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My favorite thing to do in winter is snuggle up in front of the fireplace with a blanket, some hot cocoa, and a good book. My second favorite thing to do is snuggle up in front of a window with a blanket, some hot cocoa, and a good book–maybe two blankets, since it gets awfully cold next to my windows.
I believe reading a book with a winter setting is best done with a blanket and hot cocoa, too. So grab yours and curl up with one of these dozen wintry reads for kids ages 8-12 (or for the 8-12-year-old at heart):
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
Description: Artemis Fowl receives an urgent e-mail from Russia. In it is a plea from a man who has been kidnapped by the Russian Mafiya: his father. As Artemis rushes to his rescue, he is stopped by a familiar nemesis, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. Now, instead of battling the fairies, Artemis must join forces with them if he wants to save one of the few people in the world he loves.
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Description: Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it’s up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.
Brian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen
Description: In Hatchet, 13-year-old Brian Robeson learned to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness, armed only with his hatchet. He was rescued at the end of the summer. Brian’s Winter begins where Hatchet might have ended: Brian is not rescued, but must build on his survival skills to face his deadliest enemy–a northern winter.
Dear America: The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory
Description: Eleven-year-old Abigail Jane Stewart’s fictionalized diary about her life, family, friends, and neighbors, and the sides they have to choose in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the height of the Revolutionary War, renders a vivid portrayal of one of the most memorable and crucial winters in American history.
Abby’s life with her family is quickly upended when they are awakened by the unfamiliar sound of drums. General George Washington is leading the Continental soldiers into their winter encampment at Valley Forge, PA.
Dogsled Dreams by Terry Lynn Johnson
Description: Twelve-year-old Rebecca dreams of becoming a famous dog-sled racer. She’s an inventive but self-doubting musher who tackles blinding blizzards, wild animal attacks, puppy training, and flying poo missiles. All of her challenges seem easier than living up to the dogs’ trust in her abilities.
Icefall by Matthew Kirby
Description: Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father’s victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, as a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another.
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Description: To her small Eskimo village, she is known as Miyax; to her friend in San Francisco, she is Julie. When her life in the village becomes dangerous, Miyax runs away, only to find herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness.
Without food and time running out, Miyax tries to survive by copying the ways of a pack of wolves. Accepted by their leader and befriended by a feisty pup named Kapu, she soon grows to love her new wolf family. Life in the wilderness is a struggle, but when she finds her way back to civilization, Miyax is torn between her old a new lives. Is she Miyax of the Eskimos — or Julie of the wolves?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Description: They open a door and enter a world. NARNIA … the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy … the place where the adventure begins. Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the Professor’s mysterious old house. At first, no one believes her when she tells of her adventures in the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund and then Peter and Susan discover the magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. In the blink of an eye, their lives are changed forever.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Description: The adventures of Laura Ingalls and her family continue as Pa, Ma, Laura, Mary, Carrie, and little Grace bravely face the hard winter of 1880-81 in their little house in the Dakota Territory. Blizzards cover the little town with snow, cutting off all supplies from the outside. Soon there is almost no food left, so young Almanzo Wilder and a friend make a dangerous trip across the prairie to find some wheat. Finally a joyous Christmas is celebrated in a very unusual way in this most exciting of all the Little House books.
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Description on back of book: Peter Lunstrom never thought he would become a hero. But that bleak winter of 1940 was like no other. Nazi troops parachuted into Peter’s tiny village and held it captive. nobody thought they could be defeated–until Uncle Victor told Peter how the children of the village could fool the enemy.
It was a dangerous plan. Peter and his friends had to slip past Nazi guards with nine million dollars in gold hidden on their sleds. It meant risking their country’s treasure–and their lives.
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin; illustrated by Mary Azarian
Description from jacket flap: Snow in Vermont is as common as dirt. Why would anyone want to photograph it? But from the time he was a small boy, Wilson Bentley thinks of the icy crystals as small miracles, and he determines that one day his camera will capture for others their extraordinary beauty.
Often misunderstood in his time, Wilson Bentley took pictures that even today reveal two important truths about snowflakes: first, that no two are alike, and second, that each one is startlingly beautiful. His story, gracefully told by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and brought to life in Mary Azarian’s lovely woodcuts, gives children insight into the soul who had not only a scientist’s vision and perseverance, but a clear passion for the wonders of nature.
Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner
Description: For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and working at her family’s maple farm. But when a professional skating coach offers Claire a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid, she’s tossed into a competitive world of mean girls on ice. Can Claire find the strength to stand up to those who want her to fail?
If you know of other books where winter plays a prominent (or not so prominent) roll, please share them with us in the comments below. Enjoy your winter reading, and don’t forget the cocoa!
(NOTE: All descriptions are by Indiebound unless otherwise noted.)
Elissa Cruz has a fireplace and several great picture windows in her house. In winter you can usually find her in front of one of them, reading and writing books for middle-grade kids. For more on her mixed-up writing life, you can visit her website at elissacruz.com or her blog at elissacruz.blogspot.com.