January–when the holidays are done and it still months until spring–can be a dreary, cold month. As readers we have so many ways to combat the winter blahs, here are a few of my favorites:
Bury yourself deep in a snowdrift:
The Long Winter, part of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, is an amazing, visceral, intense evocation of winter. In the book, an October blizzard sends Laura’s family into town to survive the winter. Trains get snowed in, the family almost starves, there is a horse ride through a blizzard, it is bone chillingly cold. (Sometimes during the summer, when it is really hot, I like to reread the book, just to cool off.)
The Mitten is an old Ukrainian folktale where a series of animals, trying to find a place out of the cold, squeeze one by one into a mitten abandoned in the snow. They all fit until–yikes!–the mitten bursts. There are several great editions of the story available in Marin. My favorite one in Mill Valley is retold and illustrated by Jan Brett, and is rich with her detailed illustrations.
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner takes us, literally, over and under the snow–we see the teeming world of squirrels, bears, frogs, and the other animals that live through the winter, tucked in, warm and safe. Messner’s illustrations are compelling and lovely.
Pretend winter’s already over and bask in the sun:
Mama, is it Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure follows a young boy as he impatiently waits for the spring to turn into summer. With McClure’s classic block prints, this is a charming book about anticipating the joys of summer.
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall follows the Penderwick family on their vacation to the Berkshires. I like the publisher’s summary: While vacationing with their widowed father in the Berkshire Mountains, four lovable sisters, ages four through twelve, share adventures with a local boy, much to the dismay of his snobbish mother. I think of it as a new classic and it an awesome reminder of the magic of summer.
And, of course, it’s so much fun to just live through all four seasons, paying as close attention to the world around us as possible. One book to help with that is Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns. The book shows us how kids–and citizens everywhere–can be involved with scientific research through careful observation, and that kind of intense engagement with the world makes everything more magical.