Given that wintry weather made a mess throughout the Pacific Northwest last week, our family reading steered toward the sort of stories that make you glad to be indoors by the fire!

The Bears On Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh and illustrated by Helen Sewell

This is our second time through this story in 2021 even though it’s an older book. One of our kids got it for Christmas and wanted it read aloud, and then demanded it as a family read-out-loud. A young boy is asked to go over the hill on an errand during late winter. “Do bears live on Hemlock Mountain?” is a question the looms large in the minds of the youngest kids as they journey through the snowy woods with Jonathan. The story takes a little while to get going, meandering through some backstory first, but once the boy is headed up the mountain with a “crunch, crunch, crunch” the story is hard to put down between chapters.

Too Many Mittens by Florence Slobodkin and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

This was a book that I remember from grandmother’s shelves from when I was a kid. Twin boys have trouble keeping track of their red mittens, and the whole town starts helpfully dropping off any they find. But…surely even twins don’t have that many red mittens? I love the art in this book with most of the pictures being done in wintry colors and then the red mittens popping off the pages. This isn’t one that tends to get read a lot during the year, but in winter when “have you seen my other glove” is being asked on a daily basis, everyone, including us parents, find it striking a chord.

Cozy by Jan Brett

The only recent publication on the list! Honestly, a huge swath of Jan Brett’s bibliography fits the themes of winter and snow, and her latest definitely fits right in. Cozy is the story of a young musk ox whose coat is in high demand as a place to shelter from the bitter cold. As each “guest” arrives, Cozy goes over the ever expanding “house rules.” Beyond the illustrations which are filled with the beautiful –and funny – details you’d expect in a Jan Brett book, the house rules are what make this book so appealing to kids. If you’ve got more than one child in the house many of the rules will sound very familiar!

Brambly Hedge: Winter Story by Jill Barklem

Reading each of the four main Brambly Hedge stories to mark the turn of the seasons is one of our favorite family traditions, but every single one of us enjoy the Winter Story most of all. The magic of snow and the ingenuity of the Hedgerow mice meet in a delightfully magical tale. All kids dream of a massive snowfall and shining ice palaces. But despite enough snow to bury the world around them, the mice’s homes absolutely glow with warmth and peace and good food.

Mr. Packrat Really Wants That written by Marcus Ewert and illustrated by Kayla Stark*

This book really took us by surprise. First, I somehow got the wrong impression of this book from its description and thought it was a non-fiction book about pack rats. It’s not. Rather, it’s a really cute kids story with a fun chant (always a favorite since it means lots of chiming in) and a beautifully subtle message. Every once in a while, I stumble across a book that backs up what I’m trying to teach as a parent in a way that reaches kids so much better than all the lectures in the world.

This story is focused on the fact that acquiring stuff doesn’t make you happy. In fact, eventually the stuff can get in the way of happiness. We’ve spent the last year as a family working on “stuff,” and the kids instantly identified with and loved this book. It’s not the first book I’ve read to them with this message, but it was the one that conveyed it the best. Highly recommended!

Leo’s Monster by Marcus Pfister*

This book was a bigger hit with my youngest two than I was expecting. As an adult, it’s so clear even just from the cover what the big “twist” is going to be. And the kids knew straight away too. However, for them, knowing in advance did nothing to ruin the story. They loved the way Leo describes his “monster” and loved even more the illustrations of what Zoe imagines based on Leo’s story. Again, no suspense, but a lot of laughter and fun.

If you’ve got kids with a lot of imagination, they’d probably get a kick out of this book. My eldest is too old to be interested now, but I suspect that even at this book’s target age his more black and white mind would have found this story less entertaining than his siblings did.

Anansi and the Magic Stick written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Janet Stevens

This has been a favorite over the last month for a similar reason to the first book if this round up: it has an amazing chant. Anansi is a trickster figure in African mythology, so I can’t really say there’s a lesson to this book, but it’s so fun to read out loud and pictures are amazing. (A great cameo in the art at one point always makes the eldest two giggle.) All the kids are amused by Anansi’s antics, and I frequently hear versions of “hocus pocus magic stick” when they’re sent to clean their rooms. Definitely a fun, modern introduction to an older myth.


*I received a free arc of this story through NetGalley in return for an honest review.