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Recommended holiday season books for parents, young adults and children

Books inside the La Jolla Riford Library on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.
Marielena Castellanos
Books inside the La Jolla Riford Library on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

All over San Diego, friends and families are making time in busy schedules to prepare and to gather to celebrate the holidays. To add to the joy of the season, we’ve compiled a list of books celebrating the rich cultural and religious traditions found in our region.

These books come from different lists of recommended books, including the San Diego County Office of Education and PBS Kids for Parents, among other lists.



"Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals" by Liana Romulo
“In the Philippines, people love to celebrate — holidays are filled with music and dancing, sometimes with colorful costumes, and always with great food! Rich with detailed watercolors and cultural flavor, 'Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals' makes major holidays (like Christmas) and Family gatherings (like weddings and birthdays) come alive.” — Tuttle Publishing

"Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins" by Eric A. Kimmel
“An original tale featuring a traditional Jewish folk hero, this clever story, which received a Sydney Taylor Honor, has been a family favorite for decades. On the first night of Hanukkah, a weary traveler named Hershel of Ostropol eagerly approaches a village, where plenty of latkes and merriment should warm him. But when he arrives not a candle is lit. A band of frightful goblins has taken over the synagogue, and the villagers cannot celebrate at all! Hershel vows to help them.” — Holiday House

"My First Kwanzaa Book" by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate
“This beautifully illustrated story celebrates the notions of family and cultural heritage as it explains traditional aspects of Kwanzaa. Great for a family read or a school library, as it shines a light on community involvement.” — Angela Shelf Medearis, PBS Kids For Parents

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Robert L. May
"Rudolph, a youthful reindeer buck who possesses an unusual luminous red nose, is teased and excluded by his peers because of this trait. One particularly stormy Christmas Eve, Rudolph manages to prove himself after Santa Claus catches sight of his nose and asks him to lead his sleigh for the evening. Rudolph agrees, saving Christmas, and is finally treated the way he deserves by his fellow reindeer!" — Little Simon

"The Legend of the Poinsettia" by Tomie dePaola
“The Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl’s unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Beloved Newbery honor-winning author and Caldecott honor-winning illustrator Tomie dePaola has embraced the legend using his own special feeling for Christmas.” — Penguin Random House


"Under the Bodhi Tree: A Story of the Buddha" by Deborah Hopkinson
“'Under the Bodhi Tree' is an illustrated biography perfect for children who are curious about the real people who made history. Here young readers will discover the timeless story of a child whose search for peace reshaped the whole world.” — Sounds True

Young adults

"Klaus: How Santa Claus Began" by Grant Morrison
“He’s a myth. He’s a legend. He’s loved worldwide by children and adults alike … but does anyone truly know the origins of Santa Claus? Set in a dark fantastic past of myth and magic, Klaus tells the origin story of Santa Claus. It’s the tale of one man and his wolf against a totalitarian state and the ancient evil that sustains it.”
-BOOM! Studios

"Letters from Father Christmas" by J.R.R. Tolkien
“For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and lovers of Christmas holidays, Letters from Father Christmas is a gorgeous, full-color, festive gift featuring a wealth of letters and illustrations that Tolkien created for his children, appearing in a smaller, more reader-friendly trim size for the first time. This handsome edition also includes an introduction from daughter-in-law Baillie Tolkien, reflecting on the centenary anniversary of the letters, as well as a personal note by Tolkien himself.” — HarperCollins Publishers

"My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories" by Stephanie Perkins
“If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Featuring stories by Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de la Peña, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Roswell, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s something here for everyone.” — St. Martin’s Griffin

"The Golden Dreidel" by Ellen Kushner
“Sarah doesn’t like Hanukkah. It’s not even an important holiday. But no, it’s off to the family party for lots of boring dreidel games. Then mysterious Tante Miriam shows up and gives Sarah a gift that will turn her entire holiday on its head — a golden dreidel that becomes a princess, captured by the Demon King!” — Charlesbridge


"American Christmas Stories" edited by Connie Willis
“Ranging from the advent of the American tradition of holiday storytelling in the wake of the Civil War two today this is the best and widest-ranging anthology of American Christmas stories ever assembled. Ghost stories and crime stories, science-fiction fantasy, westerns, humor, and horror; tales of Christmas morning, trees, gifts, wise men, and family dinners everywhere from New York to Texas to outer space: this anthology is an epiphany, revealing the way Christmas has evolved over time — and how the spirit of the holiday has remained the same.” — Library of America

"A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories" compiled and edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas
“In print for the first time in over a decade, this landmark collection features writings from well-known black writers, activists, and visionaries such as Pauline Hopkins, Langston Hughes, and John Henrik Clarke along with literary gems from rediscovered writers. Originally published in African American newspapers, periodicals, and journals between 1880 and 1953, these enchanting Christmas tales are part of the black literary tradition that flourished after the Civil War.” — Beacon Press

"The Art of Hanukkah" by Nancy M. Berman, contributions by Vicki Reikes Fox
“A rich celebration of Hanukkah, featuring centuries of extraordinary art, and artifacts. One of the most joyous weeks in the Jewish year is when families gather for eight evenings to celebrate the festival of Hanukkah. Jews, the world over mark this holiday of freedom with the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, while children spin a dreidel and eat sufganiyot and potato latkes. Presents are exchanged, and the story of Hanukkah is retold through songs and prayers.” — Rizzoli New York

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