One of the best things about reading is that you can read any book (adventure, mystery, fantasy, dystopia) anywhere (up a tree, behind the curtains, under the table, in the kitchen sink…) But there are certain books best read at certain times of the year. For example, Louis Sachar’s Holes, about a boy called Stanley Yelnats who must dig a hole a day, five feet deep and five feet across, in the scorched soil of Camp Green Lake, is best read in the summer – when you’re actually hot. Read it on a cold wintry day and Stanley’s baking hot juvenile detention centre begins to seem like a pretty nice holiday camp…
So as we wriggle deeper into the winter months, let’s hear it for the books that bring worlds of frost, icicles and snow to life. First up is Sam Gayton’s The Snow Merchant. Lettie Peppercorn lives in a house on stilts near the wind-swept coast of Albion. Nothing incredible has ever happened to her, until one winter’s night. The night the Snow Merchant comes. He claims to be an alchemist – the greatest that ever lived – and in a mahogany suitcase, he carries his newest invention. It is an invention that will change Lettie’s life – and the world – forever. It is an invention called snow. The book boasts lines as brilliant as ‘In came the moonbeams. They pooled on the window ledges like wax’ and an ingenious recipe for snow:
Made with LOVE, ALCHEMY and the following INGREDIENTS (listed in their order of use):
A length of silence, at least a hundred years long
Dust motes, charged with static
Seven drops of aether
One teaspoon of salt
A string of frost, threaded through an icicle
A grey cloud, spun upon a silver wheel
Cut the century-long silence into seven tiny moments.
Sprinkle the moments with dust and static.
Add a drop of aether to each.
Then throw in the dice (which ensures the snow remembers to have six sides).
Repeat this six times (for luck).
Stir in a teaspoon of salt (so the snow will melt).
Sew everything inside the cloud, using the icicle needle and thread of frost.
Finally, add water.
Next up is one of Moontrug’s favourite books: Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world… You’ll need to be curled up in an armchair by the fire to face that lot. Kicking back on a sun-lounger by a pool just ain’t going to cut it…
Following on from Lyra, we’ve got the frozen lair of Wintercombe in Catherine Fisher’s Obsidian Mirror. Jake’s father disappears while working on mysterious experiments with the obsessive, reclusive Oberon Venn. Jake is convinced Venn has murdered him. But the truth he finds at the snow-bound Wintercombe Abbey is far stranger… Fisher makes you feel the freezing breath of the ice wolf chasing after Sarah and she makes you shiver at the snow crunching under Gideon’s sorrowful feet. Read this book wrapped up in a blanket in bed – you’re going to need the covers for the sinister Janus, not to mention the merciless Shee. Read about Moontrug meeting the talented Catherine Fisher HERE.
Last but not least, an old classic. You cannot beat one of the most magical winter tales of all time: C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Moontrug and her truggy family used to huddle by the fire and watch the BBC adaption of this book every Christmas; the theme tune still sends magical icy shivers down Moontrug’s spine. Try it. Four children, evacuees from World War Two, find themselves sent away from London to an old professor’s house in the country. Miserable and homesick, the Pevensie children stumble across an old wardrobe with a secret. On the other side of this wardrobe is the mystical land of Narnia, where talking fawns and wolf guards roam. But Narnia is controlled by the White Witch in an eternal winter and before long, the Pevensie children find themselves fighting to restore goodness to Narnia in the name of the real king, Aslan. Shades, beach towels and suncream just won’t work with this book. It’s all crackling fires, hot drinks and thick winter coats.
So wherever you are this Christmas holidays, pick up a book and get reading. Gayton, Pullman, Fisher and C.S. Lewis have snow-capped worlds of wonder waiting for you. So step on in…