Most of New England has been buried in snow over the past few days, and many schools and workplaces are closed today. It’s a perfect excuse to cuddle up on the couch with a hot drink and a good book. Here are some suggestions for chilly reads to warm the heart — and help keep kids entertained while stuck inside. For even more wintry picture books, see “The wonders of winter” from the the January 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.
All of the following titles were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.
Arnold, Marsha Diane Lost. Found.
32 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-017-6
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. The wind carries off a bear’s red scarf (“Lost”). Two raccoons see it (“Found”) but run away, leaving it behind (“Lost”). With one of the title words on most pages, this effectively paced story plays out in Cordell’s lively but spare pictures. After finding the scarf completely unraveled, the bear gathers the yarn and knits a new one that brings everyone together — in friendship.
Kaneko, Yuki Into the Snow
32 pp. Enchanted Lion 2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-59270-188-9
Illustrated by Masamitsu Saito. A young boy can’t contain his excitement when he looks outside and sees snow. He bundles up and heads out, leading readers along on his adventures. Kaneko’s use of descriptive language gives the reader a sensory experience of the child’s world. Saito’s illustrations, created with oil pastels, gouache, acrylics, and colored pencils, evoke the feelings and motion of the story.
Keats, Ezra Jack The Snowy Day
48 pp. Viking 2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-670-01270-1
New ed., 1962. This fiftieth-anniversary edition is appended with eight pages of background material about the 1963 Caldecott Medal winner. Included are fascinating tidbits about the creation of both text and collage art, a letter to Keats from Langston Hughes (saying he wished he had grandchildren to give the book to), as well as photos of and quotes from Keats.
Markle, Sandra Snow School
32 pp. Charlesbridge 2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-58089-410-4
Illustrated by Alan Marks. A snow leopard in Pakistan’s Hindu Kush Mountains teaches her two cubs what they’ll need to survive, such as how to hunt, take shelter, and “No matter what, stay clear of humans.” Marks’s illustrations effectively use watercolor for the snowy backgrounds and soft textured fur, with dark pencil for the animals’ sharp features. Reading list, websites.
Sidman, Joyce Before Morning
48 pp. Houghton 2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-97917-5
Illustrated by Beth Krommes. After a series of wordless illustrations, Sidman’s poetic text begins (“In the deep woolen dark, as we slumber unknowing”). A child’s mother, dressed in pilot uniform, departs. The ensuing incantation is for snow to come (“Let the air turn to feathers, the earth turn to sugar”), and, sure enough, a blizzard grounds planes. Krommes’s scratchboard illustrations do the narrative work in this mesmerizing book.
Stead, Philip C. Samson in the Snow
40 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-182-1
Introspective woolly mammoth Samson waits for a new friend in his dandelion patch. After sharing his flowers with a little red bird, Samson falls asleep. When a snowstorm hits, worried Samson searches for the bird and encounters a mouse who’s also looking for her. Lush mixed-media illustrations fill nearly every page with richly textured landscapes in a comforting tale packed with symbolism and beauty.
Houts, Michelle Winterfrost
261 pp. Candlewick 2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6565-4
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7636-7424-3
With their parents unexpectedly called away, Bettina is left in charge of her baby sister. A mischievous nisse steals Pia, and Bettina must use all her courage, wit, and heart to get her sister back. In the process, her sadness over her grandfather’s death changes to joy in their shared belief in the small folk. Readers will enjoy this Danish-folklore-inspired Christmastime adventure.
Foxlee, Karen Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
229 pp. Knopf 2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-75354-8
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-75355-5
Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-75357-9
Ophelia discovers a boy who’s imprisoned…by the Snow Queen; to rescue him, Ophelia must find the boy’s missing sword. This is a fable of psychic healing, in which Ophelia, mourning her mother, must battle the Queen armed only with her powers as “defender of goodness and happiness and hope.” Foxlee’s deftness with characterization and setting makes this a satisfying fantasy.
Gaiman, Neil Odd and the Frost Giants
118 pp. HarperCollins 2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-167173-9
Illustrated by Brett Helquist. Twelve-year-old Odd learns that a bear, fox, and eagle are really the Norse gods Thor, Loki, and Odin. A Frost Giant has done them this mischief, and blocked spring besides. Gaiman’s impeccable narrative, swift-moving yet thoughtful, features lots of humor and pithy descriptions. Helquist’s eight full-page drawings, distinguished by sturdy characterizations and angular drafting, deftly evoke Gaiman’s wintry Norse world.
Libbrecht, Kenneth The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art & Science of Snowflakes
48 pp. Voyageur 2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-7603-3676-2
Physicist Libbrecht shares his passion for snowflakes, describing their intricate structures, the science of phase changes and crystallization, and the photographic techniques used to capture ice crystals in the shapes of flakes, needles, ferns, and columns. The photographs themselves, which mainly feature close-ups of single flakes (some enhanced with colored light) are stunningly crisp, allowing readers to contemplate every minute detail. Glos., ind.
Marsden, Carolyn The White Zone
184 pp. Carolrhoda 2012
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7613-7383-4
Cousins Nouri, a Shiite, and Talib, half Sunni, describe life in Baghdad amid the second Iraq War, during which Iraqis also fought amongst themselves over religious differences. But in winter 2008, snow covered the city for the “first time in anyone’s memory,” sparking an unofficial ceasefire. Though the reader is aware that peace won’t last, this poignant wartime narrative is subtly hopeful. Glos.
Meehan, Kierin Hannah’s Winter
212 pp. Kane/Miller 2009
Trade ISBN 978-1-933605-98-2
While her mom crisscrosses Japan, twelve-year-old Hannah stays with the Maekawa family. The daughter, Miki, is thrilled when Hannah discovers a ghost — a boy who needs their help. Meehan shrouds her story in a quietly creepy atmosphere that is lightened with humor (e.g., the ghost hurls doughnuts at Hannah). Happy reunions provide a satisfying conclusion to this agreeably exotic ghost story.
Ursu, Anne Breadcrumbs
312 pp. HarperCollins/Walden Pond 2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-201505-1
Illustrated by Erin McGuire. In Ursu’s riff on The Snow Queen, Hazel is demoralized when her friend Jack refuses to have anything to do with her, instead playing with his male schoolmates. Then he disappears altogether. But fantasy-reading Hazel knows a fairy tale when she sees one: she heads into the woods and successfully negotiates the duplicitous characters she meets. Ursu’s prose is pungent, humorous, and vivid.