If you’re anything like me, snow days lead to mixed feelings. Sure, snow is beautiful, and the first couple snowfalls of the year are exciting. But it’s a real pain to drive in snowy and icy weather. And if there’s enough snow that I have to stay home from work, that’s an annoyance because seriously, I have stuff to do at work.
But, if you or your child is anything like I was as a child, (and, let’s be honest here, when I was in college, too) snow days are the most special kind of days. They’re basically a spontaneous holiday, even if you still have school. But if you’re completely snowed in and can’t go anywhere, that just makes it better. And one of the best things to do on such a day is to read. I was always the kind of reader who got a sense of satisfaction out of finishing a nice, long book in a short time frame, so there were few things more fun than taking the time to read a whole novel in one sitting.
Depending upon where you live, there may be a chance that you’ll find yourself snowed in at some point during the next eight weeks or so. (Although in my area, this has been an unusually mild winter, so maybe not.) In case you are, I would like to suggest three titles, best suited for readers from fourth to eighth grade, that would be the perfect thing to keep an avid reader busy on a snow day. They are all mysteries that have more to do with uncovering history than with crime, because something about that type of plot lends itself to being a fun book to read quickly.
Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick, 2014
Truly Lovejoy’s family has moved from Texas to her father’s hometown of Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire, where Truly’s father and aunt have taken over running her grandparents’ bookstore. Truly is the middle of five children and feels a bit lost-in-the-mix at home, but she loves helping out at the bookstore. It’s there that she finds an old letter, evidently never sent, tucked into a valuable first-edition copy of Charlotte’s Web. What follows is an adventure mystery with a satisfying touch of local flavor and themes of family and friendship. It also touches upon some very serious issues, since Truly’s father is a wounded veteran, and the entire family is affected by his experiences. I personally love stories in which the protagonist digs up information about the past of their community or family, so I thought the plot of this mystery was fascinating. Since I’m mentioning it in this post, you can probably guess that this book takes place entirely in winter and involves a lot of ice and snow.
Greenglass House by Kate Milford, 2014
Twelve-year-old Milo lives in an inn run by his parents, where the guests are often smugglers. Usually, the inn is pretty quiet during winter, and Milo is looking forward to relaxing over the holidays, but his plans change when a crowd of guests show up shortly before Christmas. When some of the guests’ possessions go missing, Milo and the cook’s daughter Meddy decide to investigate. Meddy wants them to use the rules of a role-playing game to make up their detective identities, and Milo finds that his persona as Negret helps him not only to solve the mystery, but to come to terms with his own identity and background. The complexity of the plot makes this book best suited for particularly intellectual readers. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I promise that this book has a really good surprise ending. Due to a snowstorm, most of the book takes place inside the house, and the entire book takes place on the property of Greenglass House. There’s something appealing for me about a book with just one setting. It feels comfortable and cozy, which makes it a perfect snow day book.
The Marvels by Brian Selznick, 2015
Brian Selznick’s unique novel format (a combination of text and full-page drawings) is back in this story about a boy who travels to his Uncle’s house one winter and becomes curious about the history of his family. The book begins with a long series of pictures illustrating the history of the Marvel family, beginning with a shipwreck in 1766, continuing through several generations of famous actors and actresses at the Royal Theatre in London, and concluding with young Leontes Marvel running away from the theater in 1900. It then cuts to 1990, when thirteen-year-old Joseph arrives at his Uncle’s home in London after running away from boarding school. Joseph’s portion of the story takes place at Christmastime, although the winter setting is more significant than the exact date. Through conversations with his new friend Frankie, exploration of the house, and hints from his uncle, Joseph gradually pieces together a family history that he later discovers is completely incorrect.