a December flurry of festive wintertime stories

Stories revolving around wintertime
featuring copious snow and cold weather
plus the warmth of kindness
are some of my favorite stories of all.

Today I’ve got a flurry of new titles,
plus a link at the end of the post to dozens more superb wintertime
and holiday-centered tales.
Warm up the hot cocoa and enjoy reading together!

Kat Hats, written by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Aaron Renier
published in 2022 by Abrams

So often stories set in wintertime sparkle with delicate, crystalline beauty.
However, coming from Daniel Pinkwater, this one’s marked by his iconic wackiness!

Matt Katz runs Kat Hats Incorporated, a unique little enterprise proffering specially-trained cats who have learned how to curl themselves up into stylish forms and perch atop a patron’s head keeping them deliciously warm.

Matt and his eccentric little family have one cat who is their particular pride and joy — Thermal Herman 6-7/8ths — the “warmest cat ever known.” One frosty night, a gnomish-looking fellow, name of Old Thirdbeard, arrives at the Katz abode with the dire news that his mother, Chickarina the witch, is suffering from brain freeze out in the wilds of Witch’s Spitz.  Does Thermal Herman 6-7/8ths have enough pluck and savvy to forge his way up the snowy mountainside and save Chickarina?

I told you it was wacky. Renier’s careening, audacious illustrations energize every page with weirdness and vigor.  I thoroughly enjoyed this one-of-a-kind tale. Give it a spin with ages 4 and up.

One Winter Up North, illustrated by John Owens
published in 2022 by The University of Minnesota Press

I loved John Owens’ previous book celebrating a summer canoe trip in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area so I was tickled pink to see that he’s followed that up with this beauty depicting a winter camping trip in that same, pristine location.

Strap on your snowshoes, pack the toboggan, bundle up in warm layers and head into the wintry forest with its breathtaking, unmarked expanses of snow atop frozen lakes, its pines adorned with snow-tufts, and its cathedral-like quietness. Owens immerses us in the joy of this lovely, icy-cold wilderness.

Enjoy a cozy shelter on a snowy night, a steaming mug of cocoa for breakfast, an adventurous trek, the delight of discovering tracks in the snow, and even the wild echos of wolves by moonlight. The story is told entirely via Owens’ superb illustrations which grants us the quiet space appropriate to wilderness solitude. This beauty is for ages 3 and up, and truly for Minnesotans of all ages who love the Northland.

Lost, written and illustrated by Sam Usher
published in the UK in 2021; first US edition 2022 by Templar Books

Sam Usher continues his endearing, imaginative series starring one little fellow and his granddad with this snowy adventure.

It’s a cold, blustery day and the heavy gray skies have smothered all the poof right out of this little boy’s spirits. But Granddad has a plan, a mysterious plan involving errands and reading and supply-gathering. What could it be?

Turns out the two of them are building a keen sled. Then off they go into a snowy world which, with Sam Usher’s deft hand seamlessly transitions into a fantastical adventure fraught with blizzards, howling wolves, craggy mountaintops, and one wild-and-wooly sled ride. All wraps up with a most satisfying teatime complete with cherry cake and they even manage to locate a beloved lost dog in the process. I love Usher’s imaginative titles featuring these two good pals. I believe this is the 7th one but you can jump in right here. Ages 3 and up.

Toot & Puddle: Let it Snow
Toot & Puddle: I’ll Be Home for Christmas
written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie
published in 2007 and 2001 by Little, Brown and Company

If you haven’t met these dear piggly friends, Toot & Puddle, you might grab the chance to make their charming acquaintance in one of these two warmhearted Christmas tales.

Let it Snow sees Toot and Puddle both racking their brains to come up with a perfect present for one another. A magnificent snowfall provides both jubilation and inspiration in quite surprising ways.

In I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Puddle and his pal Tulip, a parrot, are making every busy preparation for the Christmas holiday, but this time a snowstorm looks to ruin the day by preventing Toot from returning from his family reunion. It’ll take some Christmas magic to save the day and that’s just what they’re about to get!

Everything darling and dear abounds in these stories, cram-jammed with Holly Hobbie’s beloved illustrations. Ages 3 and up.

A Very Mercy Christmas, written by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
published in 2022 by Candlewick

If you’re not acquainted with Mercy Watson, that buttered-toast-loving pig from Kate DiCamillo’s fabulous early-reader series, you’ll be unfamiliar with the cast of characters in this Christmas episode, but that won’t matter because it’s 100% enjoyable for one and all.

Stella Endicott has got the Christmas spirit and longs to go caroling. However, her efforts to recruit more singers fall flat, at least in the human category.

Still, a few Deckawoo Drive animals are happy to accompany her, including Mercy, and their joyful enthusiasm eventually wins the day as the neighborhood joins in, relishing the beauty of a starlit night of music. There’s even a towering platter of buttered toast to conclude a most satisfying evening. Warmth, neighborliness, and appreciation for the small moments of beauty in our world characterize this little immensely satisfying story, perfect for ages 3 and up.

Clarice Bean, Think Like an Elf, written and illustrated by Lauren Child
published in the UK in 2021; first US edition 2022 by Candlewick
240 pages

Clarice Bean is one of my favorite contemporary characters. Despite her earnest, honest, well-meaning heart, she yet manages to cause everything around her to spin a bit out of control, wobbling right on the precipice of disaster. This newest volume sees her ardent attempts to keep a proper Christmas spirit despite an array of fiascos and at times uncooperative family members.

Clarice faces a veritable blizzard of challenges to her holiday goals: not much money in the old piggy bank with which to buy presents; the disappointing decisions of some family and friends to travel for Christmas rather than gathering in a giant, Christmas-spirit-infused bunch at her house; Christmas tree mishaps; Christmas turkey debacles; even a teacher who kvetches about her singing voice. Through it all, and with the help of some long-suffering, kindhearted friends — young and old — Clarice manages to hold onto hope and generosity and copious Christmas Spirit, and in the end her wishes for a holiday cram jam with all the folks she loves come true — even including some magical Christmas snow.

These heavily-illustrated novels are a delight. I sit and smile and giggle my way through them even at my age! Do yourself a great big happy favor and snuggle up with some Clarice Bean. It helps if you’ve read the earlier books and met the characters but it’s possible to just jump in here if you like. Ages 8 and up.

A Donkey Called Mistletoe, written by Helen Peters, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon
published in the UK in 2020; first US edition 2021 by Walker Books
137 pages

Jasmine Green and her good friend Tom are up to their eyeballs in the animal rescue business once again, this time seeking to provide a good home for their elderly neighbor’s donkey, Mistletoe. She’s a honey of a donkey, and as quickly as Jasmine and Tom learn from old Mr. Hobson how to properly care for her, just that swiftly Mistletoe warms up to them. Not only that, but she takes a shine to two other forlorn animals in the Green menagerie. What could possibly be the problem with adding one more creature to the mix?

Well, there are plenty of problems, according to Jasmine’s parents. Undeterred, Jasmine and Tom conspire to welcome her to the Green farm. In the process, and much to their surprise, Mistletoe saves the day for a preschool putting on a nativity play as well as providing healing friendship to an autistic classmate and a group of folks at an assisted-living residence.

This is the seventh volume in the Jasmine Green series, a fantastic choice for young animal-lovers out there with their realistic portrayal of the various creatures who star in each episode. Find my review of the first volume here. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Snow Horses: A First Night Story, written by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Micha Archer
published in 2022 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon and Schuster

New Years Day is another upcoming holiday and this striking book by beloved author Patricia MacLachlan, published posthumously, is here to help us celebrate it.

Exuding an old-fashioned, rural New England sensibility, the lyrical text narrates a merry outing when draft horses Tim and Tom, hitched to a bell-laden sleigh, are driven through the snowy evening. Their first stop is to pick up a sleigh-load of happy children who enjoy a joyful ride through a village all lit up with twinkling lights.

After the kids have been tucked into warm beds, Tim and Tom arrive at the manor where the elderly townsfolk await their turn in the sleigh. Off they go, bundled up for a frosty journey full of laughter and warm memories. Micha Archer’s gorgeous paper collages usher us straight into the cold, snowy landscapes, the magical beauty of a town dressed for the holidays, and the golden warmth of the big old barn. Nostalgic and lovely, for ages 4 and up.

Playing with Lanterns, written by Wang Yage, illustrated by Zhu Chengliang, translated by Helen Wang
published in Beijing in 2017; first English edition 2021 by Amazon Crossing Kids

Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 22, 2023, ushering in the Year of the Rabbit.  Enter into this ancient cultural tradition via a charming, fascinating story coming to us from China.

Zhao Di and her friends celebrate New Year with colorful paper lanterns.  Besides the sheer joy of playing with the lanterns during the frosty evenings, there are age-old traditions to be followed including which family member gifts lanterns to the children, which evenings of the long New Year celebrations the lanterns emerge, and especially what happens to the lanterns on the fifteenth day of New Year. It is quite a surprising custom!

Cheerful, colorful as confetti, and authentic, this is a fabulous story and entry point to an important holiday. Ages 3 and up.

Find dozens more wonderful winter stories here,

well over a hundred more Christmas stories here coming from all over the globe

and a few more New Years stories here.

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Wishing you joy, and peace, and love.