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Kids, teens can experience winter through books

Texas winters bring us a fair share of cold weather, plus the occasional ice storm, but it seldom addresses that hankering a lot of Texans have this time of year for a bit of snow. Just a little. Like a week of trading in the flip-flops and light sweaters for a few snowball fights and roaring fires. In the meantime, here are a few books for young readers that have wintery themes and snowy settings.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010

For age 12 and older

Lily leaves a red Moleskine notebook filled with challenges on a bookstore shelf and hopes the perfect guy will discover it. Dash finds it and returns with a dare of his own. Communicating through the notebook, the two begin to connect deeply and reveal more and more about themselves. But will meeting in person make things even better, or worse?

Set during a New York City winter, readers will enjoy seeing the magical city through the adventures of the teen main characters. Each person’s dares center around the things that matter most to them, causing each to develop his or her own perceptions — are they interested in the real person on the other side of the notebook or just the images conjured in their heads?

Rather than a predictable romance, this is a quirky, fun read about teens looking to feel something and to make real connections. Readers may long to buy their own red Moleskine notebooks.

The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

HarperCollins, 1953

For age 8 and older

In 1880, when Laura Ingalls was 14 years old, a severe blizzard hit the rural South Dakota town of De Smet, burying the town and surrounding prairies in snow. For more than six months the settlers were cut off from the outside world, from food sources, from trains running supplies, and even from each other.

Based on historical fact and the author’s own remembrances, this book highlights the grit and determination the settlers needed to survive the continuous cold and starvation. The Ingalls family discovers how to twist hay into sticks that can be burned for warmth. Two young men (including Laura’s future husband) travel 20 miles through deadly conditions for the mere chance of finding some hidden sacks of grain to be used for food.

When spring finally comes, bringing with it a train full of long-lost Christmas surprises, the reader will be as grateful as the characters. The Long Winter is a triumph of the human spirit and a reminder to never, ever give up.

The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Snow, by Joanna Cole

Scholastic, 2004

For age 8 and older

Ms. Frizzle’s science class is learning about snow. So what else is there for them to do but jump on the Magic School Bus and take a wild ride into the clouds to see how snowflakes are formed? When they get separated from the bus, however, they’re left to wonder how they will ever get back to the school.

Based on the popular television show, this engaging title encompasses all the wild, quirky humor kids expect from The Magic School Bus. Filled with scientific facts and ideas for experiments, this book makes everything — from riding a pinwheel into the clouds to ice skating — seem equally possible.

The Mitten, by Jan Brett

Putnam Juvenile, 1989

For age 5 and older

When Nicki drops his brand new white mitten in the snow, a variety of animals find it and snuggle inside for warmth. The mole, the rabbit and the badger all fit fine, but things get snug when even bigger animals show up.

Based on a Ukrainian fairy tale, this charming story is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations that add additional details to this fun and funny narrative. It’s a perfect story to read while snuggling up in your own blanket, safe from the snow.

Snowy, Blowy Winter, by Bob Raczka

Albert Whitman & Company, 2008

For age 3 and older

This delightful book is told in simple rhyming text that examines cold-weather activities like shoveling sidewalks, sliding down hills, making cookies, feeding birds and even having a sneezy cold. The colorful illustrations are beautiful and diverse, and the sweet ending shows how all the individual words quickly used throughout the story come together to form a cohesive tale. It also is a great conversation starter to encourage little ones to come up with some adjectives of their own.

The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats

Viking, 1962

For age 3 and older

Peter is excited to wake up one morning and see his Brooklyn neighborhood covered in snow. He makes tracks, creates snow angels, builds a snowman and enjoys other popular childhood winter wonderland activities. The air is cold, but Peter’s red snowsuit keeps him warm. He even packs a snowball into his pocket to save for later.

The full-color, collage-style illustrations manage to be both simple and complex, and they help capture the joy of being a kid and the wonder of a snow-filled day. Ezra Jack Keats won the 1963 Caldecott Medal for his work as both author and illustrator on The Snowy Day, and the picture book held the No. 5 spot on School Library Journal’s list of the “Top 100 Picture Books of All Time” in 2012.

Trapped, by Michael Northrop

Scholastic Press, 2011

For age 12 and older

Seven teens are trapped inside their rural New England high school when an unexpected blizzard buries the escape routes and forces them to stay inside. At first, it’s not so bad — sort of like a coed slumber party. But then the heat goes out, followed by the electricity. When the pipes freeze and the roof starts to bow under the weight of the ice above, the issue changes from simply keeping warm to staying alive.

At its heart, this is a survival story, and it’s fraught with heroics, dismay and disaster. The reader knows from the very beginning that not everyone survives, so the rising tension never lets up. As the teens struggle to do the best they can, the reader will want to pull on a heavy coat to ward off the chill that seeps through the pages. The ending is unsettling and abrupt. Prepare yourself.

Wendy Dunn is a teen programming librarian with the Fort Worth Public Library.

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