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Beyond the Claus: Winter & Holiday Reading Recommendations That Go Beyond Just Christmas


While Christmas stories are a ton of fun, at this time of year it's easy for other holidays, traditions, and narratives to get overlooked.

To highlight the wealth of wintry and holiday reading out there beyond the usual Christmas-themed tales, we asked our friends in the Ontario Book Publisher Organization to share some of their recent favourites. 

With the holidays right around the corner, and plenty of winter to come after that, check out these titles (including books for young people, fiction, and nonfiction!) for some unexpected winter fun and you cozy up with the most important cold weather accessory: a great book.

The Most Amazing Bird 

By Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak, Illustrated by Andrew Qappik (Annick Press)

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From a renowned Inuit storyteller, this is a tale of a young girl, her grandmother, and seeing beauty in unexpected places.

Touching and wise, it's a great way to talk to kids about nature and the seasons as well as appearances and friendship. 

Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White

by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, Illustrated by Eva Campbell (Groundwood Books)

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A beautiful picture book that follows a mother and daughter on a walk through a snowy city.

A great exploration of the longing for home and belonging, and a story of opening yourself up to new kinds of beauty. 

Soulmates On Ice: From Hometown Glory to Top of the Podium

by Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford with Laura E. Young (Latitude 46 Publishing)

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Following the fairy tale of pairs figure skaters Duhamel and Radford from their origins in Northern Ontario to their status as Olympic medalists, this is a great read for fans of the sport and anyone who dreams of making it big. 

The Three Brothers

by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood Books)

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The three titular brothers set out on a snowy adventure in search of wild animals in the forest. When their grandfather was a child, the forest teemed with animals, but now it seems empty. What happened?

A gentle and beautiful book from renowned author-illustrator Gay, The Three Brothers is a child-friendly way to explore climate change and its effect on the animal kingdom. 

Livi and Nate

By Kalle Hakkola, Illustrated by Mari Ahokoivu (Owlkids)

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One night when Livi can't sleep, her imagination takes readers on a series of adventures, with a visit from a giant snow bear making a star turn.

An accessible entry to graphic novels for younger readers, complete with speech bubbles, this ode to imagination will charm the kids in your life. 

Do Frogs Drink Hot Chocolate?

by Etta Kaner, Illustrated by John Martz (Owlkids)

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How do animals keep warm when winter comes?

From polar bears' homes to (hooray!) snuggling penguins, this book is a fun, playful way to explore adaptation and evolution with young readers in an easy and engaging question-and-answer format.

Snow Days

by Deborah Kerbel, Illustrated by Miki Sato (Pajama Press)

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A picture book in rhyming couplets, Snow Days celebrates the magic of snow from a preschooler's point of view.

Perfect to unwind with after a chilly day of fun with the little ones. 

The Lost Spells

by Robert Macfarlane, Illustrated by Jackie Morris (House of Anansi Press)

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These poems, brought to life with Morris' beautiful watercolours, is an ode to the magic of the natural world.

Filled with wintry favourites like red foxes, birch trees, and more, the final spell poem "Silver Birch" captures the cozy, cold wonder of night falling over a snowy landscape

Nutcracker Night

by Mireille Messier, Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard (Pajama Press)

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A picture book packed with kid-friendly and fun onomatopoeia that will have everyone reading aloud, Nutcracker Night follows a small child's sensory-rich journey to the titular ballet. 

Back Roads

by Andree Michaud, translated by J. C. Sutcliffe (House of Anansi Press)

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Magic realism, a wintry forest, and a character who encounters herself - this trippy, chilly, and surreal crime drama will keep you utterly absorbed till the end. 

Polar Vortex

by Shani Mootoo (Book*hug Press)

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This 2020 Giller Prize-nominated novel delves into a world of secrets and revenge in a chilly Canadian small town when Priya reverses years of hiding from Prakash and invites him to her new, remote home.  

One to Remember: Stories from 39 Members of the NHL’s One Goal Club

by Ken Reid (ECW Press)

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A perfect read for fans, this is a hockey book with an interesting twist: it features interviews with NHL'ers who scored just one time, and what that big goal meant to them.

Whether called up from the minors or even, in one case, a Hall of Famer, these interviews and Reid's accessible and absorbing storytelling capture the moment a Canadian dream comes true. 

The Role I Played: Canada’s Greatest Olympic Hockey Team

by Sami Jo Small (ECW Press)

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A memoir of Small's ten years with Canada’s National Women’s Hockey Team, The Role I Played follows the inspiring goalie for one of Canada's most successful sports teams.

The Olympic medalist offers a gritty, compelling view of the ups and downs of the demands of an elite athletic life. 


And a few bonus recommendations for great reads that aren't strictly winter or holiday-themed:

The Dependent: A Memoir of Marriage and the Military
by Danielle Daniel (Latitude 46 Publishing)

Daniil and Vanya
by Marie-Helene Larochelle, translated by Michelle Winters (Invisible Publishing)

The Dark Library
by Cyrille Martinez, translated by Joseph Patrick Stancil (Coach House Books)

The Pine Islands 
by Marion Poschmann, translated by Jen Calleja (Coach House Books)

Reflections in Glass and Stone
by Peter Allen Rice (Crossfield Publishing)

Whatever you read over the holidays and to kick off the New Year, we hope it fills you with hope and inspiration for the coming months.

Open Book will be back in the New Year with more Canadian literary content for you. Wish warm wishes and thanks to all our readers - see you in 2021!