It’s not just little kids who enjoy picture books. Older kids still like them, too even if they might not admit it.
Some picture books are specifically designed with older kids in mind. And that’s what this list is. Picture books designed to appeal to older children.
I own almost all of the books mentioned in this list. (The last two were recent recommendations that I haven’t had time to get my hands on yet.) My nine year old has listened intently to each of them, and she usually ends up asking questions which lead to good discussions.
The pictures alone are worth pulling one of these out and cuddling together over.
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Lucy’s Christmas by Donald Hall and Michael McCurdy portrays an old-fashioned New England Christmas where we see just how innovative a child can be in making gifts for her loved ones when she can’t buy them anything. The story is just short enough and simple enough for little kids to enjoy, but the text and illustrations are rich with history. I loved the discussions I had with my daughter about all those artifacts from a different era. Bonus: it’s based on a true story. The afterward by the author is a treat.
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck is a beautiful tale about a boy who comes to see how much his father does for the family, so he wants to give him something for Christmas. But when you don’t have much money, how can you give a gift? Readers come to see that a gift can be an act of service instead of a material object.
The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubel and Jim LaMarche is a beautifully illustrated feel-good story that exemplifies the idea of paying it forward. It’s set in Depression-era New York. Henry and his family live outside of town in a tiny shack and are facing hard times. They come up with a plan to chop down Christmas trees and sell them in the city. They have a successful day and decide to donate one of their remaining trees to the construction crew working hard at the site of Rockefeller Center. The crew is thankful for the gift and wants to return the favor. And the story continues from there with more acts of kindness that involve Henry later in life. The back pages of the book include information about Habitat for Humanity and how each year the wood from the massive Rockefeller Christmas tree is donated to become a house for a family in need. You can read more about the Rockefeller trees being part of Habitat for Humanity here.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and PJ Lynch tells the heartwarming tale of the widower Jonathan Toomey. He is the best woodcarver in the area, but he’s the grumpiest man as well. He’s lost all his joy for life. Until the gentle kindness of a widow and her persistent son help him to feel again. The author cleverly captures the spirit of each individual in the story and the illustrations portray things to an even deeper level. Bonus: You can download a free narration of the story by James Earl Jones!
An Early American Christmas by Tommie dePaola is a lovely tale of a German immigrant family who brings their Christmas traditions with them to the very reserved New England town they now call home. Don’t let the seemingly simplistic illustrations by the legendary dePaola fool you; they are thoughtfully created and appeal to children. And there is much “how-to” information in the story (such as candle-making) which keeps the interest of older kids. My 9 year old was very interested in everything presented in the story and had lots of questions that led to good discussions. Please note: This book can be difficult to find for purchase. You’re definitely better off looking for it at your local library.
Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble is a beautiful Christmas tale brought back to life with stunning watercolor illustrations. Experience the joy and love of family ties in this timeless tale. Set on a farm in wintry Michigan, the story tells of a family that loses their beloved apple tree (which brings them applesauce, cider, treats for their horse, and a place to play) in an ice storm. Read to the end for the delightful surprise that awaits the family. The reviews speak for themselves, kids and adults love this book.
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston is a “joyful story about courage and the power of family. The artwork by Caldecott medalist Barbara Cooney is stunning. One reviewer wrote, “The story embodies the spirit of love, the sacrifices we make as mothers and fathers, and the hard-won life of homesteaders during the Great War. “
I can’t emphasize enough how much older kids still enjoy picture books. (That’s why teachers of middle school and high school still use them in their classrooms.) I hope you’ll pick up one of these Christmas picture books for older kids, and give it a try. You won’t regret it.
Do you have a recommendation I should add to this list? I’m always on the lookout for great books (new or old), so please share in the comments.
Don’t forget to save this list for future reference. The image below is pinnable! Thank you.
If you like books lists, you may be interested in my list of New and Old Winter Classics.