Tag Archive | snow book

The Dark Is Rising

There was a point in elementary school when it seemed like everyone was reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence, and somehow I never did. The other week, I decided to rectify that. I was at the library, and The Dark Is Rising caught my eye. Only later did I realize the first book in the series is actually Over Sea, Under Stone, but The Dark Is Rising works as a standalone.

A few things struck me as I was reading. First, The Dark Is Rising is a great snow book, and more specifically, a great Christmas book. I really read it at the wrong time of year (and in the wrong climate). Second, it was rather extraordinary that so many Old Ones should just happen to be around in this one village in Buckinghamshire. Everyone from the lady of the manor to the smith to the farmer down the road…

Third, and most significantly, The Dark Is Rising really reminded me of Madeleine L’Engle. Both she and Susan Cooper published their most famous books around the same time (the 1960s and 1970s). Both authors write about special children in warm, well-adjusted, close-knit families. In both The Dark Is Rising and L’Engle’s Time Quartet, there is a cosmic battle being waged between Good and Evil, but it’s not very clear why or why Good is Good and Evil is Evil. The protagonists are sort of swept along in events they mostly don’t understand, guided along the way by mysterious adult figures who speak cryptically of a vague, larger context. Also, Cooper and L’Engle both draw on various mythologies to enrich their worlds.

The Dark Is Rising felt like an older kind of fantasy for children (which it is), a kind that I find in some ways unsatisfying. Will never seemed to struggle to master any of his new powers. He would be attacked by some force of the Dark and manage to overcome it just by holding up his collection of Signs. As for the Signs themselves, they just kept getting dropped into his lap. He doesn’t have to solve any puzzles to find them; he hardly even has to seek them out. He also doesn’t seem to direct much of the action. Old Ones just keep showing up and telling him, or taking him, where he needs to go next. On the other hand, I gradually found myself really enjoying the book, especially Will’s relationship with his family. Of course, it might just have been all the snow.

Pancakes and Greenglass House

These are the pancakes we ate last night for Shrove Tuesday. (If I’d made crêpes, I would have called it Mardi Gras.)


The other day I finished reading Kate Milford’s middle grade mystery Greenglass House. I loved it and highly recommend it. Among other things, it’s definitely earned a place among my favorite snow books. (Those of you in the Northeast may not feel like reading a book about a snowed-in inn just now, but I have to enjoy my snow vicariously.)

Greenglass House is the name of the inn run by the Pine family. It stands on a cliff above the town of Nagspeake, overlooking the river Skidwrack (those names!), and it is mostly frequented by smugglers. Milo Pine, who is adopted and Chinese, is just beginning his winter break and expects to spend a quiet Christmas holiday in an empty inn with his parents. Instead, five guests arrive in quick succession on a snowy evening until Greenglass House is positively crowded. And then it keeps snowing. And sleeting. And snowing.

This book combines two great premises: a household snowed in and a collection of eccentric characters who are all harboring secrets. Mysterious things start to happen right away, and Milo, along with Meddy, the daughter of the inn’s cook, follow clues that lead to revelations about the various guests, the history of Greenglass House, and the most famous smuggler of Nagspeake. Meanwhile, the snow is beautiful, the house is cozy (at least until the power goes out), and the characters drink a new mug of hot chocolate in practically every chapter.

Greenglass House reminded me a bit of The Seventh Cousin by Florence Laughlin, a book I suspect is out of print. Like The Snowstorm, it was one of my mother’s Weekly Reader books from when she was a child. In The Seventh Cousin, three children living in an apartment building called the Tower Arms investigate a mystery related to the heiress of the building. It has a similar feel to Greenglass House in that the action is confined to a single house whose residents form the cast of characters, and the young protagonists interact a lot with adults both benevolent and duplicitous.

My Favorite Snow Books

I’ve been suffering from snow envy this week. The Twin Cities just got snow, and Swarthmore just got snow, but there is a sad dearth of it here in southern California.

I love snow. The way it glitters under the cold winter sun. The way it settles on evergreen boughs and caps fence posts and frosts every leafless branch with white. The serpentine way it blows across a frozen pond. I love the blueness of snowy evenings and the way falling snow makes the world quiet.

Hague Ave

St. Paul, MN – December 2012

Sparkers is set in wintertime, and there are a few lovely snowfalls in it. I was musing the other day about the books I think of when I think of snow. I mean books that are made richly atmospheric by snow, books in which snow is almost a character. Here are the three that came to mind:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: I know, I know, the snow represents the power of the White Witch over Narnia (“always winter and never Christmas” and all that), but I love it when Lucy pushes her way through the fur coats in the wardrobe and finds herself in a snowy wood at night. And Pauline Baynes’ illustrations of the Lantern Waste in the snow and of Lucy and Mr. Tumnus traipsing through the snow-bedecked trees are a bonus.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely: I’m a big Orhan Pamuk fan, and this is my favorite of his novels (it was also my introduction to Pamuk, in 12th grade World Literature). Against a backdrop of ever-falling snow, the melancholy poet Ka frequents a sheikh, boys from the religious high school, a theatre troupe, and a radical in hiding, all as a coup unfolds in the snowed-in city of Kars. (Also: this book always reminds me of the time I stealthily followed Orhan Pamuk across Harvard Yard…)


Swarthmore College – February 2010

The Snowstorm by Beryl Netherclift: This was one of my mother’s old Weekly Reader books, and it completely captured my imagination when I was a kid. Three English children sent to stay with their Great-aunt Amethyst in an old house called Farthingales. A snowstorm (that is, a snow globe) that bends time. Secret passageways and lost family treasures. And then, when a real snowstorm hits and Aunt Amethyst fails to return from her errand to town, the children find themselves snowed in alone… This book is why the name Faraday will always have a mysterious, enchanting quality to me; why I know of the poet John Drinkwater (“At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows…”); and how I first heard of Bovril and Ovaltine.

What are your favorite snow books?