One of the things I love about reading is how a good book takes you to another place. This time of year, when every day seems hotter than the next, it’s nice to go somewhere a little cooler—or even ice-cold.
This list is all about books with ice and snow. You’ll find everything from magic to mystery set in all kinds of exotic (but cold!) locations. Even if you’re reading outside on a steamy summer day, I bet exploring the frozen wilderness with Stella, learning martial arts figure skating with Peasprout, traveling to Antarctica with Jack, and all the other stories on the list will make that heat more bearable. I feel cooler already just thinking about it!
For more books with a winter theme—and my famous hot cocoa recipe—take a look at Cozy Winter Must Reads.
1. The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club by Alex Bell
You’ve got to love Stella’s determination to become an explorer, even when the rules are against her. I also love that she has a pet polar bear and a unicorn! How amazing would that be? Then there are her companions: a wolf whisperer, a magician, and a half elf. Exactly the sort of people you want to go exploring with, right?
Amazon Description: Stella Starflake Pearl knows, without a doubt, that she was born to be an adventurer. It’s too bad girls are forbidden from becoming explorers.
But Stella’s father has never been one to play by the rules.
Leaving behind her pet polar bear, Gruff, and beloved unicorn, Magic, Stella and Felix set off on an expedition to the snowy Icelands. There, Stella plans to prove herself as a junior explorer, worthy of membership in the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. So when Stella and three other junior explorers are separated from the rest of their expedition, she has the perfect opportunity. Can they explore the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?
2. The Great Shelby Holmes and the Coldest Case by Elizabeth Eulberg
I love a mystery and this take on the classic Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson duo is such fun. If you like this one, there are more in this series. For more series suggestions, check out Summer Series for Middle Grade Readers.
Amazon Description: Being friends with a super sleuth isn’t easy, especially when she’s nine years old, four feet tall, and full of attitude. But for eleven-year-old John Watson, being friends with Shelby Holmes is just the adventure he’s looking for.
After Watson’s online journal chronicling his and Shelby’s case-closing abilities attracts the attention of a newspaper reporter, the pair becomes a small “media sensation” in their Harlem neighborhood. So it’s no surprise (at least, to Shelby!) when the article lands them a new client—a figure skating coach whose star athlete, Jordan Nelson, is receiving strange, threatening messages, written entirely in code.
There’s no one better to crack the cipher than dynamic duo Shelby and Watson! But to gather information, Shelby decides that they’ll have to go undercover . . . as an award-winning pair skating team. Can they use the laws of physics and their acting skills to maintain their covers and figure out who’s sending Jordan such strange messages before it’s too late?
3. Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Imagine having to run for your life through snow-covered mountains! This is an exciting adventure set in Tibet, which is not a place I’m really familiar with, so it’s interesting to learn more about it.
Amazon Description: Tash lives in Tibet, where as a practicing Buddhist she must follow many rules to avoid the wrath of the occupying Chinese soldiers. Life remains peaceful as long as Tash, her family, and their community hide their religion and don’t mention its leader, the Dalai Lama.
The quiet is ruptured when a man publicly sets himself on fire to protest the occupation. In the crackdown that follows, soldiers break into Tash’s house and seize her parents. Tash barely escapes, and soon she and her best friend, Sam, along with two borrowed yaks, flee across the mountains, where they face blizzards, hunger, a treacherous landscape, and the constant threat of capture. It’s a long, dangerous trip to the Indian border and safety—and not all will make it there.
This action-packed novel tells a story of courage, hope, and the powerful will to survive, even in the most desperate circumstances.
4. Jack and the Geniuses: At the Bottom of the World by Bill Nye & Gregory Mone
Go from the roof of the world in the last book to the bottom of the world in this one, where you can join Jack, Ava and Matt as they head to Antarctica. This is part of a series that takes on adventures around the world, where the kids take on some of science’s biggest challenges. Bonus: Each book includes cool facts about the real-life science found in the story and a fun DIY project.
Amazon Description: Jack and his foster siblings, Ava and Matt, are not your typical kids—they’re geniuses. Well, Ava and Matt are. Ava speaks multiple languages and builds robots for fun, and Matt is an expert astronomer and math whiz. As for Jack, it’s hard to stand out when surrounded by geniuses all the time.
Things get more complicated when the trio starts working for Dr. Hank Witherspoon, one of the world’s leading scientists. They travel to Antarctica with Hank for a prestigious award ceremony—but they quickly find that not all is as it seems: A scientist has gone missing. It’s up to Jack, Ava, and Matt to find her . . . and discover who’s behind it all.
5. The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh
This one doesn’t just take you to a different season—it’s set a long, long time ago back in the Middle Ages. Here you’ll find goblins, dark secrets, a buried angel (what?), magic and more. This is the first in a series, so there’s more where this came from.
Amazon Description: A buried angel! When a hobgoblin confesses the horrible secret of Crowfield Abbey to the monks’ apprentice, the boy is drawn into a haunting medieval mystery and a world of Old Magic.
An angel is buried behind the abbey! It’s 1347, and Will, an orphan boy, lives and works as an apprentice of the Crowfield monks. Sent into the forest to gather firewood, he stumbles across a trapped, wounded creature no bigger than a cat.
The little goblin shares a terrible secret: Buried deep in the snow behind the monastery is an angel. But, Will wonders, how can an angel die? And what does this angel have to do with the history of Crowfield? When two cloaked strangers show up and start asking questions, Will is drawn into a dangerous world of Old Magic.
6. Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien
I love this description from The New York Times: “It’s Hermione Granger meets ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ meets the Ice Capades meets ‘Mean Girls.’” I couldn’t have said it better myself! Also: martial arts figure skating? Is that even a thing? It is in this book!
Amazon Description: Welcome to Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, where the blades are sharp and the competition is fierce.
Peasprout Chen dreams of becoming a legend of wu liu, the deadly and beautiful art of martial arts figure skating. As the first students from the rural country of Shin to attend Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout and her little brother Cricket have some pretty big skates to fill. They soon find themselves in a heated competition for top ranking.
Tensions rise when the dazzling pearl buildings of the Academy are vandalized and outsider Peasprout is blamed for the attacks by her rivals … and even some friends.
Now, she must uncover the true vandal to ensure peace between Shin and Pearl – all while becoming a champion.
7. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Never underestimate the power of a plucky kid…even an orphan with a disability. Talking animals never hurt, either.
Amazon Description: Odd, a young Viking boy, is left fatherless following a raid. In his icy, ancient world there is no mercy for an unlucky soul with a crushed foot and no one to protect him. Fleeing to the woods, Odd stumbles upon and releases a trapped bear…and then Odd’s destiny begins to change.
The eagle, bear, and fox Odd encounters are Norse gods, trapped in animal form by the evil frost giant who has conquered Asgard, the city of the gods.
Now our hero must reclaim Thor’s hammer, outwit the frost giants and release the gods…
8. Snow Treasure by Marie Mcswigan
Nobody expected kids to be part of resisting the Nazis, which is why Peter and his friends were able to accomplish so much . . . right under the enemies’ noses!
Amazon Description: In the bleak winter of 1940, Nazi troops parachuted into Peter Lundstrom’s tiny Norwegian village and held it captive.
Nobody thought the Nazis could be defeated—until Uncle Victor told Peter how the children could fool the enemy. It was a dangerous plan. They had to slip past Nazi guards with nine million dollars in gold hidden on their sleds.
It meant risking their country’s treasure—and their lives.
9. The Lost Frost Girl by Amy Wilson
Imagine finding out that fairy tales are true . . . and that one of them is about your dad! Even with a magical father, Owl has to deal with regular issues like family, friends and trying to figure out who you’re meant to be.
Amazon Description: With a name like hers, Owl never expected her life to be normal, at home or at school. But when Owl finds out that she is Jack Frost’s daughter, her world shifts beyond what she could ever imagine.
Determined to meet him, Owl delves into Jack’s wonderful world of winter and magic—the kind of place she thought only existed in fairy tales. And as she notices frost patterns appearing on her skin and her tears turning to ice, Owl starts to wonder if being Jack Frost’s daughter means that she has powers of her very own.
10. Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee
A girl and her brother try to survive as they make a break for freedom. Warning: some of it is very sad and it’s even sadder when you know that parts of it are based on true stories from survivors of the Korean War. Don’t let that stop you from reading it, though.
Amazon Description: North Korea. December, 1950. Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don’t trust your neighbors. Don’t speak your mind. You are being watched.
But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos—and war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers.
But they can’t. And when an incendiary bombing changes everything, Sora and her little brother Young will have to get to Busan on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter?
11. Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren
I really like books with strong female characters and this one is full of them. I don’t think I’ve ever read a prison break story that involved kids . . . have you?
Amazon Description: When thirteen-year-old Valor is sent to jail, she couldn’t be happier. Demidova’s prison for criminal children is exactly where she wants to be. Valor’s twin sister, Sasha, is serving a life sentence for stealing from the royal family, and Valor is going to help her escape . . . from the inside.
Never mind that no one has escaped the prison in centuries. Valor has a master plan and resources most people could only dream about. But she didn’t count on having to outsmart both the guards and her fellow prisoners. If Valor’s plan is to succeed, she’ll need to make some unlikely allies. And if the plan fails, she and Sasha could end up with fates worse than prison.
12. The Ice House by Monica Sherwood
After the last few years, we can all identify with Louisa’s feeling of being trapped, at least a little bit. In her case, it’s snow and not a pandemic that has her stuck inside. But that may be about to change…
Amazon Description: Louisa feels trapped. There’s a global temperature drop, and her family’s been snowed into their apartment building for months. Her parents are overwhelmed. Her little brother is driving her up the wall. She’s barely seen her friends, so they’re growing apart. But her neighbor and former friend, Luke, has been around a lot after his dad’s scary ice-related accident. The universe is out of whack, and all she wants is for “normal” to return—fast.
Desperate to find an escape from the grief plaguing their homes, Louisa and Luke build a massive snow fort in their yard. But their creation opens up an otherworldly window to what could lie ahead, and sets them on a mission: to restore the universe to its rightful order, so the ice will melt and life will return to “normal.”
13. Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: Peril at Owl Park by Marthe Jocelyn
What if the Queen of Crime Novels, Agatha Christie, had solved mysteries herself as a kid? She’d end up with a fun story like this one! As a writer myself, I particularly love the way Aggie explores different ways to describe things in her books. For more mysteries, including info about the first of this series, don’t miss my 20 Middle Grade Mysteries post.
Amazon Description: Aspiring writer Aggie Morton is looking forward to Christmas. Having just solved a murder and survived her own brush with death in her small town of Torquay on the coast of England, Aggie can’t wait to spend the holidays with her sister Marjorie, the new Lady Greyson of Owl Park, an enormous manor house in the country; Grannie Jane and her fellow sleuth and partner in crime, Hector Perot.
Owl Park holds many delights including Aggie’s almost cousin Lucy, exciting and glamorous visitors from Ceylon and disguises aplenty in the form of a group of travelling actors, not to mention a secret passageway AND an enormous, cursed emerald. Not even glowering old Lady Greyson (the Senior) can interfere with Aggie’s festive cheer.
But when Aggie and her friends discover a body instead of presents on Christmas morning, things take a deadly serious turn. With the help of a certain nosy reporter, Aggie and Hector will once again have to put their deductive skills and imaginations to work to find the murderer on the loose.
14. Voyage of the Frostheart by Jamie Littler
I think there’s something delightful about monsters that can only be controlled through music. Plus, I always like a good story about someone who finds their place in the world.
Amazon Description: In a snow-covered land where monsters rule the icy tundra, only song weavers hold the power to control these vicious giants. But for centuries song weavers have been the subject of suspicion—how can those who hold so much power be trusted?
Ever since his parents were lost on a pathfinding expedition, Ash has spent his life as an outcast. As a budding song weaver, his village marked him as a potential threat, even though all he wants to do is protect them. Eager to find his place in the world, he and his cantankerous yeti caretaker seek passage on the Frostheart: a ship-like sleigh whose mission is to explore faraway lands.
There he meets a fast-talking, spunky navigator, a walrus captain with a peg leg who runs a tight sleigh, and a mysterious traveler who encourages him to hone his song. But can Ash’s song weaving save the Frostheart from the monsters hiding under the ice? Or will his untamed powers put his newfound friends in jeopardy?
15. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
No list of cold wintery reads would be complete without this one! Imagine living in a place where it’s always winter but never Christmas. Not to mention what it would be like to get there through a magic door in a wardrobe (a freestanding closet kind of thing). My closet sure doesn’t lead to anything that exciting!
Amazon Description: Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch.
But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
I hope you enjoy this list of cool books! What’s your favorite book to read on a hot summer day? Come over to my Instagram page and let me know. Stay cool!