I know this may be unexciting news for anyone much north of Oxford, but although it's been freezing here since Christmas, these stray flakes are the first for me. So I'm inspired to recommend my favourite wintery children's books to curl up with - if you can - ideally on a deep window seat with the dusk falling and a real fire flickering in the room, watching the world outside turn white.
My first is John Masefield's 'The Box of Delights', given me as a present when I was seven, and re-read constantly ever since. It's a wonderful, exuberent mixture. Young Kay Harker, coming home for the Christmas holidays to his rambling old house of 'Seekings' encounters a mysterious Punch and Judy man who tells him, 'the Wolves are running'. From then on it's a mixture of magic, ancient history and modern villains as the wizard Abner Brown, in charge of a band of international jewel thieves, serially kidnaps the Dean, Bishop and entire chapter of Tatchester Cathedral in an attempt to capture the marvellous Box of Delights. Snow, firelight, winged taxis, Arthurian camps and utter magic!
My second comfort read would be Alan Garner's 'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen' - especially the part where the children, Gowther and the dwarves are fleeing through the Cheshire landscape pursued by the terrifying mara, while their supernatural enemies call up the unnatural Fimbulwinter. There's a brilliant description of the discomforts of clambering through rhodedendrons: and the final stand on Shuttlingslow is terrific.
My third - all these are books I adored as a child and still love - is 'The Silver Chair' by C.S. Lewis. My favourite of the Narnia stories, and perhaps the least problematic, it too has wonderful descriptions of a cold and miserable journey over snowy moors, and then the children and Puddleglum arrive at the deceptive comfort and security of the giant's castle at Harfang. I always wanted to try a giant bath large enough to swim in, and to get dry by 'rolling around' on giant towels in front of a fire large enough to burn a young oak tree.
On the same lines, I'd recommend the attempted journey over Caradhras in The Fellowship of the Ring'. Nothing like reading about avalanches to make you feel cosy, curled up in a warm armchair: and you can follow the Fellowship on into the dark halls of Moria...
Coming more up to date, Garth Nix's 'Sabriel' is great for - again - atmospheric and arduous journeys through the dangerous death-haunted snows of the Old Kingdom: and if you haven't read his account of the nine other-worldly river gates leading into Death, do go and find it. Nix writes amazingly well and his monsters are unusual and convincing.
B.B.'s 'Brendon Chase' is a charming book about three boys living wild in the woods, and the writer was a naturalist and can transport you outdoors into the snow or the summer with the utmost ease.
Finally, 'Jane Eyre' is another comfort book - Jane's privations at Lowood Academy, the Gothic darkness at Thornwood Hall, the meeting with Mr Rochester and his black dog on the icy road, her flight across the moors - what are you waiting for?
Let the snow fall! Happy reading!