5 festive reads for children this winter

Book covers of festive books for winter

As the weather gets colder, it’s the perfect time to cosy up in the library or at home and share a story with your little ones. Escape to faraway lands and engage their imagination with stories about adventure, friendship, and mystery.  

We’ve prepared a list of our favourite festive stories to borrow from your local library, so you can keep your children entertained over the winter months. Based in chilly settings, these beautifully illustrated picture books have twists, turns and heaps of snow to get you excited for the magic of the holidays. 

The Snowman and The Snowdog book cover

The Snowman™ and The Snowdog by Raymond Briggs  

The Snowman™ and The Snowdog is the sequel to much-loved classic The Snowman™. Billy isn’t full of festive cheer as his beloved old dog has passed away. When snow starts to fall, Billy builds a snowman, and with his leftover snow builds a snowdog too. Later that night, something magical happens; Billy embarks on a wonderful snowy adventure as The Snowman™ and The Snowdog come to life. 

And you can join The Snowman™ and The Snowdog in real life on a festive winter wander around some of Hampshire’s most spectacular country parks. A Winter Wander with The Snowman™ and The Snowdog is taking place at Royal Victoria Country Park, Queen Elizabeth Country Park and Lepe Country Park. Head to the event website to book now.  

The Storm Whale in Winter book cover

The Storm Whale in the Winter by Benji Davies  

The Storm Whale in Winter is a follow up to Benji Davies’s bestselling book The Storm Whale. Last summer, Noi rescued a little whale when it washed ashore in a great storm. Now he longs to see his friend again. Winter sets in and Noi worries about his whale and if it can survive the harsh conditions. 

One night Noi thinks he sees the whale out at sea and rushes outside for a glimpse of it. Soon the whale may be lost in the blanket of ice and snow – who will rescue him? Follow Noi and his old friend on an emotional story about long-lasting friendship.  This beautifully illustrated tale is full of busy scenes and captivating characters, to keep children engaged while reading along.  

No Sleep for Bear book cover

No Sleep for Bear by Duncan Beedie  

Winter is approaching and it’s time for Bear to have a nice long sleep. But the more he tries to get to sleep, the more awake he feels. So, he decides to copy his forest friends who seem to doze off without any trouble: he sings in the trees like Blackbird, burrows underground like Badger, and even hangs upside down from his cave roof like a bat. But nothing works – until wise Frog shows him how to relax, and soon the forest is reverberating with his snores! This is the perfect story to send your little ones off to sleep on a chilly winter’s night. 

The Snow Dragon book cover

The Snow Dragon by Abi Elphinstone  

When the first snow of winter falls, Phoebe wishes for it to bring with it some much-needed magic. In Griselda Bone’s Home for Strays, magic, daydreaming, and doodling are banned. Just as Phoebe is about to give up hope, a Snow Dragon appears and whisks her away on an adventure. An enchanting tale, full of fantastical creatures and winter magic. The Snow Dragon is also available to borrow as an audiobook to listen along as the little ones drift off to sleep.

Snow Penguin book cover

Snow Penguin by Tony Mitton  

In the frozen Antarctic, one curious little penguin decides to explore the ice, snow and sea. On his travels he sees two blue whales, a family of sea lions and a whole school of orcas, but soon Penguin starts to miss his own family. Sometimes coming home is the best adventure of all. Told in rhyming couplets, this feel-good book explores themes of bravery and courage. Cosy up on Christmas morning and follow this little penguin’s journey.  

If your kids would like to try out some other books this winter, head over to the Reading Agency’s website to find out more about the mini winter reading challenge. This challenge is full of fantastic books to discover this winter. Hurry and complete the reading challenge before the holidays end.  

Behind the bookshelves with an Area Manager

We caught up with one of Hampshire Libraries Area Managers, Liz, to find out how she came to work with the libraries, her time as a children’s librarian, and her top picks for younger readers.

How did you come to work at Hampshire Libraries?

I’ve always worked in libraries. When I left school, I started working in the libraries in Hull. I went off to university but came back to working in libraries in North Yorkshire after. I came to Hampshire as a Children’s Librarian in Fareham. That was a brilliant thing to do because it’s all about getting the right book to the right child at the right time. It really shaped my way of working. I’m an Area Manager now, so I manage an operational team, keeping the libraries open and developing services, but I think I’ll always be a Children’s Librarian by trade. As a Children’s Librarian, you have to be quite comfortable in front of large groups of children, telling stories in quite extravagant ways. I got to meet so many children’s authors and illustrators as well through book launches and the Wessex Book Fair.

I was so enveloped by children’s books at that time. Parents would come to me with questions like “my child doesn’t really like reading, do you know a book that can help?” or “my child has to go to the dentist soon, are there any books that will help them feel less scared?” and I needed to know those things. Books enable children to articulate what they’re feeling because children don’t always have the language to tell you what they’re thinking. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to somebody through a book than it is to have a direct conversation, especially when children are learning to communicate. Reading develops so much more than literacy and language, it’s empathy and understanding too. Even as an adult reading them, you learn things about the world you didn’t know before. Whether it’s about somebody else’s culture or about being a refugee, they just help you to understand somebody else’s life.

When I was younger, I really struggled to learn to read. I can still remember how humiliating it was because I just couldn’t do it, it was hard. So, I wasn’t really much of a reader when I was a kid, but I think that’s why I really believe it is about getting the right book to the right child at the right time.

Where do you like to read?

I read in bed a lot, but I really enjoy reading on the train. I have family in Yorkshire and if I go to visit them, I like to go by train so I can read and relax. I’ll always take a couple of books with me because I think it’s important to give yourself permission to stop reading something you aren’t enjoying. When we’re younger we have to finish the books that we’re told to read because they’re on the curriculum, and that can make reading feel like a lot of work. But one of the brilliant things about being an adult is that you don’t have to do that.

How do you read?

I usually read in small bits and get through books that way. I don’t tend to listen to audiobooks, I do own an e-reader which is great for reading at night, but I do prefer a physical book.

What do you read?

I’m reading a book called Coasting by Elise Downing and another book about triathlon training. I’m reading a lot of non-fiction lately, but I really like novels and depending on my mood I do love a bit of Chick Lit. I enjoy books with central female characters and books about women’s lives. One novel that really stayed with me was A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier. I really love the writing of Tracy Chevalier, I think they’re just great stories and her novels can give such an insight into the daily hardships of women from the past. Another author who does that really well is Kate Atkinson, particularly in her book Life After Life. The book is set during the second world war and really impressed on me how difficult it is for us to understand what it must have been like to live through that.

In terms of non-fiction, I really enjoy reading books about endurance sports. Over Christmas, I read Relentless by Alistair Brownlee, the Olympic triathlete. It’s a really interesting book because he talks to lots of different sports champions about their mindset and training, from footballers to darts players. I do triathlons and love cycling so it’s definitely a topic that interests me.

I must admit though, in times of stress where you just need a story to wash over you, a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine is Alan Titchmarsh’s novels. They’re so easy to read and there’s always a happy ending. If you’re feeling a bit anxious about something they’re just a proper escape.

What books would you recommend for children and teenagers?

A lot of my favourite picture books aren’t very new, but I think the sign of a good picture book is that it can really stand the test of time. The Blue Balloon by Mick Inkpen would be my first pick. It’s a very simple story about a magical balloon but the book has fold-out bits and some lovely language. I was reading it to a group of children and afterwards, I heard a boy say “I know what indestructible means” because it was used in the book. He must have only been about three or four years old, but he understood that word and how to use it because it was in the book. To me, that just perfectly illustrated how important picture books really are. Peace At Last by Jill Murphy, it’s a great story about poor Mr Bear trying to find somewhere to sleep but wherever he goes there’s a different noise that keeps him up. Another wonderful book is Winnie the Witch by Valérie Thomas and illustrated by Korky Paul. We had a visit from Korky Paul a few years ago and he saw a Winnie doll that I had made myself. He said he liked it so I made me one which lead to him signing a book for me addressed to “The Witch Maker”. But the book I would always give to a new baby is Dear Zoo which is such a classic.

Another genre I do love is teen fiction or YA. I’ve read so much teen fiction it’s difficult to pick favourites but one I really enjoyed is Beauty by Robin McKinley. It’s a wonderful retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story. Quite different but equally brilliant is Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful which is just such a beautiful book. I had a flick through the last couple of pages earlier and it still brings me to tears. When it didn’t win the Carnegie medal for children’s fiction, I was just so disappointed.

If you like books that are a bit more whimsical, I would really recommend Skellig by David Almond. It’s about a couple of kids who find a man in their shed, but the man has wings so it’s as if he’s an angel or something like that. All of David Almond’s books are set in the Northeast of England so they’re all grounded in the Newcastle and Northumberland area. He has this quite beautiful way of writing that builds the relationships between the characters really strongly. Some of them can be quite gritty so the books have quite a realistic aspect to them as well.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman is a must read as well. It was recently turned into a TV series. It shows a different perspective of racism, it’s one of those books that really open your eyes, especially if you’re white.

What books have you loved that might get overlooked?

I really like books about people and their lives. A book I enjoyed reading recently was 12 Birds to Save Your Life by Charlie Corbett. After his mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness and subsequently died, he found a way through his grief by reconnecting with the world through nature and bird songs. It’s more about his experience than about nature so even if birds aren’t your usual subject, you can still really connect with the story. A similar book is the amazing true story by Raynor Winn, The Salt Path. It’s about how she and her husband became homeless just as her husband is diagnosed with a terminal illness. With nowhere else to go, they decided to walk the South West Coast Path. She talks about how it just gave them purpose and time to process what was happening. I actually bought it for my niece last Christmas because, it’s such a wonderful book, I just thought she had to read it.