Some might say we have it lucky here in Southern California, where we don’t have to worry about snow days, icy streets, and layering your coats to leave the house. Usually, we just have to worry about a little rain, like we’re getting this week.
Sometimes, though, it’s fun to venture into a frozen world of bracing chills and frosty branches, like Lucy Pevensie through the back of a wardrobe. If you don’t feel like making the long and winding drive to Big Bear, then a book makes for an excellent escape to a winter wonderland.
Here are five that you can curl up and read with a steaming cup of cocoa.
Odd and the Frost Giants (Neil Gaiman)
This beautiful novella follows Odd, a young viking, on an adventure through the cold and merciless winter of ancient Norway. Life hasn’t been easy for Odd: he recently lost his father and he’s forced to limp through his frozen world with a lasting injury. But when he encounters three animals in the woods who are far more than they appear, his life is about to take a turn of mythical proportion.
Gaiman weaves his characteristic humor, creativity, and thoughtfulness into Odd and the Frost Giants, a breezy read punctuated by page-stopping illustrations.
Greenglass House (Kate Milford)
If you’re in the mood for a snowbound, haunted hotel, but would rather skip the nightmares of the Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel, then Kate Milford’s young adult novel offers a considerably lighter tale.
Milo, whose family runs a hotel, is enjoying the first icy night of his holiday break—until it’s interrupted by the constant arrival of colorful guests. As possessions start disappearing, Milo puts his role-playing and detective skills to work to put the clues together to solve a mystery that could be connected to Greenglass House itself.
The Frozen Deep (Wilkie Collins)
You don’t get much colder than the Arctic, where two men (who are in love with the same woman) find themselves trapped in its brutal, frozen landscape. Based on a doomed 1845 expedition to the icy northern corners of our world, The Frozen Deep is a short but dramatic story of love, revenge, and sacrifice.
The story also has literary historical significance: Collins was a friend of Charles Dickens, who had a significant hand in crafting the stage play version The Frozen Deep—which later inspired A Tale of Two Cities.
The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)
A blanket of fluffy white powder offers wonders of possibility, and Ezra Jack Keats’ classic picture book captures that magic beautifully as a boy explores the new-fallen snow. The winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal is a quick, joyful return to childhood and a fun story to share with a young reader in your life.
The Mitten (Jan Brett)
In Jan Brett’s adaptation of a Ukrainian story, woodland animals find a knitted mitten lying in the snow and, curious, they each try to crawl inside. The results are wonderful, warm, and funny, all thanks to Brett’s distinctive, detailed style.
The Snowy Nap (Jan Brett)
If you enjoy Jan Brett’s renowned classic, The Mitten, you’ll be happy to know that she produced another winter-time book. The Snowy Nap celebrates the fun you can have with fresh snow and a frozen pond. Her exquisite illustrations immerse you on every page, from the soft watercolor-and-gauche texture to the finely detailed characters
The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey)
Jack and Mabel are drifting apart in the brutal Alaskan wilderness. But after they build a child out of fresh snowfall, they find a wild, mysterious girl in the woods who will transform both of their lives.
Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel is a vivid immersion into a cold, lonely existence, balanced by the hope you can find in even the toughest of places. Alan Cheuse, in his review of the book for NPR, added that Ivey’s novel “suggests that if you face winter head-on… you may find more hope after sadness than you had ever imagined.”
The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden)
Deep winter is as beautiful as it is treacherous in The Bear and the Nightingale, the first book in the Winternight Trilogy. Winter lasts almost year-round at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and something from deep within its woods and myths encroaches closer to the cozy homes of Vasya’s village. She loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, but as fairy tale threatens to become reality, Vasya is forced to protect her home from the cold threat that surrounds them.
If you fall in love with Arden’s world, The Bear and the Nightingale has two sequels to keep you reading through the winter.
The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Andersen)
The fairy tale that loosely inspired Disney’s once-omnipresent movie, Frozen (have we finally let it go?), The Snow Queen tells the story of Gerda, a young girl venturing into the cold to save her bewitched friend. With the help of a reindeer, Gerda braves the Snow Queen’s permafrost to find her friend, Kai, a captive of her frozen palace.
Artists have long been inspired by the story’s vivid imagery, so there’s a beautiful variety of illustrated copies of one of Andersen’s most acclaimed fairy tales to choose from. (The Golden Age of Illustration versions are a good place to start.)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
Speaking of magical ice queens, and circling back to Lucy Pevensie, Lewis’ classic story about the young girl and her siblings finding the magical land of Narnia is a great transition from winter to spring. The titular witch has cursed the land into eternal winter, and it’s up to the Pevensie children and their magical allies to break her spell.