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Best Childrens Classic Books for Christmas Gifts

Updated on December 6, 2015
Well loved children's books are passed down from generation to generation
Well loved children's books are passed down from generation to generation

Classic Books Make Great Christmas Gifts

Classic books for kids make great Christmas gifts. How many gifts can you give to a child that will be stay with them for the rest of their lives, that they will pass onto their children, that are enjoyable, educational and will feed the imagination and the soul? Wouldn't it be nice if you could join in the fun as well?

Reading children's classic books is an ideal way of spending time with your child, and taking a walk down memory lane yourself. This is a personal guide to choosing the best books for children aged 6 months to 12 years based on the books that my son and I have both enjoyed reading the most over the last 11 and a half years. I hope that you will enjoy them too.

The Night Before Christmas by Charles Santore

The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Charles Santore must be one of the best loved Christmas classics ever. A great book for moms and dads to read aloud to kids. The poem has a great rhythm and the illustrations are gorgeous. This hardcover book means that children can read it again and again - it will become a family treasure to pass down through the generations.

A book like this relies as much on pictures as on words.The illustration is the well-known Charles Santore who has already tucked a few children classics under his illustrator's belt:The Wizard of Oz, Snow White and The Little Mermaid amongst many others.

Christmas is a time to snuggle up on the sofa in front of the fire - perhaps switch off the electric lights and set out a few candles - tuck a child or two (or more) alongside you and have that wonderful family Christmas where you give your attention and time as well as a gift or two. We all know that what children really crave is love and to be listened to!

One of my favourite Christmas classics for kids

The Night Before Christmas Hardcover: The Classic Edition, The New York Times Bestseller (Christmas Book)
The Night Before Christmas Hardcover: The Classic Edition, The New York Times Bestseller (Christmas Book)
The Classic Edition, The New York Times bestseller Hardcover – October 11, 2011. This larger than average, 'heirloom' edition has a four-page gatefold. The cover is embossed and foil adds that rich, festive touch.

Books for Babies and toddlers

Engage your baby with a bath book

Bath books are great for getting babies started with a love for books
Bath books are great for getting babies started with a love for books | Source

Start reading stories for kids early

Introduce your baby to reading early on. Babies can start to enjoy books at about 6 months, if my memory serves me correctly, and bath books are an ideal way to get them used to the idea of turning pages and looking at pictures. There are so many great bath books to choose from, and many of those are classics, so you can go on to buy paper books of your favourite characters. I've chosen Elmer the elephant as an example, but you'll find plenty of choice out there.

Elmer, I have to admit was my son's choice, but I just love the Little Princess stories, and so did he. You can choose topics that are pertinent to your child's development. We both still have fond memories of the potty training book.

I've just been watching The Little Princess on TV with my 13 year old son! How is that for a classic? Aimed at pre school kids but can continue to please adolescent boys and menapausal mums - this has just got to be worth the money!

Shhh was another first choice for us both. My son chose it initially, but this book instills silence and is a super story to read to a group of kids. Wouldn't you give anything for fifteen minutes of so of PEACE AND QUIET? It has a great ending - I won't spoil it for you. (As an artist, I loved the beautiful illustrations as well.)

The Gruffalo has to be one of the all-time tops. Simple, repetitive, but with a lovely structure and a twist that bright children of three can grasp. Every time I hear the words 'Astounding' or 'Amazing' I think of the Gruffalo.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, with its distinctive 60's illustrations, is still as popular as ever with children. First published in 1969 and going strong. The fun thing is that you poke your finger through the holes in the pages and they become the caterpillar. You can draw a little face on your finger tip - babies just love it.

Noddy is another TV series that is still running today. Perhaps I need to write another hub about this sub-class of children's stories? Banned from schools and libraries in Britain in the 50's or early 60's because of the limited language and racism, (they don't care about rampant sexism even today!), Enid Blyton's Noddy is enjoying a revival today.

Books for 5 - 8 year olds

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

Do you remember this book from when you were a child? It was first published in 1963 and since then has become a true classic, a much loved story for children. Sophie and her mother were just settling down to tea in their comfortable flat when who should ring the doorbell but a very large tiger..... On the surface just a simple bedtime tale but underneath? Judith Kerr's life story puts a rather different reflection on the tale of the tiger.

In 2013 Judith Kerr, also author of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and the Mog series of books for kids was 90 years old.

Judith Kerr has her own remarkable story to tell as she escaped, with her family, from Hitler and the Nazi's to live in England. She is celebrating her birthday with a stunningly illustrated autobiography.

Books to read aloud for 3 - 6 year olds

The Bear Hunt is one of the best ever books, (in my limited experience) for reading aloud. Onomatopoeic and rhythmical it has the same up and then back down again structure as The Gruffalo, it gains momentum, is exciting and again, has a great ending. Whenever we hear 'What a Beautiful Day', my son and I continue with lines from The Bear Hunt. We gave it away and now we want it back again! Never give away your childrens' books, they will never grow out of the best ones.

(As I write this the list gets longer and longer. I remember more great books)

We're All Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen

The Time it Took Tom by Nick Sharratt and Stephen Tucker

The Time it Took Tom, (a parent's nightmare), is a more modern book with great illustrations by Nick Sharratt, an up and back again structure with a twist at the end.

Your child will also learn lots about telling the time and decorating. Great fun.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is another timeless classic.

As a child I loved Dr Seuss and, lets face it, I still do love his books. I used to read the Cat in the Hat but came to The Grinch as a mother when I began to read to my own son.

An ideal Christmas book, great to read aloud, funny and with a fabulous, anti-materialist moral. Of course the children will ignore the moralizing and delight in the story and pictures.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas DVD

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

My Naughty Little Sister

Classic books to read to children aged 5 - 8

This is a wonderful age to read to children. This list is from memory and, as we love all these books and still look at them together, they are not all in the correct age-group section.

The list is also shorter than it should be due to the eruption of the Harry Potter books which we were reading throughout this period. I haven't included them in my list because, lets face it, you don't need to turn to an article like this to think of buying them. It was taking us a year to read the second and third volumes at the rate of three or four pages a night, so other books had to be squeezed in between.

I must admit, I didn't really take to the My Naughty Little Sister stories, but my son just loved them and even borrowed the story on CD just a couple of years ago, (aged 10) and enjoyed listening to them all over again. I reiterate, children never grow out of childrens' classics!

Where the Wild Things Are

More Classic books to read to children aged 5 - 8

Where the Wild Thing Are Again a book suitable for much younger children, but I read this to my son much later on and he still enjoyed it and I found the play on words of time charming and the fact that the monsters were the author's Aunts and Uncles was most amusing. I missed all this the first time around.

The Selfish Giant can be read as a story for children and adults. Beautifully written, as anyone would expect when the author is Oscar Wild. The only downside is that I was always so choked with tears, that my son always had to finish the book off. If you like a good weepy, go for this.

The Wind in the Willows continues to be a delight. Made into a ballet, countless films and reprinted time and time again. These little animals living by the riverside have great personalities and great adventures.

Books for 8 - 12 year olds

J K Rowling and The Harry Potter Era

Since before my son was born, the children's classics market has been dominated by J K Rowling and Harry Potter. It's easy to leave other books out! It wasn't long before it was taking me most of a year to read the lastest Harry Potter to my child, three pages a night when he went to bed, so in the end I had to leave them for when he was old enough to read them for himself - and he did that soon enough.

Needless to say, I raced ahead and finished off the series myself, and jolly good they were too!. Rowling has carefully crafted the books to appeal to adults as well as children, and these books will broaden your children's vocabulary as well as feed their imagination.

Harry Potter was the classic we bought for Christmas - and we never missed a year. We loved gathering the family around the fire and settling down together to a really good film on Christmas day. We now have the whole collection of J K Rowling 's Harry Potter DVDs and still love to watch again from time to time. We even had a Harry Potter weekend and invited friends around for a marathon watch of all the films together. It was a great success.

Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson write super books for kids

Danny the Champion of the World is a wonderful book by Roald Dahl, one of the most popular children's authors. He's most famously known for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but i wanted to introduce you to this book - how to teach your child the art of poaching - yes, really! But we loved it so much that I had to turn a blind eye to the illegal element.

Roald Dahl's The Witches is also entrancing. Do you know how to identify a witch? Well you jolly well should because they steal our children and they are all around us. This book is fabulous anarchic and kids and adults will love it.

Stig of the Dump was a book that my father bought for me. I loved it then and my son loved it now. It tells the tale of a boy who discovers Stig, a man from the stone age, living in a quarry that is now used as a dumping ground.

Worzel Gummage is another of my father's choices. He was a primary school teacher and really knew what works for kids. This time the story is about a cantankerous scarecrow that comes to life.

The Narnia series are a group of books that will transport you and your child to other worlds. The most famous, and I think the best, is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe but the others are stunning feats of creativity too.

Tracy Beaker is a feisty youngster who, like her creator Jacqueline Wilson, was brought up in a children's home and fantasised about meeting her mother and finding foster parents to get her out of 'the dump'.

Alice in Wonderland is my all-time favourite book and there are so many references to it in everyday life that I really don't think your child's education is complete without knowing this book back to front - it's full of chess and maths problems too if you dig a little below the surface.

The Borrowers is such an inventive and charming tale that it couldn't be left off the list. It also answers the question about where all the little bits and bobs, like paper clips go when you can no longer find them. They are taken by the Borrowers - little people that live in your house and garden.

Winnie-the-Pooh is yet another great classic that I missed out on as a child, and didn't get around to reading with my son until he was about ten! We both loved it. Charming, lovely pictures and unforgettable characters.

My son still reading Stig of the Dump

This is my teenage son reading the copy of Stig of the Dump that my father bought me. I loved reading it to him when he was little, and he still enjoys it even now. Value or what?
This is my teenage son reading the copy of Stig of the Dump that my father bought me. I loved reading it to him when he was little, and he still enjoys it even now. Value or what? | Source

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: Narnia DVD

Spoilt for choice?

I know I was. This list doesn't even include all the great books that we've read in French since coming to live in Limousin - a great place for stories about Wolves and Witches. I hope that if you were struggling for book ideas for gifts, or books for Chirstmas, that this list has inspired you and that both you and your children (and childrens' children) will enjoy reading them as much as we have.

How about books to read at Halloween? Best Halloween Stories for Kids

Post Script

My son, husband and I are now living in France and running painting holidays, a Bed and Breakfast and self-catering holiday cottage in beautiful, rural France. Perfect for family holdiays. For more information see our web site, below or feel free to e-mail or telephone us:, +44 (0)5 55 48 29 84

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Add to this list

Are your favourite children's classics here? If not, please add your ideas in the comments box at the bottom of the article so that I can include them.

See results

Books that I've left out

Already I am thinking of all those fabulous childrens' favourites that I've left out, Treasure Island, Peter Pan ....

Feel free to add your favourites in the comments box below.

These are the books that readers have suggested, with one or two of mine added as I've thought of them:

Here are the first two recommendations from INFJay: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Of course, The Hobbit. My father gave me a copy of this when I was young. A little difficult to read out loud but a fabulous story and a real classic. Who doesn't know exactly what a Hobbit is?

2patricias reccommends Bye Bye Baby.

jodohuer suggested Boxcar Children, My Side of the Mountain, Two Little Savages (which has been recently republished by Axios Press,, with all the original illustrations!) and Where the Red Fern Grows

What about the following too -

Black beauty

National Velvet

What are your classic book favourites for Christmas Day?

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    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      10 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      jodohuer Many thanks for your suggestions. I haven't heard of these (!) but I'll add them in and try to locate them. So many great books, so little time.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I did not see Boxcar Children, My Side of the Mountain, Two Little Savages (which has been recently republished by Axios Press,, with all the original illustrations!), Where the Red Fern Grows. I am not sure all these are still in print, but they should be -- they are classics!

    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      10 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      2patricias Thanks you so much for your link and comment. I'll add your suggestion to my Hub.

    • 2patricias profile image


      10 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      I know a little boy who was very slow to speak (age 3+ before he started saying more than just 1 or 2 words). He loved being read a book called "Bye Bye Baby" - and would do his best to repeat the words.

      This is a very good list of classic children's books. I have added a link from episode 15 of my serial story - this is intended as a compliment.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      10 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      akirchner And the REALLY great thing is we get to read these stories too! Thanks for your comment.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      My mother was always so good about sending our kids books when they were little. Where The Wild Things Are was a huge hit one year and so many others delighted my kids. I'm sure it contributed immensely to their love of reading and helped them do well in school. Great hub on something we tend to forget - the simple blessing of reading!

    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      10 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Thanks James. I think it is a great way to link the generations. And then there's the cartoon strips - remember Rupert the Bear and Beryl the Peril?

    • James Mark profile image

      James Mark 

      10 years ago from York, England

      A great selection that pretty much reflects what our children enjoyed , and are now reading to their own children. I agree with you on the inestimable value of spending time reading to and with children.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      10 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      WannaB Writer I'm going to have a peek at your list. I completely agree about the new books. There are just so many fabulous books for children that adults can enjoy as well. Kids don't always go for the same ones as us so if you have one or two top favourites for kids AND adults, do let me know and I'll add them to the list.

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      10 years ago from Templeton, CA

      It's funny. I wrote a Squidoo lens on Choosing the Best children's books for gifts, and my list is almost completely different. That only goes to show that so many are available of good quality that people can choose completely different favorites among the great variety without sacrificing quality. I personally say you never outgrow your love for a great picture book. But there are also many great books for older children that weren't written yet when I grew up.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      10 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      INFJay Many thanks for your comment. I'll add a section for suggestions and yours will be the first. I'm very keen on children reading and choosing from amongst their favourites (and ours!) must be a good first step.

    • INFJay profile image

      Jay Manriquez 

      10 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

      All three of my children (all in their 30s now) love A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein and Le Jardin Secret, of course, in both French and English. Thanks for the suggestions!


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