Beyond the Book:
Ten Classic Children's Novels for Winter
The Twistrose Key is full of frozen landscapes inspired by Norwegian winters sleighs, ice caves, and sled runs, plus a good place to take the chill off with a mug of hot mulled cider. Here is a list of ten other novels for children that will give readers a good dose of frost and snow, either as inspiration for getting through the long winter, or for filling in what Mother Nature lacks in warmer climes.
- Ethel Cook Eliot, The House Above the Trees (1921)
An orphaned girl finds a world of magic in the woods, including Wind Creatures who can fly and the ultimate nature spirit, Tree Mother. Many satisfying scenes involve sledding and playing in winter woods, where true children of the forest never get cold.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods (1932)
Or, for a more grueling read, The Long Winter (1940).
Nothing is so sensual as the food stored away for winter in Laura and Mary's house in the Wisconsin woods pumpkins and squash, dried corn, smoked meats. When the snows come, there is plenty of fiddle music by the fire and at winter's end, a huge maple sugaring party and dance with the cousins.
- Elizabeth Coatsworth, Away Goes Sally (1934)
Like an early American Girl book, this adventure set in the early nineteenth century follows a young girl as her family moves house in an innovative way. Sally sets off into the icy wilds of Maine with the house, which her stubborn Aunt Nannie vows she will never leave, pulled on sled runners.
- Elizabeth Enright, The Four-Story Mistake (1942)
Delicious family scenes abound in this World War II-era story about a city family, the Melendys, settling into a huge ramshackle house in Upstate New York. The Melendy Christmas is a memorable occasion complete with a homegrown variety show, and the children find they can ice-skate right out their back door into a beautiful rural world.
- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1950)
One of the most chilling winter landscapes in fiction are the snowy woods Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy find on the other side of the eponymous wardrobe. Enjoy sledge riding with the Queen, but stay away from the Turkish Delight.
- L.M. Boston, The Children of Green Knowe (1955)
In this magical tale of another child sent to live in the country, the figures moving in the old pictures on the wall are friendly. When the snow comes, it falls gloriously on an intricate garden full of topiaries, and the boy Toseland finds it is house policy to leave the windows open for the birds to come in and warm themselves.
- Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising (1973)
Midwinter's Eve takes on great significance in an ongoing battle between the Dark and the Light when a boy named Will turns eleven and discovers he is the last of the Old Ones. Against the backdrop of a traditional English Christmas, Will learns about his place in the age-old struggle. When the forces of the Dark send a monumental snowstorm to cripple the country, the Light must work furiously to protect the world from the biting cold.
- Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (1995)
What more profound and richly imagined polar landscape is there in literature than Philip Pullman's Arctic? There is something metaphysical going on with the Aurora Borealis, and sinister science experiments are underway in a lab somewhere out on the tundra. Ride across the snowy wastes with Lyra Belacqua and her companion, the fearsome armored polar bear Iorek Byrnison.
- Cressida Cowell, How to Train Your Dragon Book 4: How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse (2006)
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III sets off across the ice in search of a very unlikely Macguffin the frozen potato. (It's the only thing that will break a certain curse, and the terrifying Hysterical Tribe is rumored to have one). The feats that Vikings can pull off on skis and makeshift sleds boggle the mind, and the balance between death-defying feats and robust belly laughs in this book (as in the entire Cressida Cowell series) are sure to keep you warm. The books are the basis for the popular movie series.
- Sarah Prineas, Winterling (2012)
Fer (short for Jennifer), a girl from our world, gets lured through a passage into a mysterious land still in the grip of winter when it's long past time for spring. The line between people and animals is blurring in the snowy land, and Fer must set things right.
This article was originally published in January 2014, and has been updated for the
September 2014 paperback release.
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