5 wonderful wintry reads to snuggle up with, chosen by Catherine Fisher
Published on: 07 December 2018 Author: Catherine Fisher
There's nothing better than snuggling up by the fire with a book when it's snowing or freezing outside, says The Clockwork Crow author Catherine Fisher. And it's even better if that book is a wintry read. Here are my top five winter masterpieces...
1. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Yevgeniya Yeretskaya
This has been a favourite of mine since I was very small, though in places, as often with Andersen, it's quite a dark story. The random pieces of magic mirror that get into Kay's eye and heart and turn him strange have always scared me, and the fascination of the Snow Queen's palace, its frozen lake, and hundred halls made purely of ice has never left me.
It's not really the events of the story - the Raven, the Robber Girl, the Reindeer - but the breathless northern cold of the story that makes it so memorable.
2. The Box of Delights by John Masefield
The Box of Delights by John Masefield, illustrated by Quentin Blake
This is maybe the classic winter children's book, and it's always a great influence. From the moment the old Punch and Judy man warns Kay Harker that, 'The wolves are running', we enter a mad, darkly comic escapade that just never lets up.
Pursued by the terrifying Abner Brown and his confederates, Kay has to flee with the Box of Delights through time and space, via pirate ships and desert islands and the wildwood of Herne the Hunter, until at last he rescues the kidnapped Bishop of Tadcaster just in time for Christmas in the cathedral. The snowy hills and the candle-lit shops of the village make this a real winter delight, with a surprisingly modern feel to its characters.
3. Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson
Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson, illustrated by Annabel Large
This is maybe not an obvious choice, and it's certainly not a cosy tale of Christmas, but Henry Williamson's description of the bitterest of winters chills any reader.
The whole book is an otter's-eye view of North Devon, told in rich, precise language. This is no sentimental story; there is blood and death and the hunt are an ever-present danger, but the deep winter where Marland Jimmy the old dog-otter freezes in the ice-blink in the estuary is astonishingly vivid. I'm not sure if this book is much read these days, but it ought to be, as an antidote to more sugary animal tales.
4. The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Another animal tale, and maybe even a bit sweet, but as everyone knows, Kenneth Grahame's Mole, Toad and Rat are really Edwardian gentlemen in fur.
There are only a few winter scenes - this is a book for all seasons - but Mole's return to his neglected underground home with its impromptu Christmas party and the carol-singing mice is a joy, and Mole's terrified flight through the snowy wastes of the Wild Wood invokes all the ancient fear of the dark.
5. The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo
The first of Jenny Nimmo's trilogy, this delicate and luminous fantasy tells of Gwydion Gwyn's discovery of his magical powers and the search for the lost girl Nia.
The winter here is less ferocious and more mysterious; skillfully weaving Welsh myth with domestic trauma, Nimmo creates a strange and very memorable, bittersweet story, great for reading aloud.