Winter themed chapter books make perfect family read alouds for cold weather days.
Families with children of all ages will love this list of books that evoke snowy, frosty landscapes. So after your come inside from a fun day of sledding and skating, make some hot cocoa, snuggle up with the kids and enjoy some cozy reading time.
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Table of contents
I've divided the books up into smaller categories for ease of organization: fantasy, realistic fiction and animal stories (plus one non-fiction selection). Age recommendations are for listeners. Independent reading age recommendations may differ.
Fantasy Winter Chapter Books
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
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 chocolate. It's a great choice for kids who love Percy Jackson and mythology. Ages 7 and up.
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Breadcrumbs is a retelling by Hans Christian Andersson's The Snow Queen. Families will love to spot the literary references and will also be reminded of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. 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. Ages 8 and up.
MORE: Fairy tale retellings for kids (novels)
Icefall by Mathew Kirby
Winner: Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery and the PEN Literary Award for Children's Literature. Solveig and her brothers, along with berserkers sent 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. Ages 8 and up.
MORE: Adventure books for kids
Moominland Midwinter (series) by Tove Jansson
What would winter be without a little Finnish madness? Nothing I tell you. Moomins normally sleep through the winter, but this year, Moomintroll has woken up early and sets out to discover the truth about winter. Ages 5 and up.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
I've always liked 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 a favorite. In an effort to save her family, Lass accompanies a polar bear to the North Pole. 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. Ages 9 and up.
Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald
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. Ages 6 and up.
Voyage of the Frostheart (series) by Jamie Littler
I read aloud this exciting tale of a brave boy who heads out on an adventure and my son was on the edge of his seat. Ash has the gift of song, which makes him an outcast in Fira, his adopted community. But he takes off on the Frostheart, a ship manned by an unusual group of people and creatures, in order to find out what happened to his parents. The crew of the Frostheart isn't afraid of his Song Weaving ability and it may even be the key to avoiding the wrath of the fearsome Leviathans. Ages 7 and up.
Winter Books about Animals
The Very, Very Far North (series) by Dan Bar-El, illustrated by Kelly Pousette
This is my new favorite read aloud, and I don't say that lightly! Duane the polar bear has a curiosity and sense of adventure that leads him to a shipwreck where he meets C.C. the Owl. He then encounters even more new friends like Handsome the musk ox, Magic the arctic fox, and Major Puffin. Together, they explore the wonders of the northern landscape. The cast of animals is as diverse in their personalities as they are in species and the thread of the story focuses on learning to appreciate one's friends. An absolute must-read book, and an excellent choice for kids of all ages.
The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz
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. Ages 4 and up.
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Florence & Richard Atwater
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. Ages 4 and up.
The Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher
Not set in winter, but nonetheless, this is a great choice for cold-weather reading. Arthur, a boy living in Norway, runs away from his abusive stepfather and stepbrothers. He has a letter from his Welsh cousins, which he assumes is asking him to return to Wales and claim his birthright. Unfortunately, he can't actually read the letter. In the port town of Bergen he encounters a caged polar bear and two ruffians shove him in the cage. When Arthur soothes the bear, he is enlisted to accompany the bear on a ship to England, for the bear is a gift from King Haakon to King Henry. Hair-raising, heart-searching, and page-turning adventure follows. The story was inspired by a 13th century "pale bear" who lived in the Tower of London menagerie, a gift from Norway. Ages 9 and up.
Pugs of the Frozen North (series) by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Here's a great choice for families and kids who enjoy a healthy dose of quirky humor. A shipping accident leaves a gaggle of pugs stranded in the snowy, frozen north. They are saved and adopted by a pair of kids, Sika and Shen. Sika and Shen harness the pugs in attempt to win the Great Northern Race, which ends at the home of a mythical man called Snowfather. There are many shenanigans along the race, including a bizarre encounter with noodle loving creatures! Ages 5 and up.
Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson
14-year-old McKenna is running an 8 dog team sled race. Trouble is, she is battling an eye disease that has also affected her younger sister. McKenna hasn’t told anyone about her worsening eye condition despite the dangers of the race. This is a very suspenseful winter-y novel, perfect for kids who like survival stories! Ages 10 and up.
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Find it: Amazon
Tash and her family hide their Buddhist faith from the Chinese soldiers that occupy her village in Tibet. But one day, the startling actions of a man disrupts the peace and Tash's parents are taken away. Tash, disguised as a boy and her friend, Sam, along with two goats, flee the village, making a harrowing journey across snow covered mountains. Intertwined with this page-turning adventure are questions about freedom, courage and the teachings of the Dali Lama. Terrific. Ages 10 and up.
MORE: Books for fans of Mulan
Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America by Jim Murphy
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. Ages 6 and up.
Ice Skating Books
Skating Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
For good old fashioned fun you can't go wrong with one of the "Shoes" books. In Skating Shoes, a doctor deems skating lessons to be 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. Ages 7 and up.
The Comeback by E.L. Shen
Maxine dreams of going to the Olympics, but her immediate goal is getting through Regionals. She's also navigating the trials and tribulations of sixth grade while also getting in practice time on the rink. As the only Chinese American in her class, she endures microaggressions from classmates and begins to doubt herself. Kids will love this fantastic story about a likable character and the thrill of competition.
Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed
Technically, this isn't solely 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! Ages 4 and up.
Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner
Find it: Amazon
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. A fun story of a girl who discovers her strengths and navigates relationships while pursuing her dreams. Ages 9 and up.