I’m never entirely sure when to write about winter-themed books, since the review copies start arriving in late summer, when it seems way too early to think about snow and the holidays. And Christmas-themed books before Halloween—that’s just tacky, right? But waiting until too late means you wouldn’t have as much winter left to read these books. So, today: a big stack of books about winter. Many of them are just about winter or snow, but there are a few about Christmas and one about Hanukkah, too.
This book describes the preparations for winter at a family farm: covering the strawberry fields with straw, trimming back the bare raspberry plants, building a windbreak for the beehives. The language used is that of putting the farm to bed, and it’s fun to see all the various things that are done to get ready for the winter. It shows a lot of farm work that we don’t necessarily think about often.
Charles is searching for the wish tree in the forest along with Boggan (his toboggan), but instead he keeps encountering various animals who need his help: a squirrel trying to get hazelnuts back to his home, a fox collecting berries, and so on. Although he spends the entire day looking, he just can’t find the wish tree … but when he’s too tired to go on, all the animals show up to help. The words have a fun repeated rhythm and the illustrations are lovely. It’s a peaceful, gentle sort of story without a lot of tension in it, good for a nice, cozy winter storytime.
Pigloo is an explorer—and he’s ready to go find the North Pole … though he has a lot of waiting to do first. Plus, his big sister Paisley seems pretty skeptical. But when he’s finally able to go on his expedition, his sister turns up at just the right time. It’s a cute story about sledding in the snow and sibling relationships, hot chocolate and imagination.
It’s snowing! The little penguins bundle up to play in the snow, and then head back inside to snuggle up in their warm beds. The text is simple: short sentences and phrases as the little penguins ask each other questions and answer them. The illustrations are a mix of cut-paper collages and painting, a little reminiscent of The Snowy Day. But, you know, with penguins.
Speaking of penguins, Penguin and his friends are preparing for Christmas. They gather up their supplies and decorations and pay a visit to Pinecone, Penguin’s good friend from Penguin and Pinecone who’s all grown up. Each of the penguins has a Christmas wish … but then an overnight blizzard blows everything away. What will the penguins do? Will their Christmas wishes still come true? (Spoiler: yes, but in a fun and unexpected way.) The book also has some cameos at the end of other characters from Salina Yoon’s books, come together to celebrate Christmas.
And one more book about penguins, though this one isn’t strictly about winter—it’s a color book. The six little penguins love colors and painting, and they decide to work together to make a surprise for their Mama in this world of white snow. Each penguin has a favorite color, and contributes one piece of the final picture.
A small child wakes up in the middle of the night to the first snowfall, and goes out into the night for a magical adventure. There’s only a little bit of text, and when the real magic happens, Park lets the illustrations do the talking. The story is a bit dreamlike and ethereal, though maybe remind your kids that they shouldn’t really wander off into the forest in the middle of the night on their own.
This book about a little bunny who wants to go skiing requires some extra reader interaction: shake to start the snow, and then tilt and turn the book to turn the flat land into a downhill slope for skiing. It’s a fun book that reminds me a little of books like Press Here, with the bunny speaking directly to the reader and asking for help.
Samson is a woolly mammoth who loves his patch of dandelions. A little red bird asks for some dandelions for her friend, and Samson is happy to oblige, wondering what it’s like to have a friend. But after a nap, the world has changed and is covered in snow—definitely not a friendly place for a small red bird, so Samson goes searching for her. The book is about new friends and dealing with bad days.
This followup to How to Share With a Bear has Thomas ready to build a snowman, but he can’t quite reach high enough to finish, so he has to go get the bear—his little brother, permanently dressed in a bear suit. There’s a cute section about how to wake up a hibernating bear, and then the two go out to play in the snow.
Matthew Reinhart is a master of the pop-up book, with huge scenes that animate as they unfold. When they’re open, it’s hard to believe they all fit back inside the covers of the book. This book tells the story of Frozen with pop-up scenes, flaps to open, and tabs to pull. Despite the fact that there are only six 2-page spreads, there’s actually quite a bit of text, because each spread has one large scene in the center and a few other flaps that contain smaller paper sculptures and text.
North Pole Ninjas is a story about Santa’s undercover operation—the ninja elves who spread holiday cheer with random acts of kindness rather than loud greetings and flashy decorations. The story, told in verse, shows the ninja elves helping those in need, and then inviting you to join their number. This book comes with a little plush elf sensei, and an envelope of 50 secret missions to complete, ranging from donating to a food bank to picking up litter during a walk to telling somebody you love them. It’s sort of like a “pay it forward” idea, encouraging kids to focus on giving at Christmas rather than all of the things they want for themselves—not a bad idea. Learn more about the ninjas here.
Speaking of non-traditional elves, Shmelf is an elf who discovers a whole bunch of good kids who don’t get presents from Santa, because they’re Jewish. So he sets off to learn about Hanukkah, and is appointed as Santa’s Hanukkah elf: he’s there to “make sure your latkes are crispy and thin, your menorahs burn brither, and your dreidels win.” Oh, and he’ll pass along your one special request to Mom and Dad to nudge them along a bit. It’s an interesting concept, and the author is himself Jewish but also loves Santa—and wrote the book for his own son and kids like him, as a way to explain how he fits into Santa’s holiday plans. Honestly, I think it’s a little strange—do most Jews want Santa encroaching even more on Hanukkah? But I also know families with mixed traditions, and they might appreciate a little bit of Santa magic during their holiday.
If you love the song “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” here’s a book that you can flip through with your child while you sing along. Like Hopgood’s version of What a Wonderful World, this book shows a fun world filled with love and song—this time, it’s an entire family making their way through the winter wonderland.
It’s Christmas Eve, and little Babymouse has eaten all of the cookies meant for Santa. No problem—she’ll just make some cupcakes. But, as usual, Babymouse gets a little carried away by her imagination, envisioning herself as a brave knight fighting off a fearsome dragon (her baby brother) and then celebrating with a lavish feast. Oops. Well, Santa will understand, right?
This large board book is a retelling of the 1964 television special, with Hermey the dentist elf, the Abominable Snow Monster, and the Island of Misfit Toys. If watching the show is a holiday staple for you, here’s another way to enjoy the story with your kids. (There’s also a non-board hardcover version of the book available.)
Santa makes his way through the village, peeking through windows and tossing in presents … but what he sees through the window might not be entirely accurate. The windows are cut-outs in the book: Santa sees what you do and makes a decision about the present, and then when you turn the page, you find out who really lives in the house: the little kitten he sees is actually printed on a pig’s nightshirt, and the zebra stripes he sees aren’t a zebra at all. It’s a very clever book and a very funny Christmas story from a popular Japanese artist.
Disclosure: I received review copies of these titles.