Holiday Recommendations for Young Readers 2023: Picture Books

If I Was a Horse, written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, Little Brown and Company, $18.99, ages 4-8. If you were a horse, what would you do? Could you fit in your clothes? Would you give your little sister a ride? Would your brother even notice? Gallop along with two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall through this riotous day in the life of a child who imagines their life as a horse. “Charming and whimsical… An exquisite equine fantasy, this encourages imaginations to giddyup and run wild and free."-- Booklist, starred review. Four starred reviews!

The Truth About Max, written and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, Enchanted Lion Books, $18.95, ages 3-8. Wherever Max goes, mischief is sure to follow! He spends his days teasing, playing hide-and-seek, and prowling the barnyard. He's also keenly intelligent and independent, with his own private life that begins at night. An affectionate portrait of a pet who's both friend and hunter, from a luminary author-illustrator pair of American children's literature. “Utterly delightful.” -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Eight Nights of Lights: A Celebration of Hanukkah, written by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Hilli Kushnir, HarperCollins, $19.99, ages 5-10. Celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah with this interactive, one-of-a-kind menorah and storybook set. Each night, open a candle-shaped book and follow a young Jewish girl and her family as they decorate their home, say blessings, enjoy traditional foods and games, and gather to hear about the brave Maccabees and their victory that brought light to all Jews. "An imaginative and inclusive take on Hanukkah that ought to be lots of fun for readers." -- Kirkus Reviews

How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney?, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, Candlewick Press, $18.99, ages 4-7. When Santa arrives at a child's house on Christmas Eve, does he go down the chimney feetfirst or headfirst? What if he gets stuck? What if there's no chimney? Maybe he slides under the door, as thin as a piece of paper? Or is it possible he pours himself through the faucet? What happens once he's inside? “In the market for an understated Christmas classic? Behold! A Christmas miracle!” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review. Three starred reviews!

The Red Fruit, written and illustrated by Lee Gee Eun, Levine Querido, $18.99, ages 3-8. Baby Bear is off exploring on his own. Tok! Now what's this that just hit his head?'s a delicious red fruit. He must get more. Up, up, up, to the top of the forest. Hello Caterpillar! Hello Squirrel! Hello Bees! Now what is that? Why, it's the biggest red fruit of all! Baby Bear must have it. “Beautifully transcends its seeming simplicity." – Kirkus Reviews, starred review.

The Voice in the Hollow, written and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, Holiday House, $18.99, ages 5-8. When a blizzard closes the library early, Hubert decides to take a shortcut home through the spooky Hollow. Just as Hubert is gathering his nerve to press on, another mouse appears and offers to take his hand. Together they journey through the snow…. Just as Hubert is reaching his destination, he turns to find his guide gone. Hubert races home to tell his family about his wild adventure through the Hollow. “A picture book that hits the sweet spot between kids' heartfelt pleas to hear scary stories and their equally strong desire not to become truly scared. . . . Beautifully crafted."-- Booklist, starred review. Four starred reviews!

The Search for the Giant Arctic Jellyfish, written and illustrated by Chloe Savage, Candlewick Press, $18.99, ages 4-8. Dr. Morley is about to embark on a quest to the northernmost tip of the world, to discover a creature that everyone talks about but nobody has ever seen: The Giant Arctic Jellyfish. After years of research,  she gathers together a highly trained crew and a boat full of specialist equipment, and sets sail for the vast icy scapes of the Arctic. Will she find what she is searching for? Or will it find her? “This voyage may be fictional, but the frustrations--and joys--of scientific exploration are real indeed. Whimsical and wonderful.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

A Whale of a Time: Funny Poems for Each Day of the Year, written by Lou Peacock, illustrated by Matt Hunt, Nosy Crow, $40.00, ages 6-10. A collection of 366 hilarious poems about animals, families, school, food, holidays, and much more! From the creators behind the award-winning anthologies Sing a Song of Seasons and Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright, this rib-tickling illustrated anthology is filled with unforgettable classics and new discoveries, including poetry in translation. 

The Magicians, written and illustrated by Blexbolex, translated from the French by Karin Snelson, Enchanted Lion Books, $34.95, ages 8 and up. In the corner of a quiet, long-abandoned house, something is bubbling up and protesting. Suddenly, out from their hiding spots burst three young shapeshifting magicians--an elephant, a blackbird, and a human girl--each of whom embarks on their own journey. But a fierce young Huntress and a mechanical lion-dragon named Clinker are hot on their trails... and won't rest until every last magician is vanquished. “... Readers young and old will find little else like this lyrical, thrilling, and mysterious tale." --Booklist, starred review.