Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone 

For the quirky independent reader who loves quests! Bronte is a 10-year-old orphan who must follow very specific instructions left in her parents’ will: visit each of her 11 aunts and fulfill certain tasks, or else suffer dire consequences (involving magic!). As Bronte learns more about the parents she never knew, she begins to wonder: will this quest reveal something greater than she ever imagined about herself?

Recommended by Katherine

Hilda and the Troll: Book 1 (Hildafolk) Cover ImageHilda and the Troll: Book 1 (Hildafolk) 

Are you, like me, obsessed with watching Hilda, the animated show on Netflix? And did you know it’s actually based on a series of graphic novels? The hardcover edition of book #1 would make a PERFECT holiday gift for an adventurous 8-12 year old (or, quite frankly, just about anyone)!

More favorites for independent readers: 

Recommended by Jackie

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World (Vashti Harrison) Cover ImageLittle Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World 

Another collection of biographies about amazing women from Vashti Harrison, this time featuring women from all over the world and all different time periods. One of my favorite features of this book is the “Further Reading, Watching, and Listening” section with additional resources for curious readers.

Recommended by Jackie

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs Cover ImageThe Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs 

This is a wonderful resource for young chefs, filled with great recipies that the chef’s family will actually want to try! Great photos, detailed procedures and techniques, scientific information, and testimonials from young test cooks will help kids navigate their way around the kitchen to make everything from breakfast to dessert.

Recommended by Jackie

101 Small Ways to Change the World (Lonely Planet Kids) Cover Image101 Small Ways to Change the World (Lonely Planet Kids) 

With practical ideas for caring for others, the planet, and yourself, this is a fantastic book for kids who want to change the world! Small actions do add up, and there are great ideas for spreading kindness and taking care of our environment. I love that this book also includes a self-care section, with tips like “Disconnect and get outside,” and “Spend more time with family.”

And Don’t Miss:

Make sure it gets there! Holiday ordering deadlines for shipped gifts: 

  • Media mail rate: December 13
  • Priority rate: December 19

Want it gift wrapped? We’re happy to wrap any orders FREE — just let us know in the “notes” section at checkout. (All wrapped gifts must be shipped via priority mail.)

Today’s post is part of our series of holiday gift lists! Coming up next: Our favorite young adult fiction, for older teens and YA lovers! Make sure you’re subscribed to Musing, so you’ll get the list delivered straight to your inbox. Meanwhile, if you’re shopping for someone special, stop by or give us a call at 615.953.2243 — we’d love to help you pick the perfect book.
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Stuff their stockings with T-shirts, plushies, journals, games, and one of our most popular gifts for anyone who loves both dominoes and llamas: LLAMANOES.
IMG_6996 Sparky Scooter
PS: Do you live in Nashville? Join us here in the store on Sunday, December 9, at 5:30 p.m. for a reservations-only event where our book buyers will present their favorite books for young book lovers, plus the hottest gift ideas for book-loving adults. Our goal is for you to sit back, relax, and leave at the end of the evening having finished your holiday shopping. Get more details and reserve your seat here, and we’ll see you then!