Midwinter Storybooks

There’s nothing quite like snuggling up in a fresh pair of pyjamas and woolly socks on a cold winters night and being read a story by a member of your family or loved one when you’re a child. The stories that are read to us as children stay with us long after we’ve grown and have the knack of taking us back to times of cosiness (and at this time of year – times of festivities) each time we revisit them. So in honour of the season, I’ve gathered together some of my favourite storybooks for little ones (and not so little ones) to enjoy before bedtime.

  1. Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

The stories of Brambly Hedge are as quintessential to childhood for me as figgie pudding is on Christmas Day. With many stories from Brambly Hedge following the seasons of the year, we visit Brambly Hedge twice at Christmastime – once in The Winter Story and again in The Secret Staircase. With beautiful (and I mean beautiful) illustrations, charismatic charm and many an adventure to be had, the tales of Primrose, Wilfred and the rest of the neighbourhood are simply perfect to escape to no matter if you’re 2 or 102!

2. One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth

Who doesn’t love Percy the Park Keeper? Jolly, kind and always there to lend a helping hand, Percy not only looks after the park but he also looks out for all of the animals who call the park their home, and this wintery night is no different. With snow mounting up outside Percy hunkers down in his little hut, but it seems that Percy isn’t the only one who’s trying to stay warm this snowy night! Wonderfully illustrated, this wintery tale of helping friends in need is sure to warm you up on a cold night before bed (and is best read alongside a big mug of cocoa)!

3. Selah’s Gift for Father Christmas by Jeannelle Brew and Sarah Jane Docker

I’ve noticed this year how little people of colour are represented in Christmas books and so I went on the search for inclusive children’s Christmas stories and the awesome bookshop Round Table came up trumps with this lovely festive creation written by Jeannelle Brew and illustrated by Sarah Jane Docker. Selah’s Gift for Father Christmas is about a little girl who is wanting to find Father Christmas the perfect present to open up on Christmas morning as she doesn’t want him being left out. Set against the backdrop of urban life, Selah, along with her parents and best friends, manages to find the best present just in time! A lovely, cosy festive read with family, kindness and community at the heart of the story – what’s not to love?!

4. The First Snow of Winter by Graham Ralph and Sue Tong

Originally a Christmas TV movie on the BBC (1998), The First Snow of Winter is a tale of little duck named Sean who has rather a knack of getting himself into mischief. With his sense of adventure leading him into the biggest pickle he’s been in so far, he ends up missing his first migration with his family to find a warmer home for winter. Left in Ireland with an injured wing, Sean is befriended by kind Voley to help him prepare to settle down for the snow to come, but even Voley has to hibernate to see the winter through; so poor Sean has to face his biggest adventure yet alone. Full of friendship, adventure and fluffy snow this little story of a small duckling and puffin is great to share on chilly afternoons!

5. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Is there another TV moment that marks the feeling of Christmas Eve for most of the nation better than the scene of the Snowman and boy flying through the air with the first few notes of a young Aled Jones starting to play out in the background? For me it brings the magic of Christmas Eve each year and the book is just as magical as the famous adaptation. Quiet and full of atmosphere this is a great story to share with little ones as you can narrate the story together as you go, and it’s also a lovely read for the big kid in us all to immerse in after a busy day when you don’t want to focus on words but are in need of a little nostalgic wintery escape. A true Christmas classic that continues to be passed down from generation to generation.

[Don’t forget Raymond Briggs’ other festive books which include The Snowman and Snowdog and the awesome but grumpy Father Christmas – who is sure to get you ready for “another bloomin’ Christmas”!]

6. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

I don’t know of another book that brings as much hope, happiness, clarity, strength and kindness to the world than this one. Although technically not a winter book, I’ve found reading it on dark winter nights a perfect setting. Simply told and full of kindness and wisdom, this book can be read from front to back, from back to front or anywhere in between. With echos of A.A. Milne, this story of a little lost boy, a cake-loving mole, a life-worn fox and a tall wise horse is quietly incredible. The four friends fare many a storm, spend time together and learn to live despite it all and it’s truly one of the most special books I’ve ever encountered that I wish was part of every home. With simplistic yet intricately beautiful illustrations on every page this is undoubtedly a book for everyone and with the sentiment of ‘if in doubt, eat cake’ I don’t think there’s anything not to love about this tale of four friends!

[If you’d like to experience The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse in a different way Charlie Mackesy has just released an audiobook edition which is just as lovely! It has the occasional accompaniment of bird song which makes for a very peaceful way to end the day or for some time out when you’re need of a little friendly hand to help you along the way. You can also find more of his wonderful creations on Instagram – @charliemackesy]

7. Jolly Snow by Jane Hissey

Jane Hissey’s stories of Old Bear and Friends are a family favourite in our household with many an afternoon from my childhood spent reading the stories and watching the TV adaption (ITV 1993-1997). Old Bear and the other toys who’s home is the playroom, always find a way to make the day fun whether it’s by having a picnic, an adventure or welcoming a new toy to the family; and in the tale of Jolly Snow, our giraffe friend Jolly Tall is wishing and wishing that the wintery day outside would bring some snow but nothing seems to arrive. So the toys take it upon themselves to bring a snow day to the playroom instead – for if you really wish for something, sometimes it just takes a little bit of team effort to bring your wish to life!

8. Ruby Red Shoes goes to London by Kate Knapp

Ruby Red Shoes is a very aware hare who lives with her grandma Babushka Galushka. They live in their very prettily decorated caravan with a vegetable patch and a gaggle of chickens. Together they love caring for nature, looking up at the stars and telling stories (oh and teaching their chickens french!). In Ruby Red Shoes goes to London Ruby and Babushka travel to London one wintery day and discover the delights of the city! This is a lovely little series that has charm, gentleness and storytelling magic on every page.

9. A Christmas in Cornwall by Craig Green and Oliver Hurst

Set in a Cornish town two little girls await the arrival of their fisherman father to come home for Christmas, but with Christmas Eve here and still no sign of him, the girls alongside their grandmother prepare for the big day ahead. With rhythmic storytelling, coastal setting and a little sprinkling of magic, this story of family and festivities is a lesser known but lovely tale that’s perfect for sharing on the days leading up to Christmas.

10. Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon

This is a short little story of a kind young penguin who discovers a lost and very chilly pinecone far from home. Trying to make little Pinecone feel welcome, Penguin spends his days showing Pinecone all of the fun things they can do together in the snow, but noticing that poor Pinecone is finding it hard to settle in Penguin sets out on an expedition to find Pinecones home. A simple story that’s great for little ones and which reminds us all how kindness and friendship can change the world (and the ending is darn cute too – what’s not to love)!

11. The Forgotten Toys

Based on James Stevenson’s book The Night after Christmas I remember loving the story of The Forgotten Toys as a child and I even dressed up as Annie the rag doll for World Book Day one year! The story of Annie and grumpy old Teddy is set on Boxing Day night when they find themselves discarded and thrown out in place of new shiny modern toys given on Christmas Day. The two set out to find another home and child to belong to, but on the streets of a busy city it’s not as simple as they’d hoped for.

12. Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes is about as British as it gets when it comes to children’s storybooks. Her illustrations sum up the cheekiness, the sweetness and the happiness of childhood and her selection of Christmastime books bring happy memories to many generations. Whether it’s her seasonal poems, Lucy and Toms Christmas, Christmas Eve Ghost, Angel Mae, or the brand new Christmas Dogger you’ll be sure to get the whole family feeling festive when reading these as bedtime stories.

13. Narnia ~ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis and Christian Birmingham

I remember having this adapted storybook version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as a child and it still gives me the cosiness and magical feelings that it did then. It’s brilliant for bedtime reading or for snuggling up beside the fireside with, and alongside the beautiful illustrations this abridged tale allows younger readers to escape through the wardrobe and experience the magical world of Narnia.

Thank you for reading this weeks festive blog. I hope you have a lovely December wherever you are despite any difficulties this year has brought and may the New Year bring you all good things and much happiness! Merry Midwinter and as ever – happy reading! :]

For more recommendations, adventures and antics from a bookseller you can find me on Instagram @viewsfromabookshop

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