There are also many wonderful works of literature that build on the Christmas theme. Some of these are quite faithful to the traditional telling while others are based on elements of the Christmas story or themes from biblical teaching on Jesus life, typically love, devotion, kindness and sacrifice. Here are some of best examples that I know of. I'd be keen to hear of any others that you like.
1. Books based closely on the biblical story of Jesus birth
A Baby Born in Bethlehem, Martha Whitmore Hickman's retelling is based on the gospels of Luke and Matthew. It begins with the revelation to Mary that she will have a child who will be the son of God and ends with the visit of the Wise Men. The text emphasizes the joy of Jesus' birth. Giulliano Ferri's pencil and watercolour illustrations contribute to making this a great book for four to eight year olds.
The Baby Who Changed the World by Sheryl Ann Crawford, Sonya Wilson (Illustrator). In this imaginative retelling of the Christmas story, the animals get together and discuss the approaching arrival of a new baby that some say will grow up to be a strong and powerful King. Then Mary and Joseph enter the picture and the events of the true Christmas story unfold!
The Christmas Story: According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke from the King James Version by Gennadii Spirin (Illustrator). This telling of the Christmas story begins with Mary's meeting with the angel Gabriel then proceeds to the birth of baby Jesus in a stable, the visit of the shepherds and the three wise men. Spirin's Orthodox Christian faith is reflected in the wonderful art that makes this a special retelling of the story of Jesus (although not all will find the images match their ideas of what Jesus was like).
Mary's Christmas Story, by Olive Teresa. There are a number of different retellings of the Christmas Story available in the Arch Books series. Most are told from the perspective of different witnesses to the birth of Jesus or draw more heavily on one of more of the gospel accounts. This one retells the Christmas story from Mary's point of view based on Luke 1:5-2:18.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever tells the story of how one of the "worst Kids" in the world finds out about the real Christmas story for the first time as he takes part in the church Christmas pageant. The story itself is very funny but it also manages to communicate the Christian message accurately (my daughter is reading it to her children this Christmas here).
The Christmas Book, written and illustrated by Dick Bruna. Dick Bruna's delightful and simple telling of the nativity story is special. He manages to tell the greatest story ever told with his typical simplicity.
The Nativity by Julie Vivas is a wonderful book. The story is close to the Bible narrative and the illustrations as you'd expect from Julie Vivas are superb.
2. Books that use the Christmas theme to offer moral lessons
How the Grinch stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss. This is one of my favourites within this category. The Grinch lives on top of a mountain that overlooks Whoville. As he watches the villagers getting ready to celebrate Christmas he comes up with a plot to stop them. But instead of stealing Christmas he learns that Christmas means much more than the trappings such as gifts, decorations and food. I used to read this to my children at Christmas time and now they read it to their children as part of their Christmas traditions (see my daughter's post on this here). You can also watch the video version of this story that has been popular with children for over 50 years (here).
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. This probably deserves to be in its own category. The miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is taught the true meaning of Christmas by a series of ghostly visitors. This is essentially a fable that stresses that Christmas should be a time of goodwill towards mankind. There have been many versions printed of this classic story first published in 1843 with wonderful illustrations by John Leech. This new edition has to be one of the best illustrated versions that I've seen, which isn't surprising as Robert Ingpen is arguably one of the finest illustrators we have seen in the last 50 years. The edition also contains Dickens story Christmas Tree which offers an insight into a Victorian Christmas of the 1850s.
3. Stories based on Christmas traditions
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. A magical train ride on Christmas Eve takes a boy to the North Pole to receive a special gift from Santa Claus. This book won the 1986 Caldecott Medal and of course has been made into a movie.
There are endless books that have written about Christmas. When choosing a suitable book to read to your children try to find one that is faithful to the Christmas story and which is appropriate for your children's age.