With the weather patterns jumping between arctic air and icy sidewalks, we are all spending more time indoors this winter. And while we still encourage you to bundle up and experience this quiet season outdoors with your children (even for a few minutes every day), there’s nothing wrong with cuddling up under a blanket on the couch or next to the fireplace with a good book (or fourteen!). Here are some of our favorite winter reads for children of all ages.
Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner
With beautiful, serene illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal, Over and Under the Snow follows a father and son as they traverse the snowy landscape and the “secret kingdom under the snow,” the subnivean zone: a network of “small open spaces between the snowpack and the ground… created when heat from the ground melts some of the snow next to it and leaves a layer of air just above the dirt and fallen leaves.” Neal writes about all of the woodland creatures – from foxes, chipmunks, beavers, and red squirrels, to bullfrogs, voles, shrews, and snowshoe hares, among many more – that live and adapt to the winter weather outdoors.
The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder, by Mark Cassino
How do snow crystals form? What shapes can they take? Are no two snow crystals alike? These questions and more are answered in this visually stunning exploration of the science of snow. Perfect for reading on winter days, the book features photos of real snow crystals in their beautiful diversity. Snowflake-catching instructions are also included!
The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice, by Wendy Pfeffer
The beginning of winter is marked by the solstice, the shortest day of the year. Long ago, people grew afraid when each day had fewer hours of sunshine than the day before. Over time, they realized that one day each year the sun started moving toward them again. In lyrical prose and cozy illustrations, this book explains what the winter solstice is and how it has been observed by various cultures throughout history. Many contemporary holiday traditions were borrowed from ancient solstice celebrations. (Amazon)
The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
Winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal, this classic never gets old! Its simplicity and beautiful artwork inspires the imagination and points us to the simple joy of winter’s first snowfall.
Brave Irene, by William Steig
A 1986 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, this timeless (and a little bit wacky) story follows young Irene, who is determined to deliver a dress that her mother has made for the duchess to wear that very evening. The story, much in the style of Steig, is slow and detailed, and so accurately conveys the difficulties of being small in a big, big world, but also being determined and brave.
SkySisters, by Jan Bourdeau Waboose
With stunning illustrations by Brian Deines, this book tells the story of the Northern Lights as two Ojibway sisters set off across the frozen north country to see the SkySpirits’ midnight dance. It isn’t easy for the younger sister to be silent, but gradually she begins to treasure the stillness and the wonderful experiences it brings. After an exhilarating walk and patient waiting, the girls are rewarded by the arrival of the SkySpirits – the northern lights – dancing and shimmering in the night sky. (Goodreads)
Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost
Ever since it was published in 1978, the picture-book presentation of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has been an enduring favorite. For this special edition with a new design, trim size, and three new spreads, Susan Jeffers has added more detail and subtle color to her sweeping backgrounds of frosty New England scenes. There are more animals to find among the trees, and the kindly figure with his “promises to keep” exudes warmth as he stops to appreciate the quiet delights of winter. (Goodreads)
Snow Day! by Lester Laminack
With beautiful illustrations by Adam Gustavson, this imaginative book follows the narrator imagining a snow day after the weatherman predicts a big snowfall for the following school day. The end is sweet, as we find out just who the narrator is!
Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
Uri Shulevitz’ playful depiction of a snowy day and the transformation of a city is perfectly captured in simple, poetic text and lively watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations. Snow is a 1998 New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year and a 1999 Caldecott Honor Book. Note: this one is hard to find, but you can listen to it read out loud on YouTube!
Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
“Of all the forms of water the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow are incomparably the most beautiful and varied.” – Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) From the time he was a small boy in Vermont, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley’s enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist’s vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature. Snowflake Bentley won the 1999 Caldecott Medal. (Amazon)
Snowflakes in Photographs, by W. A. Bentley
For any age child (or adult!) who is fascinated with geometry and the natural world, Bentley’s photographs are breathtaking and intriguing. In 1931, the American Meteorological Society gathered the best of Bentley’s photos and had them published; that work has long been available in a Dover reprint edition. The present volume includes a selection of 72 of the best plates (containing over 850 royalty-free, black-and-white photographs), carefully selected from that larger collection. (Amazon)
Brian’s Winter, by Gary Paulsen
If your child has read and enjoyed Hatchet, be sure to pick Brian’s Winter up at the library! This book explores what would have happened to the character Brian if he had not been rescued at the end of Hatchet, and instead had to hunker down for a harsh winter. The story deals with Brian, still stranded at the L-shaped lake during the fall and winter, constructing a winter shelter, building snow shoes, being confronted by a bear, befriending and naming a skunk and learning how to make a bow more powerful. Eventually, Brian meets a family of Cree trappers, the Smallhorns, who help him return home.
The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
An autobiographical children’s novel and part of the Little House series, it is set in southeastern Dakota Territory during the severe winter of 1880 – 1881, when Ingalls turned 14 years old and blizzards continued for seven months!
Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #6), by Jeff Kinney
Greg Heffley is in big trouble. School property has been damaged, and Greg is the prime suspect. But the crazy thing is, he’s innocent. Or at least sort of. The authorities are closing in, but when a surprise blizzard hits, the Heffley family is trapped indoors. Greg knows that when the snow melts he’s going to have to face the music, but could any punishment be worse than being stuck inside with your family for the holidays? (Goodreads)
Now all we need is a good snow! Happy reading!