Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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‘Tis the season to look forward to snow days out in the mountains and to sing jolly songs with warm drinks as the days get shorter. To celebrate the holidays and winter in all their scented and crisp glory, here is a selection of picture books for all ages, from my toddler nephew to my tween girls. I selected them for their evocative writing, their creativity or their gorgeous art, and then sorted them from youngest to oldest. Because young ones are the hearts of Christmas and all winter holidays.
Photo gallery – click on thumbnails to enlarge:
Written and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
What do animals do in the winter? Beautifully illustrated in in clay, paint and collage, this book takes children to a walk in the snow through a kitten’s eyes. From a foraging squirrel to a napping beaver or a hibernating bear, the simply rhymes show what different animals do when winter comes in the forest.
Ages: 1 to 4 years
By Uri Shulevitz
This children’s classic about the joy weather brings to children is now available in board book format for the pleasure of little hands. In a gray European town, snowflakes start falling from the sky but only a boy and his boy seem to notice and enjoy them. Grown-ups deny the existence of snowflakes and carry on with their lives while the cityscape becomes increasingly snowed in. This delightful book with very few words is a joy to read over and over again, looking for hidden details you hadn’t noticed before.
Ages: 3 to 7 years
Written by Patricia Maclachlan, illustrated by Steven Kellog
An illustrated poem about seasons and the cycle of life, Snowflakes Fall is a subtle yet uplifting tribute to lost loved ones seeing each life as a unique snowflake. Children will love seeing the joy of other children playing in the snow with their dogs and building forts. They will also see how snowflakes return as rain to grow flowers in the spring. Dedicated to the children of Newtown, the book was inspired by the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association’s drive to encourage people to make paper snowflakes to decorate the new school that Sandy Hook students began attending after the shooting. Emphasizing renewal, this book celebrates the uniqueness of every child and their individuality as much as the seasons.
Ages: 3 to 7 years
Frosty the Snowman (Book + CD)
Written and illustrated by Wade Zahares, song performed by Kenny Loggins
Frosty the Snowman gets a full makeover in this big book where bright pastel colors illustrate the song of the snowman who came to life one day. Taking children on a wild romp through snowy hills and city streets, Frosty is a jolly fellow and no doubt your children will want to build one on your next snow trip. As if the jewel tones of the pages and the joyful text weren’t enough, the book comes with a three-song CD performed by Kenny Loggins of Footloose fame. A toe-tapping guitar-loving book for the holidays!
Ages: 3 to 8 years
A Very Fuddles Christmas
Written and illustrated by Frans Vischer
Fuddles is a very pampered and spoiled cat. One day, he awakes to the smell of a delicious feast laid on a beautiful table – just for him, finds toys and treats all wrapped up – just for him, and a wonderful decorated tree to climb – just for him! Children will have a blast at the misadventures of this goofy and clumsy cat who finds himself out of the house against his best judgment on a cold wintry day and who has to find a way to get back in ASAP. A fun and light read to talk about pets and Christmas traditions.
Ages: 4 to 7 years
Hanukkah in Alaska
Written by Barbara Brown, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
In Alaska, Hanukkah is unlike anywhere else. You have to watch out for moose. Snow piles up everywhere. Daylight is only five hours long. When making snow dreidels with her friends, a little girl has to account for the moose in her backyard who watches her light the menorah in the window. She tries to lure him away with food but the moose wants to eat more, including the branches of the tree where the girl’s favorite swing hangs. Comparing the aurora borealis as her own festival of lights, this little girl needs to come up with an idea on how to keep this moose at bay. Moose-diverting latkes, anyone? Besides the clever spin on Hanukkah, this book will teach loads about kids living in Alaska to young readers.
Ages: 4 to 8 years
Santa Claus and The Three Bears
Written by Maria Modugno, illustrated by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer
This Santa Claus twist on Goldilocks and the three bears starts with three (polar) bears decorating their house with holly, berries and icicles on Christmas eve. The stockings are hung and the tree is ready, but the Christmas pudding is too hot. While the three bears go out for a winter walk with a lantern, guess who comes tumbling down the chimney on his way to the Southern Hemisphere? This fun retelling will make a great bedtime read.
Ages: 4 to 8 years
The Night Before Christmas (Book + CD)
Written by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Eric Puybaret, songs performed by Peter, Paul and Mary
Published in 1823, this timeless poem of the holidays comes as a lushly illustrated book that will delight children of all ages. From the moments when the house falls asleep to the reindeer arriving in the night and St. Nicholas rising up the chimney with a twinkle in his eye, the book is an instant classic that renders the quiet anticipation and the magic of the holidays. Including a CD with a sung and a read version of the poem, as well as the song “A’Soalin” by Peter, Paul, and Mary, this book will soon become a family favorite.
Ages: 3 to 8 years
A Child’s Christmas in New England
Written by Robert Sullivan, illustrated by Glenn Wolf
Written as an illustrated memoir, this gorgeous book tells stories of Christmases past in the 1950s and 1960s. Way back when Christmas was more magical than commercial, it meant deep snow, kids playing outside, small pleasures and being together. Charmingly narrated from the author to his daughter, the book is a perfect read for tweens who want to read more text than the usual picture book but still enjoy beautiful illustrations. It will also show them a world they know only from old families memories or photographs, a world when black telephones hung on house walls and tinsel was made of real aluminum. It was also a world of wild outdoors adventures for children who thought of vacations as fun days out. Inspired by Dylan Thomas’ classic A Child’s Christmas in Wales, this New England twist will feel right at home with families who cherish the holidays as a time for winter adventures, child anticipation and a good time to slow down.
Ages: 8 to grand-parents