Winter themed chapter books make perfect read alouds for the cold weather days ahead. Some of these are books about winter, others simply evoke snowy, frosty landscapes that make you want to snuggle up with a mug of tea. They are the best kind of book to read with your children during the holidays or when the blizzards are raging outside.
The winter-themed books on this list are primarily middle grade fiction. They are good independent reads for kids ages 8 and up, but kids younger than that will appreciate listening to many of them. Children’s listening comprehension is higher than their reading comprehension levels, so don’t be afraid to try out one of these titles. (As always, I’ve chosen all books based solely on my and my kids’ opinions. Affiliate links are included.)
I’ve divided the books up into smaller categories for ease of organization: animals, fairy tale-ish stories, ice skating and more realistic fiction (plus one non-fiction selection).
UPDATE: If you are looking for holiday books, these two lists should also help:
Fairy Tale Winter Chapter Books:
Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants is inspired by Norse Mythology. (Is there anything more perfect for a winter read than that?) In ancient Norway a boy named Odd is in the middle of a spell of bad luck. In the forest, he meets a bear, a fox and an eagle who tell him a strange story that sends him on a journey to save the city of the gods from the Frost Giants. Sound winter-y enough for you? I thought so. It’s really quite delightful and will make a fun read aloud while sipping a mug of hot cocoa. I’m told it’s a great choice for fans of Percy Jackson, though I have yet to read that bestselling series.
A while ago, when I used to do a Mom’s Bookshelf series (who knows, maybe I will again, eventually), I included Breadcrumbs in my middle grade fiction edition (as well as the two books below). I think this book will be best enjoyed by kids who are familiar with a lot of fairytales. The book was inspired by Hans Christian Andersson’s The Snow Queen. There are a lot of literary references in the book and it is very well written. Hazel and Jack are friends, but one day when Jack gets a piece of glass in his eye he is whisked away by a strange, evil woman to a land of snow. Hazel sets out on a journey to find her friend and return home. Even as a read aloud, I think this is better for kids at least 8 and up, not because the material is inappropriate but because it is sophisticated.
Icefall. Solveig and her brothers, along with berserkers set to protect them, wait anxiously through the winter, trapped in a fortress near snowy mountains and the frozen sea. While they wait for word from their father the King, it slowly becomes clear that someone amongst them is a traitor, but who? This is a thrilling mystery for kids who like stories that keep them perched on the edge of their chair in tense anticipation. This was one of the best middle grade books of 2011, in my opinion.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. I’ve always like the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon and I’ve read a couple of novel-length versions of the tale. This one is my favorite. Lass accompanies a polar bear to the North Pole in an effort to save her family. If she can survive one year and a day, her family will be rewarded with wealth. What she doesn’t know, however, is the polar bear is hiding a secret. If you have a fairy-tale loving kid who is ready to take it to the next level, this might be a place to start.
I’ve never read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to my kids (I loved the series when I was younger, of course). Time to remedy that! Mmmm, I’m hungry for some Turkish Delight just thinking about it.
Moominland Midwinter. What would winter be without a little Finnish madness? Nothing I tell you. It is an excellent counterpart to our Moomin reading adventures this past summer. Moomins normally sleep through the winter, but this year, Moomintroll has woken up early and sets out to discover the truth about winter.
Nancy and Plum. This 1952 book from the author of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the perfect recipe for an old-fashioned read aloud: two orphaned sisters, an unctuous boarding school mistress who feeds them hard oatmeal, a wealthy bachelor uncle, a Christmas setting and a feel good ending in which the bad fail and the good triumph. Read it aloud over the winter break when the kids are home from school.
Winter Chapter Books about Animals:
The Adventures of a South Pole Pig: A novel of snow and courage. I just read this aloud to the boys (ages 8 and 4) and thought it quite delightful. Atop her manure pile, Flora dreams of exciting adventures; she longs to get out into the world! She want to go on an expedition and run with the sled dogs! There’s just one problem. She’s a pig. Finding herself on a ship headed for Antarctica, she digs deep inside her optimistic and brave little self to make her dreams come true.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins. This Newbery Honor book from 1938 is still as funny today as it was then. Mr. Popper and his family adopt a penguin sent to them by an explorer. The brood grows to 12 penguins and hijinks ensue. We first listened to this as an audiobook when my youngest son was almost 4 and he enjoyed it immensely, especially the scene in which the Poppers flood the basement with water, then freeze it.
Stone Fox is an early chapter book I have on my list of books about boys. This is quite a touching story about Willy, who in order to save his grandfather’s farm decides to enter the annual dog sledding race. The resolution between Willy and the longtime winner of the race, Stone Fox, a Native American, is unexpectedly emotional. Readers who like books about dogs in snow should also check out Balto and the Great Race and (of course) The Call of the Wild, which is a free ebook as it is out of copyright now. Note: I no longer recommend Stone Fox, read this post to learn why. I leave it up on my list so that people can learn, as I do.
Ice Skating Chapter Books:
Twelve Kinds of Ice. Technically, this isn’t soley about ice skating, but it will sure make you strap on the ol’ skates after reading it. Twenty very short chapters and utterly winsome old-fashioned drawings from Barbara McClintock make this book a real treasure. Those of you who grew up in cold climates will start to get nostalgic for the perfect skating ice, first ice, stream ice, and so on. So delightful. Really.
For good old fashioned fun you can’t go wrong with one of the “Shoes” books. In Skating Shoes a doctor deems skating the ticket to Harriet’s recovery from and illness. She meets Lalla at the rink, and the two bond over their skating careers. This book is a fun read aloud.
In Sugar and Ice, seventh grader Clare’s talent for skating is spotted at a local show and she quickly becomes enmeshed in the world of skating, with its pressures and rivalries. This realistic story of a girl who discovers her strengths and navigates relationships while pursuing her dreams is a good independent read for ages 8 and up.
Realities of Winter Chapter Books:
Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America. Why not throw in a nonfiction book for good measure? This fact-filled book tells the nail-biting story of the 1888 blizzard that hit Northwestern America. The focus is primarily on New York City — after all it takes a mammoth storm to bring that city to a standstill, but the far reaching consequences are thoroughly covered.
Confession: I have never read a Little House book to my kids. I started to read Farmer Boy as part of our summer reading, but the boys didn’t take to it and we stopped before finishing. We are in the minority, however, and maybe we will give The Long Winter a go when the mercury starts to drop.
I rarely include books I haven’t read on my lists, but I’m including The Winter Room because Paulsen is an excellent author whose work I have enjoyed and I love the sound of this book. I just haven’t had a chance to read it yet. From the Kirkus review: More a prose poem than a novel, this beautifully written evocation of a Minnesota farm perhaps 40 years ago consists of portraits of each of the four seasons, along with four brief stories told by old Uncle David in the room the family calls “The Winter Room.”
More seasonal read aloud book lists for the whole family: