15 Diverse & Inclusive Children’s Books About Christmas
One of the things I love most about Christmas is sharing the many different ways the holiday can be celebrated. Our tree and mantle are decorated with fair trade ornaments and nativities made in countries around the world.
Starting on the first of December, we unwrap one Christmas book to read each night. I want as many of these books as possible to be inclusive of different types of families and/or culturally diverse.
In this post, you’ll find 15 of our favorite inclusive and diverse picture books about Christmas. I’m also including free downloadable templates to make lovely felt ornaments.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to my Amazon Associates account, as well as links to my Barefoot Books storefront. If you purchase items through these links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. I was provided a complimentary copy of December’s Gift: An Interfaith Holiday Story by the author. All opinions are my own.
What’s Cooking Jamela? by Niki Daly
If you’re looking for a Christmas story that will prompt a few giggles from your little ones, the South African tale What’s Cooking Jamela? fills the bill. Jamela’s mother and grandmother are planning a delicious Christmas meal, which will feature the new chicken they just bought. It’s Jamela’s job to feed the chicken, which she names Christmas.
As you might guess, Jamela starts to get attached to Christmas. She even builds the chicken a manger. On Christmas Eve, Jamela is instructed to go get the chicken so that it can meet its fate. Instead, Jamela takes off through town, carrying Christmas with her. That is, until the chicken jumps out of her arms…(Recommended for ages 3 – 8).
December’s Gift: An Interfaith Holiday Story by Ashley Smith-Santos, Stasie Bitton, and Sandra Salsbury
Each December, Clara and her parents travel to her Bubbe’s home, where they celebrate Chanukah. The most special part of her time there is making latkes together, as Bubbe tells her of the menorah that burned miraculously for 8 days on just one day’s worth of oil.
Clara also visits her Grammy each December, where they celebrate Christmas. Clara’s favorite part of Christmas Eve is making star shaped sugar cookies, as Grammy tells her the story of the miraculous star that guided the wise men to the new baby king.
That night, as Clara falls asleep, she dreams of the grandchild she will one day have, and how she will share both of these traditions with him. This will be December’s gift. The book also includes recipes for Bubbe’s latkes and Grammy’s sugar cookies. (Recommended for ages 4 – 9).
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Rachel Griffin
Rachel Griffith’s lavish fabric artwork transforms the traditional English carol into a journey around the world. The five golden rings decorate an Indian elephant. The nine drummers drumming are from Malawi, and the ten pipers piping are Indian.
There are also several fabric embellished pages of end notes that share about Christmas and Epiphany traditions around the world, as well as the history of The Twelves Days of Christmas song. (Recommended for all ages.)
Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano and Marjorie Priceman
In Jose’s crowded apartment, his Mami tries to prepare their traditional Puerto Rican roast for Christmas Eve. The oven is too small for the roast to fit! Papi has the idea to ask the owner of the local pizzeria if he can put the roast in the pizza oven. On his way through their apartment complex, Papi soon discovers that no one else seems to be looking forward to Christmas.
Children will giggle at all of the grumpy things the grownups in the story say (and parents will likely identify with some of those things!) Can an invitation, and the smell of a delicious roast, put their neighbors in the holiday spirit? (Recommended for ages 4 – 9).
Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
A young Japanese boy ignores his mother’s warning not to play in the neighbor’s pond. When he returns he finds her making origami cranes. When she finds he has a fever, she sends him to bed, and the little boy is sure she must be mad. That’s the only reason he can think of that she would not be checking on him while he is in bed.
When she begins digging up the special pine that was planted when he was born, he’s even more confused. His mother tells him that in a place where she once lived, California, today is a special day. She decorates his tree with the cranes and candles and shares Christmas traditions with him for the first time. (Recommended for ages 4 – 9).
The Christmas Truck by J.B. Blankenship and Cassandre Bolan
This fast paced rhyming book celebrates the spirit of Christmas through giving to others. Along with her Papa and her Dad, a little girl goes to the town square to visit a special Christmas tree with the names of children who “don’t have many toys.
She’s delighted to pick out the fire truck that little Michael has asked for. In the middle of her family’s Christmas Eve celebration, a disaster happens! The Christmas tree falls over, breaking Michael’s special fire truck. Luckily Grandma (who used to be the fire chief) has an idea to save Michael’s Christmas. (Recommended for ages 3 – 8).
Joy to the World: Christmas Stories and Songs by Tomie dePaolo
Tomie dePaolo has written so many moving and diverse Christmas stories that I was delighted to find one collection that contains 3 of them, along with traditional carols.
In The Night of Las Posadas, we follow a village that is preparing for the annual procession that remembers Mary and Joseph seeking shelter. Sister Angie has carefully prepared everyone for their roles in the procession. Everything is ready, until the couple who are to play Maria and Jose get caught by a snowstorm on a mountain road and cannot get there in time. A quiet miracle, that only Sister Angie realizes has happened, takes place to save Las Posadas.
This collection also includes The Story of the Three Wise Kings and The Legend of the Poinsettia. (Recommended for ages 4 – 9).
The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack and Jerry Pinkney
This story is set in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression. Nella opens the story by telling us that “Christmas always came to our house, but Santy Claus only showed up once in a while.” Even though she’s not sure if Santy Claus will arrive, Nella becomes entranced with a newspaper advertisement for a Baby Betty doll.
Her sisters warn her it’s silly to wish for such a doll during the Depression; she’ll never get it. She writes to Santy Claus nonetheless, and on Christmas Day her father has a special surprise. It’s a Baby Betty doll, which Nella and her sisters immediately begin fighting over. The girls’ parents tell them they must fix the argument themselves.
Nella convinces her sisters that she should have the doll, since it was her idea to ask Santy Claus for it. When her sisters go off to play on their own, Nella soon discovers that Baby Betty is not that interesting when it’s just the two of them. Will she find a way to make her Christmas gift live up to her dreams? (Recommended for ages 5 – 10).
The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora
The way that Rachel Isadora transports Clement Moore’s poem to an African setting is delightful. Kente cloth stockings hang over the cookstove. Santa’s dreadlocked hair is decorated with pieces of brightly colored fabrics. I especially loved his leopard printed pants that he wears underneath his red vest. Children will certainly want to take time to pore over the vivid papercut illustrations. (Recommended for ages 3 – 10).
Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco
Welcome Comfort’s life as foster child who is always moving from home to home is tough. Mr. Hamp, the school custodian, becomes his closest friend and changes Welcome’s life. He tells Welcomethat Christmas is the most wondrous time of the year, but Welcome doesn’t agree. Mr. Hamp tells him to believe in Santa, because “believin’ is seein’.” While Welcome is disappointed that he can’t spend Christmas with the Hamps, who head up North each Christmas, he tries his best to believe.
On Christmas Eve, Santa himself shows up to whisk Welcome into his sleigh. When he returns from his amazing night of helping deliver presents around the world, Welcome begins to think it must have been a dream. Many years will pass by before he knows the answer for sure. (Recommended for ages 5 – 10).
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez
Maria is having a wonderful Christmas Eve, making tamales with her mother. Her mother has let her wear lipstick and perfume, and she’s wearing her mother’s apron too. She just wishes she could also wear her mother’s ring. When her mother leaves the room, with her ring lying on the table, Maria thinks there’s no harm in wearing it for a minute.
It’s not until a few hours later, when all the family has arrived and the tamales are made, that Maria remembers the ring. It must have slipped off her finger and ended up in the tamales! Can Maria and her cousins eat themselves out of the big trouble she will get in if the ring can’t be found? (Recommended for ages 4 – 10).
King Island Christmas by Jean Rogers and Rie Munoz
King Island Christmas tells the true story that Rio Munoz lived through in Alaska in 1951. 150 members of the Inupiaq tribe are the island’s only residents, and each winter the ice cuts them off from the rest of the world for several months.
The Island’s church has been dark for months, but a new priest is supposed to arrive in time to celebrate Christmas mass. When he becomes stranded on a big freighter, the villagers themselves must set out in their largest walrus skin boat to fetch him. (Recommended for ages 3 – 8).
The Miracle of the First Poinsettia: A Mexican Christmas Story by Joanne Oppenheim and Fabian Negrin
Juanita is sad this Christmas. With her father out of job, she has no money to buy presents for her little brothers. She doesn’t even want to go to Christmas Eve mass, because she has no gift to leave at the altar for the Christ child.
After a simple dinner with her parents, Nita tries to avoid going to the church. But her Mama reminds her that “there are no greater gifts than the ones you bring in your heart.” Only by trusting the voice of a stone angel outside the church will Nita find the gift that she has to give. (Recommended for ages 5 – 10).
Who Built the Stable? A Nativity Poem by Ashley Bryan
This vibrantly illustrated poem considers how the stable where Jesus was born was built. Bryan’s poem declares that it was a little shepherd boy who built the stable, and later encourages Mary and Joseph to take shelter there. When Jesus is born, the shepherd child looks into his eyes “and in his heart he knew: The babe would be a carpenter. He’d be a shepherd too.”
The rich, bright colors of the illustrations drew us in immediately. The shepherd boy, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are all brown-skinned, a much needed balance to the vast majority of children’s books which portray Jesus as European. (Recommended for ages 3 – 8).
When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith and Carolina Farias
When Eduardo arrives in his new town, in a new country, where he must learn a new language, it does not feel like home. On the journey Eduardo tightly holds his family’s Christmas box, which holds the Nativity made by his grandfather. Eduardo insists that he wants to go home, while his parents promise by Christmas, when they open the box, this new place will feel like home.
His uncle tells him that he must wait until “pumpkins smile” and “trees will become like standing skeletons.” Eduardo is puzzled, knowing that these things cannot happen. Throughout the fall, as Eduardo begins to figure out the answers to his uncle’s riddles, he forgets about his Christmas box, until one day, it is finally time to open it. (Recommended for ages 4 – 9).
Do you have a favorite diverse or inclusive Christmas book? Share it in the comments!