The 11 Best Picture Books to Read on a Snowy Day
Snowy days are indisputably a magical time. Every kid should be so lucky to experience the type of adventure that requires a foot of snow, several layers of warm clothes, and nothing but time. Throw in some friends and family to explore with and they are sure to build a few memories for the rest of their lives.
Adventure is truly what it’s all about. I still have very vivid memories of playing in the snow as a child. I remember taking a ruler out into our cul-de-sac in the middle of the night to measure 12 inches of snow. I remember veering off course with my brother while sledding - straight into a patch of pine trees. I remember sticking my tongue to a pole because I was dared just like in A Christmas Story.
And I fondly remember being exhausted and peeling off all of my many wet layers of snow clothes after a day of adventure, and drinking hot chocolate that my mother made. These are the types of memories I hope my children and all children are lucky enough to make. Every Winter I hope for at least one good snow. The type of snow we can measure with a ruler and build a snow fort out of.
I also have very vivid memories of books that we read that perfectly captured those feelings of snowy adventure and magic. This list contains several of those books, as well as many new ones that I hope will stay with my children for the rest of their lives, and help remind them of some happy childhood memories during wintertime.
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11. The Snowbear
Written by Sean Taylor and Illustrated by Claire Alexander
I’m a sucker for a good story that skirts the edges of imagination and reality, and The Snowbear is an adorable example. Every time I read a story that leaves the reader wondering if a child imagined the whole thing or if it really happened I’m left glowing about the power and the importance of the child’s imagination.
And, of course, the adventures a child finds when tromping around in the snow with your brother or sister is the perfect setting for this magical imagination. In The Snowbear, a brother and sister build a fantastic looking bear out of snow, and then go off sledding into the woods. They find themselves in a dangerous situation involving a wolf, but luckily someone is there to save the day.
The Snowbear has a great ending that reminds me of The Snowman. And (bonus!) author Sean Taylor writes his dedication to Astrid Lindgren and Harald Wiberg, the talented creators of the magical book The Tomten - a book that appears further down on this list. How cool is that?
10. The Mitten
Written and Illustrated by Jan Brett
I really love the artwork of Jan Brett. And I love the borders of her pages. Follow along with the borders and you get a little story within a story, a bonus little wordless picture book. It’s a novel concept and really fun to talk about and discover with the little ones.
This is one of those books that I have very fond memories of from being little. It’s a book my mother read to me and more than one teacher in school read to the entire class as well. It’s probably my favorite book by Jan Brett as well, and that’s quite a bold statement too.
In The Mitten, a boy loses his white mitten in the white snow, and a hilarious amount of woodland creatures squeeze their way inside to get warm. It’s adorable and funny and beautiful and definitely a winter classic.
Written and Illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
If you’ve ever been a kid, you probably know well the feeling of wishing for a snow day. Maybe you stayed up later than you should have hoping to see some snowflakes. And nowadays kids might watch the weather forecast like a hawk hoping to see the percentage chance of snow continue to rise.
Snow by Uri Shulevitz captures that feeling well in a beautifully drawn picture book with very few words. The grown ups, such as man with beard and woman with umbrella, are real sticks-in-the-mud. They continue to tell boy with dog that it’s not going to snow, or it’s not going to stick. How many times do you think you’ve heard that disappointing statement in your life? You’ve got to keep hope alive!
But, luckily, “snowflakes don’t listen to radio” and “snowflakes don’t watch television.” And sometimes we get that miracle we were hoping for anyway!
8. Extra Yarn
Written by Mac Barnett and Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Extra Yarn is definitely my favorite picture book of all time, but this is a list specifically about wintertime and snow, and there are certainly a few books that capture those feelings more specifically, so it isn’t number one on this list.
The story is set in a quiet little town with a beautiful winter landscape, and it revolves around Annabelle knitting everybody and everything sweaters and hats with her magic yarn.
If wintertime is a wonderful time for children because of adventure and magic, then Extra Yarn certainly fits the bill. I’ve mentioned before that a certain scene evokes memories of a scene from A Christmas Story - when Annabelle runs into the bully in the alleyway. And practically every single page is a beautiful wintry landscape drawn by Klassen. So in my head Extra Yarn is certainly a winter book, and most obviously one full of a lot of magic.
For a closer look at why we love this book so much, make sure to check out this article.
Written and Illustrated by Mercer Mayer
This is the one book on this list that I have the fondest memories of from my childhood. When I found it in my collection of books in my parents’ attic I was overwhelmed with nostalgia, because it perfectly captures the feelings of a snow day. I love all of the flaps and the interactive tabs. There was even a scratch-and-sniff cup of hot chocolate, although my copy has long since lost its chocolatey smell.
But just that picture of that hot chocolate perfectly encapsulates what snow days are all about, and that’s why I have such strong feelings attached to this book. I’m very happy to have this one to share with my own kids now.
Written and Illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats
No story captures the simple joys of exploring the snow than The Snowy Day. Making tracks in the snow, banging trees with sticks, snow plopping on your head - it’s the little things that make snowy adventures so special, and Keats doesn’t shy away from these special little explorations.
The “plopping” of the snow will always be a fond memory for me, because we always say “plop” many times when the snow plops on Peter’s head, and we pretend the snow is plopping on our kids’ heads.
And I just love it how a good book about snow always ends with peeling off the wet clothes and taking a warm bath. And Keats is absolutely right that when you get into bed that night, you just hope and pray that the snow doesn’t melt so you can do it all again tomorrow.
5. The Snowman
Written and Illustrated by Raymond Briggs
The Snowman is full of magic, and special beyond words. Perhaps that’s why Raymon Briggs decided to leave the words out, and make one of the best wordless picture books of all time.
A young boy spends his day in the snow crafting a snowman, and, in the middle of the night, the snowman comes alive. The boy and his snowman get into all sorts of mischief in the house, and then they fly off into the snow - when the illustrations suddenly turn into full 2-page spreads that are absolutely stunning and fit to be hanging on the wall.
I certainly like to think that whether or not this is a real adventure or a dream is supposed to be left up to interpretation. And if you’ve never seen the short film you really must watch it, because having the beautiful music in the back of your head adds so much more magic to the book as well. And, holy smokes, is the last page of this book full of emotion.
4. The Tomten
Written by Astrid Lindgren and Illustrated by Harald Wiberg
Astrid Lindgren is famous for writing Pippi Longstocking and many other stories, but I think The Tomten is by far my favorite. It’s a very magical and mysterious story about a gnome whose job it is to watch over his land and all who live on it. Generation after generation he’s watched over this land, and no human has ever seen him, but he’s always watching. That might sound creepy, but he’s such a gentle and benevolent creature, and it’s actually very beautiful and soothing.
The Tomten is set in the middle of the deep and freezing winter, and the Tomten visits all of the farm’s creatures one by one, reassuring them and telling them to be patient, because spring will come soon and they’ll soon have green pastures to roam. He even looks in on the parents and the children on the farm to make sure everyone is okay. He’s been doing this a long time he says, and the winter always ends. The story has a beautiful rhythm and the illustrations by Wiberg are stunning. This is a truly magical winter tale perfect for a winter bedtime.
3. Owl Moon
Written by Jane Yolen and Illustrated by John Schoenherr
The only thing better than a beautiful story about winter is adding in a beautiful relationship between a father and his daughter. This trip through the woods on a simple mission to find an owl is incredibly touching.
The magic of a winter’s day comes from adventure and exploration, and this story of adventure is perfectly executed. I particularly like how the little girl repeatedly describes her role on this mission with elevated importance:
“When you go owling you have to be brave.”
“If you go owling you have to be quiet and make your own heat.”
In my head it perfectly evokes that feeling of how important and special something can be for children. They have the ability to take jobs and missions and experiences that adults might consider trivial and give them the utmost importance, with fierce focus. In some ways that’s a beautiful commentary on how we as parents need to keep this perspective in mind. A simple trip through the snowy woods with dad could always end up being the most cherished memory a kid has. And this brief glimpse at their relationship inspires me to be more intentional with providing magic and adventure.
Written by Philip C. Stead and Illustrated by Erin E. Stead
The team of Philip and Erin Stead has given us several incredible picture books now. And every single one of Erin E. Stead’s illustrations of animals are so beautiful. I absolutely love her style. The two page spread of snowfall in this book is a painting I wish I had framed.
The wonderful thing about the picture books made by the Steads is that they always tend to have remarkable examples of empathetic creatures. This particular story is about the busy time just before winter. Bear is an incredibly kind soul. He has a story he wants to tell someone, and he approaches many of his friends to ask them if they want to hear it. And one by one they all tell him they have no time because they are preparing for winter. And every single time Bear simply offers his help with their preparations, even though nobody has time to hear his story.
As far as I’m concerned, Philip and Erin Stead have the market on pure love and friendship in picture books absolutely sewn up.
Written and Illustrated by Leo Lionni
As a father of kids 6 and 2, there are a few common themes I love to see in stories, and one of those themes is most certainly following your dreams and being yourself. Frederick the mouse knows what that’s all about.
Frederick is another book about busy preparations for winter. The snow is coming soon, and a family of field mice are busy gathering food. Everybody, that is, except for Frederick.
All the other mice ask Frederick why he isn’t working:
“I do work,” said Frederick. “I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days.”
“I gather colors,” answered Frederick simply. “For winter is gray.”
And when winter comes and the mice take cover, they end up needing the supplies Frederick gathered when they grow bored and restless and weak. Frederick, the unique little guy who followed his own dreams and used his own talents to make people happy, brought the other mice warmth and joy with his beautiful words and stories:
“Who scatters snowflakes? Who melts the ice?
Who spoils the weather? Who makes it nice?
Who grows the four-leaf clovers in June?
Who dims the daylight? Who lights the moon?
Four little field mice who live in the sky.
Four little field mice… like you and I.
One is the Springmouse who turns on the showers.
Then comes the Summer who paints in the flowers.
The Fallmouse is next with walnuts and wheat.
And Winter is last… with little cold feet.
Aren’t we lucky the seasons are four?
Think of a year with one less… or one more!”
Frederick is an artist. And we are very lucky to have them among us in life! A winter tale with a dash of being yourself and following your dreams is certainly enough to put Frederick over the top as our favorite snowy story.
What’s your favorite book to read in the wintertime? Let us know if we missed any of your favorite snow books in the comments!