York County librarians share favorite holiday books

The Polar ExpressBy SARAH CHAIN
For Smart

When I think about childhood Christmas celebrations, I think about getting cookies and milk for Santa Claus and, the next morning, opening presents piled in front of the tree. I had a one-track mind, and it revolved around St. Nick.

But I also remember reading “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “The Polar Express” and other holiday classics.

We asked York County librarians to share their top reads for Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Read some of their responses below:


There are two books that come to mind for me that are favorites for Christmas:

1. “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg — The story is so magical that you get swept away and I find myself really wanting to visit the North Pole. The popularity of the movie has become a Christmas tradition. Also, two years ago local storyteller Beth Rebert did her rendition of it and it was a huge hit here at the library — our biggest crowd ever!

2. “Holly’s Christmas Eve” by Wendy Watson is my favorite Christmas story to read to children. Before Santa Claus arrives on Christmas Eve, two tree ornaments help another one recover her wooden arm after it is knocked off by a tree-climbing cat and then swept up by the vacuum cleaner. I read this to a preschool class last year in December and they were still talking about it in February.

— Kelly Horner, Children’s Services librarian,
Guthrie Memorial Library — Hanover’s Public Library


Three of my favorite Christmas books are “Christmas Cricket” by Eve Bunting, “Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and “A Wish to be a Christmas Tree” by Colleen Monroe.

The last one is about a tree that never got chosen to be a Christmas tree at the tree farm and has grown too big. The animals of the forest decide to make him their Christmas tree and decorate him with things from the forest.

"Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah"We have two books which present some basic facts about all three holidays. They are “Messy Bessey’s Holidays” by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack and “Let’s Celebrate Christmas” by Peter and Connie Roop.

The book “Crafts for Kwanzaa” by Kathy Ross is also very good. My go-to books for Hanukkah are “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah” by Susan L. Roth and “Hanukkah Mice” by Steven Kroll.

— Carol Stampler, Director, Mason-Dixon Public Library


Here are a few of the stories that I like to use: “My First Kwanzaa” by Karen Katz, “Imani’s Gift at Kwanzaa,” “The Story of Chanukah” by Francis Barry Silberg, “Runaway Dreidel” by Leslea Newman, “An Amish Christmas” by Richard Ammon and “Frederico and the Magi’s Gift” by Beatrix Vidal.

"Imani's Gift at Kwanzaa"And classics are always a hit: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Robert L. May and “Frosty the Snowman” by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. And favorite characters with Christmas stories: Maisy, Berenstein Bears, Henry and Mudge, and lots more…

Then there is the wonderful story for older kids of “The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry. For teens and adults, there is a really fun book each year by Debbie McComber, “Angels at the Table: A Shirley,” “Goodness” and “Mercy Christmas Story.”

— Karen Hostetter, Youth services, Dover Community Library


My personal favorite holiday books tend to be in the “fractured” category… sort of non-traditional.

  •  “Olive the OtherReindeer” by Vivian Walsh & J. Otto Seibold
  • “A Bad Kitty Christmas” by Nick Bruel
  • “Llama Llama Holiday Drama” by Anna Dewdney
  • “If You Take a Mouse to the Movies” by Laura Numeroff
  • “Look Alikes Christmas” by Joan Steiner (Different holiday scenes made up of household objects… (I) could sit for hours looking at this.)More traditional books (include) “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss (Wouldn’t be Christmas without it!) and “Legend of the Poinsettia” by Tomie de Paolo (One of my favorite author/illustrators and an interesting legend to boot.)

— Dawn Strockbridge, Youth services coordinator,
Paul Smith Library of Southern York County


"Olive the Other Reindeer"“Olive the Other Reindeer” by Vivian Walsh and J Otto Seibold — A cute story about a dog who thinks she is a reindeer because she hears people singing “All of the other reindeer” and interprets it as “Olive, the other reindeer”!“B is for Bethlehem: a Christmas Alphabet” by Isabel Wilner — An alphabet book with beautiful illustrations, plenty to look at and shares pieces of the Christmas story.

“Uno, Dos, Tres, Posada!” by Virginia Kroll — A counting story that counts in English and Spanish and shares how some children prepare for a Christmas posada (party)!

“Snowmen at Christmas” by Caralyn Buehner — Who doesn’t love snowmen? This story tells about what snowmen do one Christmas Eve night while people are asleep!

“I Spy a Christmas Tree,” riddles by Jean Marzollo and photographs by Walter Wick — A smaller version of the “I Spy“ books with a Christmas theme — just as tricky, though!

“Look-Alikes Christmas” by Joan Steimer — Ms. Steimer creates winter- and Christmas-themed scenes out of the most amazing items. Everything in the picture looks normal, until one looks more closely: a kitchen chair made out of a zippered wallet, a man’s billfold and clothespins; a cast iron stove made from a wall-mount mailbox a lady’s clutch, a miniature car and a flashlight chimney! Not to be missed!

— Susan J. Nenstiel, Librarian, Kreutz Creek Valley Library Center

About Sarah Chain

I'm an avid reader and book lover living and working in downtown York. Follow me on Twitter at @sarahEchain.
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