Six Winter-Themed Book Gift Ideas


Winter is a uniquely enchanting time of the year and I find that books capture the essence of the season, especially picture books. Here are six children’s, middle grade, and young adult works of fiction that would make the perfect gift for a young reader!

Eat Your Heart Out  by Kelly deVos

Winter break has just begun, and Vivian Shaw reluctantly heads to fat camp, well aware she doesn’t need it. A blizzard in Flagstaff, Arizona greets the group at Camp Featherlite, but things take a sinister turn — a camper is missing, and zombies roam the campgrounds. Complicating matters, the camp is run by a sketchy pharmaceutical corporation pushing dubious weight loss protein bars. Now, with the help of other campers, Vivian must face not only the undead but also a sinister corporate agenda. Who will survive?

Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly deVos is the perfect winter read for horror enthusiasts. The characters, embodying classic horror archetypes (the action girl, the jock, the nerd, etc.), are reimagined to comment on societal pressures of body image and diet culture. Ultimately breaking out of these stereotypes, the characters offer biting satire and meta commentary on who will die next and when. Eat Your Heart Out is an action-packed love letter to the horror genre, making it an ideal gift for readers seeking an escape from the winter doldrums.

This Winter by Alice Oseman

It’s Christmas, and for Charlie, that means dodging questions from the family about his time spent away from home and getting help with his eating disorder. Charlie’s sister Tori and his little brother Oliver do their best to make Christmas less stressful, but an argument with his mom sends Charlie over the edge. He flees to his boyfriend Nick’s house, where the festivities are rambunctious, and the lines of questioning are less pointed. Will Charlie reconcile with his family, or was this Christmas the last straw? 

Alice Oseman’s This Winter is a surprisingly touching Christmas melodrama that expertly juggles topics like family dynamics, mental health, generational trauma, and identity. On top of that, Oseman’s illustrations set the perfect tone and give the reader a little more insight into the characters’ lives. A must-read for anyone feeling disconnected from their family during the holidays or for anyone who needs a feel-good story.

Middle Grade
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney

Winter is already off to a bad start. The weather is still warm, the school’s thermostat is stuck on high, and Greg Heffley is more conscious of climate change than ever. But when the snow finally falls, Greg and his best friend Rowley have to brave the elements and navigate their way through the winter warzone their neighborhood has become.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown is the 13th installment of the series and easily the most action-packed. In this book, Kinney expands the Wimpy Kid world, exploring the Lord of the Flies-esque political intricacies of the winter season and the conflict that ensues between the kids who live on top of the hill and those that live at the bottom. When Greg inadvertently initiates a territory war by building a fort, we get to see the epic fallout in this excellent addition to the Wimpy Kid series.

A Long Road on a Short Day written by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

It’s that time of year again with long nights and short days. Mama wants a brown-eyed cow to give milk to the newborn baby. Samuel and Papa set out to trade up Papa’s knife for a milk cow. But on such a short winter day, Samuel and Papa have only a few hours of daylight to spend trading with the neighbors before the snow falls. Along the way, Samuel learns about the importance of hard work and community. 

A Long Road on a Short Day is a winter essential for young readers. This seasonally appropriate coming-of-age story features themes of community and togetherness, Schmidt and Stickney’s gentle tone combined with Eugene Yelchin’s vibrant illustrations make A Long Road on a Short Day an instant winter classic.

Children’s Books
Bear and Wolf by Daniel Salmieri

Deep in the forest, a chance encounter between Bear and Wolf sparks an unlikely friendship. As the pair makes their way through the wintery world together, they discuss the sensory joy of cool air and crunching snow. But when they reach a crossroads in the form of a frozen lake, Bear and Wolf must say their silent goodbyes and return home. Will the two friends ever meet again? 

Written and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, Bear and Wolf’s incredibly expressive colored pencil drawings bring this story into its full fidelity. Each drawing has as much tenderness, curiosity, and compassion as the titular characters. Salmieri’s meditative world is one readers will want to revisit again and again, making it the perfect picture book to curl up with and read to the family on a cold winter day.

What You Need to Be Warm written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell, Benji Davies, Yuliya Gwilym, Nadine Kaadan, Daniel Egnéus, Pam Smy, Petr Horácek, Beth Suzanna, Bagram Ibatoulline, Marie-Alice Harel, Majid Adin, Richard Jones, and Oliver Jeffers

This poem answers the seemingly simple question: what do we need to be warm? Whether it be a pile of blankets, the steam of the radiator, or a hot mug, all the best ways to stay warm are represented. However, for some, the journey away from those comforts has begun. Warmth becomes scarce. It becomes an idea, a memory. But no matter how scarce, everyone deserves warmth. 

Neil Gaiman’s poem What You Need to be Warm is an examination of the experiences of displaced people, attaching vignettes of warmth to memories of home. He weaves these vignettes together with abstract and eclectic images provided by a team of 12 different artists, of dragons, ocean adventures, and a bundled-up traveler. Towards the end of the poem, the images become less abstract with families sharing bread in a tent encampment or another family huddled around a fire wrapped in a single blanket. Gaiman reminds us of the truest warmth: empathy. 

Kasey Taylor, Pine Reads Review Writer