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6 books to beat the winter blues

February 3, 2011

Published by The Christian Science Monitor and The Huffington Post

The groundhog may have seen his shadow yesterday, but for those of us enduring a blizzard a week spring still seems a distant prospect. So instead of fighting winter, why not embrace it? Here are six inspiring reads to remind all of us of the awesome beauty – and perilous power – of the season.

1. “The Long Winter,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

If any book will give readers a sense of perspective, it’s Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter, the sixth volume in her Little House series. Many Wilder fans consider this semi-autobiographical novel to be the most exciting of her writings – for ample reason. In October, 1880, Laura and her family wake to an early blizzard howling outside their isolated South Dakota shanty. During the seven months of near constant snow and bitter cold that follows, the family subsists on potatoes and course bread before running out of food altogether. The true survival story will leave readers grateful for modern amenities.

2. “Into the Wild,” by Jon Krakauer

Whereas Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family were forced by circumstance to endure an unrelenting winter, Christopher McCandless – for unknown reasons – chose his fate. After graduating from Emory University in 1990, the young man gave away his savings, cut ties with friends and family, and eventually hitchhiked to Alaska. With little more than 10 pounds of rice on his back, he set off into the remote, freezing wilderness. His body was found four months later. In bestselling Into the Wild Jon Krakauer details McCandless’s journey while attempting to explain why he abandoned society.

3. “The Call of the Wild,” by Jack London

Famed writer Jack London’s most-read novel, The Call of the Wild, takes place on the frozen lands of Alaska during the Yukon gold rush. When the book opens, shepherd dog Buck is happily domesticated in California. His life, however, becomes quite the opposite when he’s kidnapped, sold to a pair of Canadians, and trained as a sled dog. He’s horribly mistreated until a kindhearted outdoorsman comes to the rescue. The classic book, published in 1903, explores ageless themes such as the relationship between a dog and his owner and the primordial pull of nature.

4. “The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats

Perhaps the surest way to blast the winter blues is to be reminded of the simple pleasures that a snowy day can provide. In Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day a boy wakes up to an exciting event: the first snow of winter. With uninhibited joy, he goes outside to explore the silent, snow-covered city. He makes footprints in a clean path, knocks snow from a tree’s branches, and builds a snowman and an angel. Keats won the Caldecott Medal in 1963 for the book’s striking cut-out illustrations. “The Snowy Day” also broke ground for featuring one of the first African-American protagonists in a picture book.

5. “The Mitten,” by Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s charmingly illustrated 32-page storybook “The Mitten” can do wonders for any child – or parent – longing for spring. At his request, Baba knits her grandson Nicki a pair of white mittens. She warns him, though, that they will be hard to find if dropped in the snow. Nicki does lose a mitten, but many creatures benefit from it: a mole, rabbit, hedgehog, owl, badger, fox, mouse, and even a bear find refuge in the warm, snuggly winter fabric. How nine animals manage to squeeze into a little boy’s mitten is a delightful marvel for readers.

6. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by Robert Frost with illustrations by Susan Jeffers

Robert Frost’s 1922 poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” brings to mind that moment when one stops to watch the snow fall, when everything is still. In 1978 it was paired with fittingly beautiful illustrations by Susan Jeffers. The picture book version of the poem is a good way to introduce children to the writer’s work. In any format, however, the poem serves as a reminder of winter’s magic. While the season’s appeal may be hard to see in daily life at this time of year, it endures in literature.

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