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Sarah Lean Recommends Her Top Five Wintry Children’s Books

Posted on 1st November 2021 by Anna Orhanen

In this exclusive piece Sarah Lean, the author of our mesmerising Children's Book of the Month for November, talks about the inspiration behind The Good Bear and recommends her five favourite children's books full of wintry magic.

Winter is a very special time of the year to me, especially when it snows. I love the still air and crunch of those first footprints in the drifts. Snow sculptures and snow angels. Hurtling down slopes on makeshift sledges. The colours and shapes of robins, red squirrels, foxes, and deer that stand out against the frosted bones of the forest nearby. And then there’s returning to the warmth of home and family, to snuggle up by the fire with the dogs and a mug of hot chocolate. If only it snowed more often where I live! 

Fortunately, wintry books can take us to those places that we dream about and let us meet the wild things found there from the safety of those crisp pages. I wanted to write about a place where I could take the reader with me to explore the soft deep snow, where evergreens are decorated with berries and layered with white like giant Christmas trees. And I wondered what wild creature I would most like to discover there. A bear! Face-to-face in the woods and wilds of snowy Norway. 

Despite bears being huge and fearsome in the wild, they are much loved around the world. We are comforted by bears in the soft toys that get tucked into our beds with us and our books at night. But there are many places where a bear’s dense coat, their extraordinary powerful noses and dextrous claws are not appreciated. The Good Bear is a story about a girl called Thea who feels about bears as I do. This bear needs help. He needs to be understood as a wild animal and to live in his own natural environment. Bear was born to be wild, to ferociously defend his family and territory. But he has learned something else from humans. I hope readers will enjoy the journey into Thea and the bear’s white world, and follow their freshly made footprints as their bond of trust and friendship grows.

Stories set in the snow are often about wild animals and perilous journeys to find home. When it’s dark and raining outside, we can always curl up with a wintry book to imagine venturing out into the newly fallen snow as if nobody has been there before. Wrap up warm and pull a blanket around you and your teddy bear as here are some of my favourite wintry books for children where you will meet some extraordinary creatures.

The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

As a child, I discovered the fantastic winter world in C.S. Lewis’s classic The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I still love it. Four children discover a place called Narnia when they climb through a magical wardrobe. Frozen in an endless winter without Christmas, it’s the story of the battle between good and the evil white witch for the return of the magnificent lion, Aslan, the true king of Narnia. 

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As a quartet of wide-eyed evacuees encounter wicked witches and saintly lions, Lewis guides the reader expertly through the brilliantly imagined world of Narnia, entered through a wardrobe door.
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The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell is a wintry story close to my heart. Feodora echoes my own feelings about wild animals as she learns how to un-tame wolves. Fiercely fighting to stand up for her beliefs, she and the wolves are pursued in the frozen depths of Russia.

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Set in the snowy forests of Russia, this enchanting story from the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-winning author about a girl and her mother who teach wolves to fend for themselves against hostile humans sends a powerful message about fighting for what you love.
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A Wolf Called Wander by Roseanne Parry

A Wolf Called Wander by Roseanne Parry Inspired by a true story of a wolf that was tagged and tracked for 1000 miles across the wilderness is A Wolf Called Wander by Roseanne Parry. If you want to imagine what it’s like to be a wolf, then follow the cub, Swift, as he uses his instincts to survive and grow on a journey to find his pack. The stunning real-life illustrations are by Monica Armino.

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Inspired by a true story and adorned with beautiful illustrations from artist Monica Armino, A Wolf Called Wander tells the spellbinding, utterly moving tale of a lone wolf cub in search of a new home.
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There May Be A Castle by Piers Torday

One of the most moving wintry stories for children that I know is There May Be A Castle by Piers Torday. The love of family takes a boy called Mouse on a journey across a snowy landscape where he encounters a sheep who can only say Baa, and a strangely familiar horse. It has a very powerful and unexpected ending.

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After a car accident, a boy called Mouse finds himself in a magical land in this powerfully original, surprising and wonderfully moving tale about love, family and the power to shape your own story from the award-winning author of The Last Wild trilogy.
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Snow Dragon by Abi Elphinstone

One of the most magical winter feelings is waking to find that it has snowed in the night. In the Snow Dragon picture book written by Abi Elphinstone, Phoebe begins her adventure waking after one such night from the strict orphanage where she lives. It is beautifully accompanied by Fiona Woodcock’s snow-soft illustrations, the same amazing artist who illustrated The Good Bear.

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Better known for her novels for older readers, Abi Elphinstone reshapes her distinctive brand of magic for picture book lovers in this uplifting tale of friendship and self-belief. Stunningly illustrated by Fiona Woodcock, The Snow Dragon shimmers with wintry charm.

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