We’ve finally had some wintry weather. Nights are still long, evenings quickly dark. It’s time to keep warm with the slipper-boots/duvet/sleeping furry animal of your choice, and sink into a good book.
In winter I like to read wintry books. I might enjoy sunshine and luxuriant leafiness on screen – it serves the same uplifting function as going for a walk in bright winter sunshine – but I really don’t want escapist summery books at this time of year.
So here are some recommended reads from classic children’s books. Snow definitely included:
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper (1973)
Will Stanton is the seventh son of a seventh son and turns eleven on Midwinter Day. He always hopes for snow on his birthday. He gets his wish, along with a whole lot of strange and sometimes terrifying experiences, as this is time of the year when The Dark is very strong and the Old Ones who protect the world have to work hard to resist its evil forces. The setting in the rural Thames Valley that Cooper knows so well is stunning – snow, floods, Very Bad Stuff, all taking place over Christmas and New Year.
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston (1951)
More snow, more floods, more magic, and dollops of heart-warming love, when amazingly-only-seven-years-old Tolly goes to stay with his grandmother for the Christmas holidays in her ancient haunted house. Magical illustrations, too, by the author’s son.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C S Lewis (1950)
Snow is the default weather for Narnia as far as I’m concerned. Because how do we enter Narnia for the first time, in one of the most striking fictional openings ever? Pushing through a wardrobe stuffed, not with any old clothes but fur coats, and then into the wintry wood (snow-laden fir trees in Pauline Baynes’ iconic illustration) to find a faun in a red woollen muffler.
‘What with the parcels and the snow it looked just as if he had been doing his Christmas shopping.’
Since in Narnia it’s always winter but never Christmas until the Pevensie children get involved, this makes a perfect winter read.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)
The opening pages establish what a disagreeable, spoilt and emotionally-neglected child Mary Lennox is, full of colonial snobbery and certainties. She arrives at gloomy Misselthwaite Manor in a rainstorm. It’s the season for fires in the bedroom and porridge for breakfast but there doesn’t seem much room for hope. The moor stretches bare and dreary beyond the window. Mary ventures into the garden only to find it wintry and bleak. But gradually ‘the Magic’ unfreezes everyone. Spring follows winter. A thoroughly warming tale.
For a very quick wintry read, there’s always Pooh Builds A House, the first chapter in The House At Pooh Corner by A A Milne (1928). In which Eeyore is very polite – or is that passive-aggressive? – about mislaying one house and Pooh and Piglet try to do a good deed by building another. Eeyore sinking under the increasing weight of his coating of snow is a sight to behold. I think he should be beatified as the patron saint of sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder.