Alice B. McGinty/Books for Kids: Stories to get in the mood for winter

Alice B. McGinty/Books for Kids: Stories to get in the mood for winter

Winter is upon us, suddenly, it seems, and with it comes the holiday season. A visit to the local Barnes & Noble bookstore, with its friendly atmosphere and helpful staff, led me to these two new picture books, offering unique, well-crafted winter stories with subtle holiday tones.

In "The Wish Tree" (2016, Chronicle Books, written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Chris Turnham, ages 2-6), when Charles sets out one winter morning to find a wish tree, his brother and sister say, "There is no such thing." But Boggan (a toboggan) is ready to go. Into the woods, they go. "Where Charles went Boggan followed. Where Boggan went Charles followed. 'La-di-da-di-da-di-daaaa,' sang Charles. 'Whishhhhh,' sang Boggan."

They have the whole day ahead of them. On their journey, they find a squirrel, puzzling over how to get hazelnuts home, and they offer him a ride. They help a beaver bring birch wood to his lodge. They assist a fox that is late getting berries to her burrow.

However, now they have less than half a day left to find a wish tree, and the shadows grow longer. "Boggan," Charles said. "I am tired. I cannot. Search. Any. Longer."

"Shhhhh," whispered Boggan, and he and the animals pull Charles along, sleeping now, through the snow.

It was snowing when Charles awoke. "For a moment Charles could not see through the falling snow. But then he said, "oh, look." Ahead of them in a clearing was a simple white pine tree, aglow in the natural light beautifully rendered in the muted, magical illustrations.

Charles writes his wish on paper, tying it to a branch of the tree. And as a gentle snow falls, Charles and the animals feast together — on hazelnut souffl from the squirrel, birch tea from the beaver and berry biscuits from the fox — before he heads home, his quest complete.

This celebration of searching, giving and friendship shows a true fulfillment of wishes and makes a beautiful winter and holiday book.

In another winter story, "Waiting for Snow" (2016, Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt, written by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Renata Liwska, ages 2-6), Hedgehog finds Beaver staring at the sky, waiting for snow. "It's winter and I haven't seen one snowflake," Beaver says.

"It will snow in snow's time," said Hedgehog. "All we have to do is wait."

But Beaver does not want to wait. He drags pots and pans outside from the kitchen to try to wake up the snow. This brings Rabbit, Vole and Possum flying, but no snow. Rabbit suggests throwing pebbles at the sky to make holes for the snow to fall, but that doesn't work either.

"It will never snow," groaned Beaver.

"When it's spring, crocus bulbs always bloom," said Hedgehog though sometimes they are late."

Still, Beaver and the other animals try a snow dance — to no avail.

"The sun comes back every day," said Hedgehog, "and the stars every night."

Beaver and the animals attempt more ways to bring the snow.

"Sometimes they come late and sometimes early," Hedgehog reminds them of nature's cycles. "But they always come, in their time."

And so his friends sit beside Badger, and they wait. "Until it was time."

Delicate pencil drawings, expressive in emotion, color and movement, bring the animals to life in this warm lyrical tale about patience, nature and friendship.

Both of these books bring warmth and light to the winter and the holidays.

Alice B. McGinty (, is the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children and was recently named the recipient of the 2017 Illinois Reading Council's Prairie State Award for Excellence in Writing for Children. McGinty enjoys doing author visits and teacher training in schools and libraries.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):Books, People