Tuesday, December 13, 2022

During these chilly winter months, many people of all ages are looking to curl up with a good book. Check out this list of winter and holiday book recommendations for children and teens from Iowa Reading Research Center staff. You will find seasonal stories, festive fairytales, cheery chapter books, chilling winter mysteries, and more. This list includes books for readers ranging in age from 2–16+.

Rachel Wallace holding winter book

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

Ages 2+

Recommended by Rachel Wallace, Administrative Services Coordinator

On Christmas Eve, an old farmer goes to sleep and dreams of a wild snowstorm that covers him and his animals. When he awakens, he discovers that his dream of snow has become reality, and he journeys out into the cold to bring gifts to all his animal friends.

“This story is by one of my favorite children’s authors,” Wallace says. “Its illustrations are simple but fun. It’s great for winter and all holiday season long.”

Olive the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh

Ages 3+

Recommended by Meg Mechelke, Lead Student Writer

When Olive the dog mishears the classic holiday lyric “all of the other reindeer,” she hops aboard the Polar Express and heads to the North Pole to live out her new life as Santa’s tenth reindeer. Though her abilities may be a bit unconventional, it turns out that Olive is exactly the reindeer that Santa and his team needed.

“My mom read this book to my brother and I every Christmas,” Mechelke says. “The illustrations are adorable, and the story is clever and exciting. It’s a holiday classic!”

The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman

Ages 5+

Recommended by Rachel Wallace

On Christmas Eve, seven-year-old Marie is gifted a unique gift—a beautifully painted nutcracker. That night, Marie finds herself immersed into the world of magic and mystery in this classic children’s book that inspired the renowned ballet and countless other artistic reimagining.

“As a young girl I was immersed in dance lessons for several years, including ballet, which is probably why I gravitated toward the story,” Wallace says. “The illustrations are amazing, and the storyline is magical.”

Hansel and Gretel by Jacob Grimm

Ages 6+

Recommended by Rachel Wallace

In this classic fairy-tale, siblings Hansel and Gretel discover a house made of candy deep in the woods. The story has been retold and reimagined by countless picture book authors and remains a staple of children’s literature to this day.

“Something about Hansel and Gretel trekking through the woods only to find a gingerbread house covered with candy has always meant I could only read this story during the holidays,” Wallace says.

Kate Will holding winter book

Gathering by Betsy Bowen

Ages 6+

Recommended by Kate Will, Program Coordinator

This book explores the ways residents of the Minnesotan Northwoods prepare for winter, including planting seeds, chopping firewood, and finding warm clothes and boots. Written and illustrated by Minnesota native Betsy Bowen, the book features an exciting winter story and gorgeous woodcut illustrations of the Northwoods landscape. Will also recommends Bowen’s other wintery picture books, including Antler, Bear, Canoe and Tracks in the Wild.

“I probably asked my mom to read this book to me hundreds of times when I was little,” says Will. “Reading this book at any time of year got me excited for winter and all the winter activities I loved.”

Meg Mechelke holding winter book

Junie B. Jones Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! by Barbara Park

Ages 7+

Recommended by Meg Mechelke

In this installment of this children’s series, it’s holiday time in Room One, and Junie B. Jones can’t wait to celebrate. But when Junie draws Tattletale May for the classroom’s Secret Santa exchange, Junie learns a valuable lesson about the holiday spirit.

“I was a big Junie B. Jones fan as a kid, and this installment was one of my favorites,” says Mechelke. “I always found Junie’s escapades humorous and relatable, and the holiday atmosphere of this book in particular made the story even more fun.”

Taylor Miller holding winter book

Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

Ages 14+

Recommended by Taylor Miller, Online Learning Specialist

While traveling home for the holidays, teenager Mira’s flight gets delayed due to the approach of a record-breaking snowstorm. When Mira decides to rent a car and drive the rest of the way with a group of other teens, she experiences a series of strange events and worsening weather that makes her fear someone may be trying to sabotage the trip.

“While this isn’t a typical holiday book, it does center around a snowstorm and wanting to be with the people you love for the holidays,” says Miller. “I enjoyed the mystery of the book and had fun trying to figure out what was going on and who was responsible.”

Sean Thompson holding winter book

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Ages 14+

Recommended by Sean Thompson, Communications Specialist

This poetic novel tells the story of Marin, a young woman with a secret. When Marin’s best friend Mabel comes to visit her at her college dorm, Marin is forced to confront the tragedy of her past and her feelings for Mabel in a powerful narrative about grief and friendship. This book won the 2018 Michael L. Printz Award for YA literature.

“The setting for this story, a snowed-in college campus virtually deserted for winter break, matches Marin’s emotional state. She’s lonely, closed-off, hardened and self-protective, trudging through the aftermath of a life-changing discovery, while trying to find her way back to the warmth of her best friend and soulmate. LaCour lets readers who experience melancholy or depression during the holidays and winter months know that it’s okay to struggle, and if you let your loved ones support you, it may lead to a better day.”

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

Ages 15+

Recommended by Meg Mechelke, Lead Student Writer

In this novel, hundreds of high school musicians, including shy bassoonist Rabbit Hatmaker and his outgoing twin Alice, find themselves packed into the Bellweather Hotel for the annual Statewide orchestra festival. However, the students soon learn that the hotel is haunted by the memories of a tragedy that occurred fifteen years prior in Room 172. When one of the orchestra’s star players disappears form that very same room and a snowstorm strands the rest of the members on the hotel’s grounds, a hilariously haunted who-dunnit quickly ensues!

“Kate Racculia was one of my favorite authors in high school, and I still find her novels delightful today,” says Mechelke. “Her cast of characters is colorful and fun, and the mystery is engaging until the last page. This book is a YA-friendly, winter mystery, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Ellen Raskin.”

Everland by Rebecca Hunt

Ages 16+

Recommended by Meg Mechelke, Lead Student Writer

In 1913, a group of three explorers set out to scout a previously uncharted Antarctic island. Only one survives to tell the tale. In 2012, a team of three scientific researchers return to the island, determined that their advanced technology and knowledge of the past will make this expedition different. However, with the weather growing deadlier by the day and a strange, indescribable presence lurking somewhere on the ice, the researchers’ journey begins to mirror the past in increasingly uncanny ways.

“This book had me hooked from the first page,” says Mechelke. “The narrative weaves the past and present together to tell a fascinating story, and the harsh, icy environment is described so vividly that it begins to take on a persona of its own.”