March 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Books for a Winter’s Night

When the last leaves of fall grace the ground and a frosty nip fills the air, nothing is cozier than curling up in a favorite nook with a cup of hot chocolate—lots of marshmallows, please. Give students a stack of books for those under-a-fuzzy-blanket evenings, and no matter what hot beverage they have in their cups, these new releases about things that happen in the winter will provide hours of happy reading for school-aged kids.

ROSE, Caroline Starr. May B.: A Novel. Random/Schwartz & Wade. 2012. ISBN 9781582463933. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5-7)

Life on the prairie is never easy, but hiring May as a servant for his newlywed bride is not enough to keep a pioneer’s wife from running away. In tense verse, May’s story unfolds as she attempts to survive alone on a neighbor’s homestead while the husband goes off in search of his love. May’s struggles with reading strengthen her characterization, as readers begin to understand her crippling inner fears. Told she was incapable and stupid, May learns how strong she really is after learning to live on her own over a period of months. As memorable as a tale from the “Little House” series, May B. just may be a new long-standing favorite.

OLDER, Jules. Snowmobile: Bombardier’s Dream Machine. illus. by. Michael Lauritano. Charlesbridge. 2012. ISBN 9781580893343. JLG Level: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2-6)

Imagine a world that stops when it snows. Imagine having a sick child in the dead of winter and no way to get across the snow to take him to the doctor. Imagine that your father wants you to be a priest when you grow up, but all you can think about is building and inventing things—and motors. Such is the world of Joseph-Armand Bombadier who grew up in a little Quebec village in the early 1900s. Joseph’s dream is to become a mechanic, so at age 17 he leaves home for Montreal. His genius, coupled with hard work and determination, make him an excellent student and mechanic. He returns home to face his family. His father has a change of heart and builds him a garage where he goes on to invent a vehicle that will travel across snow.

Older writes a hi-interest story about an inventor that will capture reluctant readers. Short chapters and realistic dialogue add to the facts of this biographical retelling of the origins of the snowmobile and of a man who lived his dream.

OBED, Ellen Bryan. Twelve Kinds of Ice. illus. by Barbara McClintock. Houghton Harcourt. 2012. ISBN 9780618891290. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2-4)

One family lives through a season of twelve kinds of ice, giving readers an opportunity to experience the passing of time with the beauty of winter. The first ice forms a thin skin over the water in a bucket that leads to the last ice―the melting ice that reveals the lost puck or skate guard. Ice in all its forms and the activities that bring everyone together make Twelve Kinds of Ice a new seasonal classic. Seamlessly complemented by McClintock’s gorgeous pen-and ink-illustrations, Obed’s text describes a family that plays and celebrates together. It’s a tale of winter, a tale of families, and a tale not to be missed.

MATTESON, George and Adele Ursone. The Christmas Tugboat: How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York City. illus. by James E. Ransome. Clarion. 2012. ISBN 9780618992157. JLG Level:  P : Primary (Grades K-1)

George Matteson was a tugboat captain who was chosen to transport the Christmas tree to Rockefeller Center. Ransome’s paintings bring his family’s story to life, based on the night he took his wife and daughter to tow the barge laden with the gigantic tree. Even in the dark of night, the family seems warm and cozy. The joy of the event is punctuated by the bright colors of tour boat’s balloons and the giant Christmas tree balls on the barge. Husband and wife team share a wonderful moment in their family history that also belongs to all who love the Rockefeller tree.

FRIEDMAN, Lise and Mary Dowdle. Becoming a Ballerina: A Nutcracker Story.  Viking. 2012. ISBN 9780670013920. JLG Level: CE : City Elementary (Grades 2-6)

Fiona’s life is full of ballet. This year she will dance the role of Clara in the Boston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Her sisters will also dance in the ballet. Becoming a Ballerina tells the story from audition to opening night of Fiona’s family’s participation in this dream of all ballerinas. From the stress of callbacks to the surprises of things that don’t go quite right during the performance, readers get an inside look at the hard work and dedication that goes into the creation of a production. Documented by many behind-the-scenes photographs, Fiona and her family also make a great introduction for newcomers to the classic ballet.

For ideas about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.