As Christmas draws nearer, so does the likelihood of snow — at least in certain parts of the world like Central Oregon.
One of the joys of the cold weather is a fireside. Our family often jostles to get the seats closest to it. But nothing can beat the warmth of a fire after you’ve been outside for awhile. Here’s seven lovely stories for kids from 1 to 92 to inspire you to get outside in the frosty air:
#7: Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin; Illustrated by Mary Azarian
This story explores the singular passion of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley who spent years developing a method to photograph snowflakes and spent the rest of his life sharing his pictures of the tiny six-pointed ice crystals with the world.
Not only will the narrative rouse you to spend some time in the snow, it will also inspire you to follow your interests wholeheartedly. Admire Bentley as he pursues his dream of photographing snowflakes even when the neighbors make fun of him. Experience a particularly emotional family moment when his mom and dad use their savings to buy him a camera — though they harbor doubts whether it’s a worthy pursuit. Then, feel the thrill when, after painstaking years of effort, Bentley captures his first picture! And when he shares his pictures with the world for free, just because he wants us all to experience the miracle of a single flake and recognize that each snowflake is a miracle, sigh!
Beautiful woodcuts bring to life the story of this wonderful man from Vermont and garnered the 1999 Caldecott Medal.
#6: The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader
Gorgeously depicting memorable scenes from the natural world, this dynamic duo helps to draw you into the lives of various creatures in the wild. You experience the geese flying south and the animals putting on heavy coats for the winter.
When the big snow hits, it catches some of the animals by surprise. The authors place themselves in the story, creating a food source for the many animals who may not be ready for winter quite yet.
I love how this story shows an intimate knowledge of the creatures and their habitats, and of the signs in the sky that predict the weather. It also portrays a caring relationship between humans and animals.
This was a Caldecott winner in 1993.
#5: The Greatest Skating Race, by Louise Borden; Illustrated by Niki Daly
Jump into some fascinating history. Piet, a young Dutch boy, has always wondered whether he could ever become a famous skater like his hero, Pim Mulier — the first person to ever skate the famous Eleven Towns Race. But Piet is given a different task, one that may be just as difficult and far more dangerous. He must lead two young children out of Sluis by skating through the Netherland canals, through soldiers and enemies, and all the way to Belgium and safety.
I loved so many things about this book. The tension, the Netherland winters and time period, and the idea of swishing through the canals under the radar of German occupation. Makes me want to visit our little ice rink !
#4: Togo, by Robert J. Blake
Let me start by oohing and ahhing over these alluring, detailed oil paintings that make the story come alive.
This tale has everything. An underdog that becomes one of the fastest dogs in history. A race against time to save a town. A hidden hero who sacrifices everything to do his master’s bidding. And it’s all true.
You’ll love learning about the special bond people can form with their animals and recognize how useful animals have been to us over millennia.
And it will make you want to take your furry best friend for a romp in the snow.
#3: The Race of the Birkebeiners, by Lise Lunge-Larsen; Illustrated by Mary Azarian
We’ve all grown up on stories like these: a rival seeks to kill the infant heir to the throne, but the little prince is smuggled away to safety in the night. They’re in our Greek myths, our King Arthur legends, and in our modern stories like Prince Caspian. Soon, many of us will be reading the story of the Magi when the young Jesus evades the infanticide of King Herod.
In Norway, a rival party wants to kill the heir to the throne, two-year-old Prince Hakon. Two Birkebeiners (members of the ruling party) must ski through the snow-covered landscape and carry the little prince to safety. This moving account has spawned many ski races around the world.
We’ve bought our share of used cross-country skis and have gotten mixed results from their use. But after reading this story, I’m ready to gear up again and start swishing through the wooded tunnels and across the meadows.
Again, Mary Azarian delights us with her superb woodcuts.
#2: Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen; Illustrated by John Schoenherr
The artistry isn’t just in its description of nature but its careful capturing of a very special moment of a girl with her daddy. Owl Moon will make you want to craft some of your own memories by doing something surprising.
I can remember the charm of this book as a very little child and how it carried me away. I wasn’t a birder then, yet I experienced the astonishing joy sighting a species can bring. When something wild and free reveals its secret life to us, we’re transported into another realm of wonder.
Magic is all around us. We just have to go out, be quiet, and wait.
#1: Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost; Illustrated by Susan Jeffers
As many of you know, Robert Frost is listed among America’s most beloved poets. Susan Jeffers delicately depicts the narrator as an older man, who stops in some familiar woods to think a while. That’s it — just a moment in time — until the very last line, when the poem takes on a deeper meaning.
You’ll want to go out on a snowy evening too for some muffled quietude and a brief escape from the ever-connectedness. Break away. Feel the thick air press in around your ears. Solitude no longer comes easily. It must be sought after and you must remind yourself just how precious it is.
Hopefully, you’re encouraged to spend some time outside in the cold. Share with me your cold-weather adventures. I’d love to hear about them!