Holiday Traditions and Gift-Giving

When my eldest daughter was about three years old and my middle daughter just an infant, I started a Christmas tradition.  Book giving.  But it couldn’t be just any book.  No.  It had to be special

So every year I went to the bookstore and thoughtfully selected a book for each child that portrayed the spirit of Christmas, reflected something special we had done during the year (vacation, milestone, celebration, etc), or effectively expressed my feelings for them.  Then I would inscribe the inside cover of the book.  It has always been the last gift of the day – one that, even now, my children anticipate and receive with joy.

In the past, some of the titles I chose for my children were:   Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, You’re All My Favorites by Sam McBratney, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe, You Are My Miracle by Maryann Cusimano Love and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (to name a few).

This year, however, has been a struggle to find the appropriate book because my small children who once adored picture books have somehow managed to grow into big middle-grade kids.  You could probably imagine the look I’d get if they were given a picture book!  *Rolls eyes, dramatically*

In my hunt for the perfect book, I compiled a list to share with you.  Whether you’re inspired by my post and want to start this tradition for your own family, or are just looking for holiday book ideas, the list below should satisfy your gift-giving needs!


* The Best Christmas Pagent Ever by Barbara Robinson 

* A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

From IndieBound:

The return of one of children’s literature’s most memorable characters is a gift indeed.

The eccentric, forceful, big-hearted Grandma Dowdel is the star of the Newbery Medal-winning A Year Down Yonder and Newbery Honor-winning A Long Way from Chicago. And it turns out that her story isn’t over–not even close.

It is now 1958, and a new family has moved in next door to Mrs. Dowdel: a Methodist minister and his wife and kids. Soon Mrs. Dowdel will work her particular brand of charm–or medicine, depending on who you’re asking–on all of them: ten-yearold Bob, who is shy on courage in a town full of bullies; his two fascinating sisters; and even Bob’s two parents, who are amazed to discover that the last house in town might also be the most vital.

As Christmas rolls around, the Barnhart family realizes that they’ve found a true home–and a neighbor who gives gifts that will last a lifetime.


Historical fiction:

* Christmas After All:  The Great Depression Diaries by Kathryn Lasky

* The Bells of Christmas by Virginia Hamilton

Twelve-year-old Jason Bell waits impatiently for Christmas 1890. Set against the carefully researched background life of a middle-class black family in Ohio a century ago, “Hamilton’s story moves along at an elegant pace, giving readers time to savor the holiday preparations.”–School Library Journal 


For Girls:

* A Holiday Memory by Lauren Brooke

* Rainbow Magic: Paige The Christmas Play Fairy by Daisy Meadows 

* Holiday Princess by Meg Cabot

From IndieBound:

A princess always knows how to celebrate the holidays. There’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Chinese New Year, Saturnalia…….to name just a few.

Then there’s gift giving, the royal Genovian Faberge advent calendar, hot chocolate with marshmallows — oh, and all those fabulous holiday movies. How will YOU celebrate this holiday season? Mia and her subjects have a few ideas.





For Boys:

* The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements

* The Dog Who Thought He Was Santa by Bill Wallace

* Kringle by Tony Abbott 

From IndieBound:

A coming-of-age story about an orphan who becomes a force for good in a dark and violent time. It is a tale of fantasy; of goblins, elves, and flying reindeer; and of a boy from the humblest beginnings who fulfills his destiny. Illustrations.



* Christmas in Camelot (Magic Tree House #29) by Mary Pope Osborne

* A Katie Kazoo Christmas:  Super, Super Special by Nancy E. Krulik

* How The Pops Stole Christmas by Nancy E Krulik 

* The Adventures of Santa Paws by Nicholas Edwards

From IndieBound:

From homeless puppy to hometown hero!Santa Paws comes to the rescue in these two holiday stories. In Santa Paws, a lonely puppy wants one thing more than anything else this Christmas-a home to call his very own! When he rescues a family from a burning building and saves a boy from drowning, his heroics earn him the nickname Santa Paws and captivate an entire town. In The Return of Santa Paws, it’s Christmastime again. Santa Paws and his new owners are flying to a celebration in New England. Disaster strikes when their plane crashes in the snowy woods!  



* The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

* The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

* The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

* Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

* The Birds Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin

 From IndieBound:

This classic Christmas story by the author of REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM features a child as memorable and charitable as Dickens’s Tiny Tim. Born on Christmas Day, Carol is the Bird family’s special Christmas baby. As her tenth birthday approaches, declining health threatens young Carol’s life. Her only wish, however, is to plan an unforgettable Christmas celebration for the poor Ruggles children next door. Few characters have embodied the spirit of Christmas more fully than Carol Bird in this bittersweet holiday classic, which generations of readers have cherished for more than a hundred years.



* The Very Best Hanukkah Gift by Joanne Rocklin

* The Magic Menorah:  A Modern Chanukah Tale by Jane Breskin ZalbenThe Magic Menorah

12 year old Stanley Green isn’t looking forward to  Chanukah and lots of chaos from relatives.  But when Stanley goes to the attic he finds an old menorah. When he cleans it up, he is greeted by a genie named Fishel who grants him three wishes.  As his wishes are “granted” he learns that he’s really had the happiness he was seeking all along.  Lots of details about the Chanukah holiday fill this story that is suitable as a read aloud or readers theater. ***


* Hereville:  How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry DeutschHereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Eleven year old Mirka lives in Hereville – an Orthodox Jewish Community.  She’s strong-willed and not the least bit interested in knitting.  What she really wants is to fight dragons!

Filled with witches, trolls, bullies and a pig, Hereville is a captivating story that readers will love. ***

* Candlelight for Rebecca (American Girls Collection) by Jacqueline Dembar Greene

* Penina Levine is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O’Connell

* How I saved Hanukkah by Amy Goldman Koss 



* Kwanza:  Why We Celebrate it the Way We Do by Martin Hintz

* Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis 


From IndieBound:

In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars.


I hope you find a wonderful book on this list perfect for sharing with the middle-grade readers you know!  Happy Holidays!

Amie Borst is the mother of three daughters who are all growing up too quickly.  When she’s not spending time with them, she’s writing stories for them and other middle-grade readers.  She also eats way too much chocolate.  Visit her at

  1. What a beautiful tradition! I really look forward to being able to start traditions like that when I have my own family.

    For now… click. Click. Click. Lucky I read books like this myself!

  2. Thanks for sharing this great list! I love how you included other holidays in addition to Christmas.

    Books definitely make great gifts. 🙂

  3. What treasures these all seem to be–a few are familiar, but many are not–and I’d love to peek into the pages myself. Thanks so much for sharing such a great list. We, too, have a tradition of giving books at Christmas and now I have a new source to draw from. You’ve made my job easier 🙂

  4. I love your family tradition, Amie. I don’t know if this is too young for MG, but my 8 y.o. and I are reading Junie B. Jones Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (P.S. So Does May) and are hysterically laughing.

  5. Wow! Great post. It is obvious a lot of time and research went into this. The best part is there is something for everybody regardless of background and you provide people an opportunity to start/add Christmas traditions to their family. Love you!

  6. thanks all! glad you liked the list! and i hope you find something great to share with the middle-graders you know….or for yourself 😉

    roseanne- i almost added Hershel….but i thought it was more a chapter book…so i didn’t include it in the list….it looks like a great story!

    i also desperately wanted to include my all time favorite movie – A Christmas Story…but it was based on a collection of short stories entitled In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd and not a middle-grade book. bummer.

  7. thanks for the list! Some great titles here, and some I know I need to add to my TBR list for myself if not for my kids!

  8. What a lovely tradition! Christmas isn’t Christmas without books under the tree!

  9. Great list Amie! Here are two of my favorites:

    Herhsel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel, illus. by Trina Schart Hyman

    The Bakers Dozen: a St. Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard.

  10. These are terrific suggestions. Thanks for taking the time to put together this list!

  11. I love your list. During read aloud my class is enjoying “When Santa Fell to Earth” by Cornellia Funke. It is wonderful novel about kids believing in Santas, overcoming and dealing with bullies and disfuntional familes. You know life!

    Happy Holidays!

  12. Wow, so many great choices. I was just trying to think of a book to give as a gift. Perfect post for me today. 🙂