The holiday season is filled with family traditions, and for many this includes reading favorite Christmas stories. This year, there are wonderful new editions of these classic books:

e.t.a. hoffmann nutcracker illustrations by maurice sendakNutcracker (Crown, 2012)

E.T.A. Hoffmann's original 1816 masterpiece comes to life in this version with pictures by Maurice Sendak (author and illustrator behind the beloved Where the Wild Things Are) and an accessible translation by Ralph Manheim. Reissued in October, this edition is a marvel, with gorgeous illustrations by the one-and-only Sendak.

This telling of the Nutcracker story is surprisingly different from the glossy ballet version with which most are familiar, and while a darker and more complex story is told here, the essentials remain the same and the story continues to captivate children as it has for close to two hundred years. While best-suited to older kids, Sendak's detailed and whimsical drawings are perfect for younger children content to take a "picture walk."

$24.99, ages 4+

More beautiful holiday books—>


the town mouse and the country mouseThe Town Mouse and the Country Mouse (Templar, 2012)

This well-know Aesop fable is retold and illustrated by Helen Ward in glorious, ornate pictures that depict all the bustle and beauty of New York City at Christmastime.

Set in the 1930s, there are spectacular scenes to engage and enthrall readers on every page, from the opulent holiday desserts to the festive ornaments on the elaborately decorated tree. And of course, there's a nice moral at the end, too. 

$16.99, ages 4-8

Who better than Santa to edit a Christmas book?—>


twas the night before christmas edited by santa clausTwas The Night Before Christmas: Edited by Santa Claus for the Benefit of Children of the 21st Century (Grafton and Scratch, 2012)

Clement C. Moore's classic poem gets a healthy makeover in this new release edited by Pamela McColl. In addition to the main revision that removes the reference to Santa smoking a pipe, there are also several other changes, including a note on the book jacket from Santa reassuring readers that he only wears fake fur.

The illustrations by Elena Almazova and Vitaly Shvarov are fun and engaging, and while children are unlikely to take note of the textural changes (for example, the moon is now on the crest, not breast, of the new-fallen snow) many grown-ups are applauding this version that leaves "all of that old tired business of smoking well behind us." Up next, perhaps: re-tooling Santa's "chubby and plump" description.

$16.95, ages 3+

What's your favorite ho-ho-holiday story? Please share in the comments below.