10 breathtaking children’s books about winter

For many of us, December is a time of anticipation. For Christmas, for Hanukkah, for a vacation from work or school, for the gradual return of light.

It’s a time of coming together with family and friends. It’s a time of beauty.

It’s also unbearably cold.

All I want to do is curl up under a blanket and read the kids some Christmas books. But as a nonreligious mom in a household that doesn’t do Santa, our pickings are pretty slim.

So I started a search for some new reading material.

Here is my collection of 10 breath-taking children’s books about winter. I’ve chosen books that create a sense of quiet awe. There’s no gimme-gimme, where’s the presents? in these books. Most focus on the wonder of nature and the joy of being with loved ones.

I hope you enjoy them.

10 breathtaking children's books about winter. www.aliceinwonderment.com

Full list (To read book descriptions, see below):
Sky Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose
When It Snows by Richard Collingridge
The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader
Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol
Snow by Cynthia Rylant
Snow by Uri Schulevitz
White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt
Owl Moon
by Jane Yolen

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen


Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird.

But there is no answer.

Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don’t need words. You don’t need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn’t an owl, but sometimes there is.

Distinguished author Jane Yolen has created a gentle, poetic story that lovingly depicts the special companionship of a young child and her father as well as humankind’s close relatiohship to the natural world. Wonderfully complemented by John Schoenherr’s soft, exquisite watercolor illustrations, this is a verbal and visual treasure, perfect for reading alound and sharing at bedtime. – Publisher’s review

Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol


As a little boy sleeps soundly, wrapped up warm in bed, a winter tableau slowly builds outside, beginning with a single snowflake and culminating in a dazzling white wonderland. Pendziwol (Marja’s Skis, 2007) offers a quiet poem that beautifully and lovingly tells the story of how the scene appears. –review by Sarah Hunter, from Booklist.

Sky Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose


Two Ojibway sisters set off across the frozen north country to see the SkySpirits’ midnight dance. It isn’t easy for the younger sister to be silent, but gradually she begins to treasure the stillness and the wonderful experiences it brings. After an exhilarating walk and patient waiting, the girls are rewarded by the arrival of the SkySpirits – the northern lights – dancing and shimmering in the night sky.

This powerful story, with its stunning illustrations, captures the chill of a northern night, the warmth of the family circle and the radiance of a child’s wonder. – Publisher’s review

When It Snows by Richard Collingridge


The magic of reading is the inspiration for this stunningly illustrated debut in which a little boy takes a long and eventful journey across a snow-bound imaginative landscape. The dream-like style of illustration makes this the perfect book for snuggling up with on dark wintry nights. – review from The Daily Mail.

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt


When the first flakes fell from the grey sky, the postman and the farmer and the policeman and his wife scurried about doing all the practical things grownups do when a snowstorm comes. But the children laughed and danced, and caught the lacy snowflakes on thier tongues.

All the wonder and delight a child feels in a snowfall is caught in the pages of this book — the frost ferns on the window sill, the snow man in the yard and the mystery and magic of a new white world. Roger Duvoisin’s pictures in soft blue half-tones with briliant splashes of yellow and red emphasize the gaiety and humor as well as the poetic quality of the text. – Publisher’s review

Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston


Day after day, a girl goes to her favorite place in the woods and quietly watches from her tree house as the chipmunks, the doe, the rabbits prepare for the winter. As the temperature drops, sunset comes earlier and a new season begins. Silently she observes the world around her as it reveals its secrets. It takes time and patience to see the changes as, slowly but surely, winter comes. – Publisher’s review

Snow by Cynthia Rylant


A single snowflake on a midnight-blue marbled background ushers readers into this quiet celebration of snow that “comes softly in the night like a quiet friend” or falls so “heavy [it buries] cars up to their noses.” In brief, lyrical text, Rylant states that snow helps us notice “the delicate limbs of trees” and “the light falling from a lamppost.” It brings the delight of making snow angels and sledding and returning home to enjoy a warm drink. She urges readers to savor the phenomenon, for it remains only briefly. Stringer’s acrylic paintings make use of small boxed scenes, full and three-quarter spreads, or full-page pictures framed in white, to display a world of snow-filled wonders. Varying perspectives help readers come up close to a group of multiethnic children gazing longingly at the flakes falling outside their classroom window and then view them from above as, clad in their puffy winter gear, they are finally released to cavort in its depths. There are interior views of a grandparent and child enjoying cozy activities at home and exterior scenes of the two enjoying a walk as twilight bathes the snow in pink hues. This is a gentle gem while Uri Shulevitz’s Snow (Farrar, 2004) is a livelier treatment of the topic.—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT

Snow by Uri Schulevitz


“It’s snowing, said boy with dog.
“It’s only a snowflake,” said grandfather with beard.

No one thinks one or two snowflakes will amount to anything. Not the man with the hat or the lady with the umbrella. Not even the television or the radio forecasters. But one boy and his dog have faith that the snow will amount to something spectacular, and when flakes start to swirl down on the city, they are also the only ones who know how to truly enjoy it.

Uri Shulevitz’ playful depiction of a snowy day and the transformation of a city is perfectly captured in simple, poetic text and lively watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations. – Publisher’s review

The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader


The woodland animals were all getting ready for the winter. Geese flew south, rabbits and deer grew thick warm coats, and the raccoons and chipmunks lay down for a long winter nap. Come Christmastime, the wise owls were the first to see the rainbow around the moon. It was a sure sign that the big snow was on its way. – Publisher’s review

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner


Over the snow, the world is hushed and white. But under the snow lies a secret world of squirrels and snow hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals making their winter home under the snow. This beloved nonfiction picture book exploring the subnivean zone reveals the tunnels and caves formed beneath the snow but over the ground, where many kinds of animals live through the winter, safe and warm, awake and busy, but hidden beneath the snow. – Publisher’s Review

What’s your favorite winter storybook?

This post was part of my collection of 25 secular Christmas activities. Want to see the entire list of all 25 nonreligious holiday activities? Click here.