What To Do When Snowed In for the Better Part of a Week Without Power

Well, there's sledding, and snowmen, and drinking cocoa. There are board games and lessons (we already homeschool the younger three) and sitting around snuggling. There's room cleaning and barn chores and shoveling. There's music to practice and baking to do and new skills to learn.

And there are books. We're in a particularly good period of reading chapter books - Asher at four is ready and interested in sustained narratives, which means that all four kids are old enough for lengthy read alouds. And everyone has a chapter book - or often two, one with Mom and one with Dad - going at any given time.

I'm on my fourth rotation through Winnie the Pooh with Asher - and the older boys are finding it funnier than they ever did before, now that they are old enough to get the jokes. Asher just likes going into the Hundred Acre Woods with his animal friends in the story - Simon and Isaiah love the plays on words.

Isaiah is reading Roald Dahl's _Danny, Champion of the World_ with Eric, and Simon is enjoying a second trip through this one. Meanwhile, I'm reading the Little House Books to Isaiah - I'd tried to catch his interest with them before, but this time he's into it - and Eli and Simon and Asher all listen along. Eli for the third time, Simon for the second and Asher, who is usually nearly asleep by the time we get to our chapter, murmurs that next time will be for him.

Simon is obsessed with the American Girl series of books, laying to rest, I hope, the calumny that boys won't read books with female heroes. He's enjoying reading chapters in various history books about the periods they are living at. We're also just starting Louise Ehrdich's _The Birchbark House_ which some people have called the "Native American Little House" - although we talk about the role of Laura Ingalls and her family in displacing Native peoples, I think compelling alternate stories are needed - I don't want my kids to get the Native American story through a series of boring talks rather than engaging stories.

Eli loves poetry, so we alternate some of his favorites with the Blue and Green Fairy Books, and a collection of Russian Fairy Tales. I admit, I was pretty terrified of Baba Yaga and her child-eating house when I was a kid, so I wait until after Asher falls asleep to read the darker stories.

As much as I love reading stories to my kids for the first time, I also love reading them again. Isaiah, Simon and Eli have already been through _The Hobbit_ but I think a re-reading will be in order shortly. Isaiah who loves adventures stories sat through all of the Howard Pyle Robin Hood, but will get more of it on the next iteration. Asher will soon be ready for _Understood Betsy_ which we completed on a long car journey one year. Friends of our just read James Herriot's books with their kids, and they go on the list, along with Swallows and Amazons, The Five Little Peppers, and The Three Muskateers.

The grownups have their stacks as well - I'm on a Christopher Buckley kick - I love comic novels that don't demand too much of me intellectually when I'm trying to finish a book. I'm also auditioning a few for the soon-to-restart post-apocalyptic novel reading club, but they aren't nearly as funny as _Boomsday_. Eric is neck deep in books about mathematics, but comes up occasionally to read the fifth Diana Gabaldon.

I anticipate a week of intense reading - and as much pleasure to the adults as to the children. We'll by natural sunlight, by kerosene lamp and by flashlight, snuggled under the covers in the dark. I'm kind of looking forward to it, actually.

What will you be reading for pleasure?



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If you haven't read Louise Erdrich's adult books--I highly recommend them. The whole Love Medicine cycle is utterly outstanding.

My children read (I think all) of the books on your list, and also adored the Madeleine L'engle books--not just the Wrinkle in Time books, but also the Arm of the Starfish ones.

I am slowly working my way through Mac OS X Tiger, the Missing Manual (I just installed Tiger on our Mac; I'm a little behind ;)). I read almost all nonfiction. This book will keep me occupied for awhile ... it's 800 pages.

Thanks for the heads up on Louise Erdrich. I'll have to check her out.

As for me, I'm reading "Farm City", "On a Dollar a Day" and some gardening books. But, we don't have any snow. Does light rain qualify as a reason for holing up and reading all day?

Are you taking your power down for the week or anticipating a power loss because of this storm?

No kids here, so I'm currently working my way back through all the Dick Francis mysteries - one of my favourite "light" reading authors, and a fitting memorial for him, in my opinion.

Nope, not disconnecting, just bound to go out, given the predictions. If anyone loses power at all it is always us!


I'm sure you and your boys all well aware (and well past) Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings, but are you aware of his Homer Price and its sequel Centerburg Tales? They are chapter books with some of McCloskey's delightful illustrations, but the chapters are also pretty much stand-alone stories of a boy's life in small town America back in the 1940s.

Every once in a while I take a spin through the YA section to get a book I can read in a day - I just read Dairy Queen and The Off Season by Catherine Murdock - about a girl who lives on a family farm and wants to play on her high school football team. Very enjoyable.

My guys are all teenagers now but we loved so many of the books you are reading with your boys, especially Winnie the Pooh and The Little House series.

Yesterday, I devoured Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins . A wonderful YA post-apocalyptic novel with great characters and an engaging story. It reminded me of The Giver.

I just started A Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow. The novel won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether prize for fiction last year.

Time to start some seeds and do some baking....

Vancouver, WA

Fantasy binge on my workout reading (e-books on the big monitor as I sweat): P. C. Hodgell's Kencyr series.

Stuff to read to kids (from that phase in my life):
Robin McKinley's Beauty (Beauty and the Beast with lovely prose and three-dimensional characters.)
Also by McKinley: The Blue Sword
Patricial McKillip's The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind for the love of land and language

At the risk of being burned for heresy, McKillip has Tolkein beat all the way 'round.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 23 Feb 2010 #permalink

I'll read pretty much anything in front of me. I regularly go to the used book store and get a pile, read through them, trade them for my girlfriends' pile and then we start all over again.

My very, very favorites when I was growing up were The Secret Garden (that's the one my mom would read a chapter of to me every time I threatened to run away - which was fairly regular. I was a horrid child.) Swiss Family Robinson and My Side of the Mountain - which I recently unearthed for a friend's child who just hated to sit down and read. She ended up loving it.

I'm reading "Secret Daughter" (advanced reader copy) by Shilpi Somaya Gowda for me, and "Lady Lollipop" by Dick King Smith as a read-aloud with the kids.

Our local library branch just began a major renovation and collection update and is running a book sale. This week was biographies and mysteries. I came home yesterday with over 30 books for $2 total. Better than Christmas! Next week they put out the history books...I think I'll have to bring our wagon (rather than the stroller) to haul them all home.

This week I am reading a biography of Ben Franklin, "Farm City", and re-reading Johnathan Kozol's, "Savage Inequalities".

The three year old is getting a chapter of "Little House in the Big Woods" every night. The baby is obsessed with the board book "Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Fuzzy".

We won't get any snow here (Pasadena) but it has been cool (30s - 40s) in the at night and I can think of almost nothing better than curling up in front of a fire reading late into the night.

Watership Down was one of our favourites. The third time I read it to my two was during one of the school holidays. My son's friend was present when we started. We broke for lunch and he returned with his brother and another kid from across the street. The next morning there were ten kids listening and when they returned from lunch that day a couple of parents turned up to find out what was happening. By the time the bad rabbits were coming there was standing room only.

I remember those school holidays with great pleasure.

No snow though

Right now, I am reading two books with my kids (6 and 4): Charlotte's web, and the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I hope Charlotte's web doesn't have them agitating to spare our pig. Watership down is a lovely, lovely book and might be up soon. The Book of the Dun Cow is another fantastic book, though a bit dark for little ones, perhaps. When my teenager was about ten we read To Kill a Mockingbird, which instilled her with a lasting and fiery love of justice.

Ooh! Ooh! Tamora Pierce.

The Protector of the Small quad: First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight. Follows hero from ten to 16 in four books. Deals with lone girl in traditionally "boys" training, limited magic.

Wild Magic, Wolf Speaker, Emperor Mage, The Realm of the Gods are mid-teens and great. Maybe 13-15 for the main character.

Tricksters Choice and Tricksters Queen are maybe 16-18 for the main character. Lots of magic, communicating with crows, battles.

Beka Cooper: Terrier and Bloodhound are mid to late teens - but Terrier should be great from 11-12 on up. Note: Crime fantasy, solving murders. Not gruesome. Limited magic.

Circle of Magic: Sandry's Book, Briar's Book, Daja's Book, Tris' Book - four early teens find they are magic-abled, fantasy, lots of magic and discipline (as in, will to complete a task). Follow on books (The Circle Opens quartet), followed by Melting stones and Will of the Empress.

Song of the Lioness Quartet: Alanna: The Adventure Begins, In The Hand Of The Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like A Man, Lioness Rampant.

I do enjoy re-reading Tamora Pierce. For an adult fantasy I like Patricia Briggs's Mercedes Thompsen stories - Moon Called, Iron Kissed, etc. More solidly urban noir/horror is Kelly Armstrong and her Ladies of the Underworld books.

If you like the Hobbit, try Elizabeth Moon's epic trilogy, "Deed of Paksennarion" (Sheepfarmers Daughter, Divided Allegiance, Oath of Gold). Mundane short sword mercenary company recruit gradually encounters magic, evil, dwarves and elves, and ends up a god's gifted paladin. This is a very good read, perhaps a bit easier to imagine yourself in than with Tolkein.


There is a mini-genre of self-suffiency, making do, cornucopian rural type kids books, which happen to be my favourites. As well as the Little House books, and the ones k8 has mentioned, I love:

Jane of Lantern Hill by LM Montgomery - PEI rural idyll

The Open Gate, by Kate Seredy - NY family tricked into buying a farm by granny, and loving it

The Ark and Rowan Farm by Margot Benary - making do on very little in the dislocations of post war Germany - very relevant to the themes here.

These are all happy optimistic books, but not unrealistic, I hope. I haven't the time or inclination to read "downer" books any more

By Southernrata (not verified) on 23 Feb 2010 #permalink

However did I forget Puck of Pook's Hill?

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 23 Feb 2010 #permalink

I'm currently working my way (for about the 4th time) through the entire Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. My partner found all 20 books in a box at the used book store and grabbed them for me last Xmas.

Kids books...

As well as "Puck", there's a sequel, "Rewards and Fairies" - both Kipling, of course.

The YA books in Anne McCaffrey's Pern series were a hit with my daughter, and I think would be with any even slightly musical child: Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums.

All the Narnia books, of course. Seconded on Swallows and Amazons, all of them (my sister has the ones I read as a child, some from my Dad's childhood and some bought with our birthday and Xmas money over the years).

The original Thomas the Tank Engine books, not the dumbed-down TV spinoffs. My daughter was James the Red Engine for a whole year when she was 2-3 years old - would wear nothing but red clothing! When we actually visited the originals of the narrow gauge engines in the books (Skarloey, Peter Sam, etc) on the Talyllyn Railway, she was over the moon.

I miss reading to my little boy... but he's 25 now. We read and read till I'd lose my voice. Oh, and I loved _Understood Betsy_ when I was a girl!! Didn't know anyone still knew about that one! Cool. Right now I'm reading _Driftless_ by David Rhodes.

Dad is reading one of the later in the Swallows & Amazons series - Picts & Martyrs. They've just finished the Hobbit, and are planning on reading the Lord of the Rings next.
I've started Anne of Green Gables with them, and my son, 11, loves it, as well as my 7 year old daughter.
I second the McCloskey's Centerburg Tales & Homer Price.
The Beka Cooper's were too much for my son (11). He thinks 'the goings-on in the Lower City are too murderous'.
They like the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan.
Thanks DC for the McKillip and McKinley reminders. I'm going to enjoy re-reading the Hero and the Crown.

I don't have any children of my own, but reading your list immediately brought to mind two books that I just LOVED as a child. _The Witch of Blackbird Pond_ by Elizabeth George Speare and _The Island of the Blue Dolphins_ by Scott O'Dell. Both stories have stayed with me my whole life and were almost as important to me as the Little House books were. ;-)

I also loved many of the books mentioned here. Some others that I loved as a child: Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Pyrdain, anything by Andre Norton (well, not so much her last few years of writing with other authors, : ( ), Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Guard and The Sherwood Ring, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer.
For the younger children, some that I've found and loved: The Day the Babies Crawled Away, by Peggy Rathman, Outside Over There, by Maurice Sendak and Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of how a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes and Cherries (and Children), Across the Plains, by Deborah Hopkinson. That last one is hilarious, and I can't recommend it highly enough. The illustrations by Nancy Carpenter are priceless.

My favorite books this year were The Hunger Games, and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate: a terrific YA about a 12 year old girl in turn-of-the-century Texas who doesn't want to 'train' for wifely duties, she wants to study science like her granddad. Favorite book ever: A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, a fantastic medieval-type fantasy with extremely well-drawn characters and lots of surprises - main characters die, bad guys have good qualities, etc.

For elementary-aged kids I'd highly recommend Weslandia, about a boy who creates his own civilization, and wins over his former tormentors by being himself. Apples to Oregon was great, as was Spuds by Karen Hesse, about hungry kids who sneak at night to glean potatoes from a nearby farmer. Moonshot, about the Apollo 13 mission, also makes a compelling, non-fiction read-aloud.

I'm one of the odd ones who has usually preferred non-fiction over fiction since I was a kid - to the extent that as a kid I asked my parents to look out for old history textbooks at yard sales so that I could read them. Even I can't picture textbooks being very good for reading out loud to others, though!

Yeah, but- if ALL you do is read- eventually the kids go cracker-kid. :-)

We have a dirty trick we play on them then. Specifically on the coldest day after the storm, which is usually bright sun and no wind, and close to 0° F.

We get them to clean the dirty rugs. By dancing on them, in the snow.

You want to get away from the house a bit- it makes a lot of snow pretty dirty. It's actually dry cleaning- as long as you get the rug very cold before you put it in the snow. Then you pile cold dry snow on- and the kids dance on.

The longer they dance, the more snow you use- the cleaner it gets. When they're pooped, pick the rug(s) out of the snow, give them several hard whacks to get most of the snow out- and be amazed at all the gray brown snow.

The rugs will be a little damp for a few hours after you bring them in; but you need humidity anyway.

I've been reading The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. Might be a contender for the post-apocalyptic novel book club?

I remember Jim Kjelgaard - Big Red, Son of Big Red (about Irish Setters), and Rufus the Red-Tailed Hawk. Great nature stories.

Sorry, one more; The Good Master, by Kate Seredy. Lovely tale about a boy and mischivious girl on a ranch on the Hungarian plains before the first World War. There was a sequel that I don't remember as well; The Singing Tree.

The garden cottage diaries; Fiona J. Houston.

A woman in scottland want´s to try to live like her ancestor in 1790. So she lives (almost) historicly accutare for a year, in a old cottage, with no running water, no elektricity, growing her own food, baking, etc. It is truly a wonderfull book, with a lot of humor, recepese, pictures, gardening tips, and even a pattern for a dress! But all trough her experiment she also manages to keep an eye on our future, and play with the thought of how it is going to play out.

I've been working my way through the stack of (free!) pre-publication copies of books I got at the ALA Midwinter conference. I've been particularly enjoying N. K. Jamison's new fantasty novel "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms", though my enjoyment has been temporarily curtailed by the fact that I put it down somewhere and can't find it...

I loved books by the author Elizabeth Enright when I was young. My favorite was Gone-Away Lake which was about a brother and sister who discover a forgotten summer resort by a lake that has dried up. It is a great adventure story and has a sequel Return to Gone-Away. The Melendy series by the same author is also really great. The first book is called the Saturdays and the kids pool their allowances so one person can have an adventure all by themselves each Saturday. A very artistic bunch, always making music, writing plays, drawing etc. Good fun read. The Mary Poppins series, I think there were 4 books in all were good too. I remember reading them as a teen and really loving them. Caddie Woodlawn is another great read about a tomboy who gets into all kinds of stuff loves the woods, is friends with indians and generally does the opposite of what is expected of a girl in this time. I wanted to be her! I remember being mildly obsessed with the Little Maid series which takes place in different states all with a different girl who has some adventure based on a historical event of the time. My daughter must have read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken more than any other book. That lead us both to read all of the other adventures of Dido Twite who is quite a girl. OK- I am going to the attic now to find some of these old favorites!

I love reading everybody's lists.

I assume you've read the All-of-a-Kind Family series, by Sydney Taylor, with your boys? I loved them as a child, and my daughter read them when she was in 2nd grade. Virtually everything I knew about Judaism as a child I learned from those books about a Jewish family on the lower East side in the years prior to WWI. I have given them to two Jewish girls we know, whose mothers were not born Jewish and whose fathers, apparently because these are "girl" books, didn't know them. In fact, I gave a copy of the first book to my daughter's beloved Jewish male 3rd grade teacher last year as well. If Simon enjoys the American Girl series, he should love these.

By Alison S. (not verified) on 24 Feb 2010 #permalink

When my son was small he loved the Little House books!

I read to my kids all the way thru high school. Georgette Heyer was great for my daughter and 50's mysteries and some sci fi was my son's favorite.

At the library I looked for things published before 1970. The vocabulary used was better and not dumbed down. We really enjoyed Eleanor Estes' books, Astrid Lindgren's books--she wrote more than just Pippi, and mysteries like Danny Dunn and Miss Pickerell.

Our all time favorite book was Rascal by Sterling North--about a boy in Wis during WWI who adopts a raccoon kit. Its a great read aloud.

Oh what a treasure trove of book suggestions!

I still read to my kids every evening - they're teenagers now, but it is some of our favorite family time.

We recently discovered Louis Sachar - we loved two of them so much that even every adult we know has read them too: Holes (of course) and the short Someday Angeline.

We're working through the Madeleine L'Engle books now, (The Wrinkle in Time series and the Austin family series).

And two of our all time favorites - Johnny Tremain and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Thanks to everyone for all these great new suggestions!

Oops - can't believe I forgot this one

For anyone a little tired of reading Winnie the Pooh for the millionth time but whose kids will go for poetry, we've had many hours of enjoyment from A.A. Milne's poetry books - When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six.

When I was a child, my sister and I used to act out our favorite poems and used them puppet shows. I was thrilled that my children loved those poems as much as I had as a child and my father had when he was a child.

A couple more somewhat less well known suggestions for those with kids, say, 6 to 10.

One of my favorite birthday gifts is a set of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, by Helen MacDonald. She is a magical lady who solves all of the children's behavior problems - the neighborhood mothers love her.

My husband recently read pretty much the entire Happy Hollister series with my kids. It's another one of those Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series first published 50 (80?) years ago but pegged slightly younger - the mystery solvers are a family of five kids aged 4 to 12.

By Alison S. (not verified) on 24 Feb 2010 #permalink

I just finished Cory Doctorow's Makers which is about a dystopian future that sounds closer to your predictions than most post-apocalytic novels. The main plot is based on the culture of Make magazine, with which he is connected, but the background has a lot of people getting poorer and an interesting shanty town, probably overoptimistic but I think it may belong in your list. Other opinions?

Don't forget to read the All of a Kind Family books and the nature tales of Thornton Burgess. And what about Mary Poppins?

Oops. Make that Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald. Helen Mac(Mc?)Donale was my elementary school principal :-)

By Alison S. (not verified) on 24 Feb 2010 #permalink

For your book club, consider David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas"
My daughter is reading Chet Gecko stories, and I am reading "The Black Swan" which is interesting even when I don't agree.
Love all the comments - Happy reading :)

I wish you'd quit doing these 'what do you read?' posts because the books to read are multiplying faster than the time to read. (Our snow day was 3 hours in the am.)

I'll just keep a running list of authors to try out in my spare time....sigh.

Re Karen's mention of Elizabeth Enright books in post 33: thank you for reminding me, Karen, I loved her books too when I was in late elementary school. Read all the same ones you did. I was trying to remember her name, so I'm glad you did.

I also liked Watership Down a lot ... since you were mentioning rabbits in a later post.

One of my favorite authors is Robin Hobb, who has written a stack of incredibly good books ('Assassin's apprentice', 'Royal Assassin' and 'Assassins quest' are her first trilogy and possibly my favorites). They're suitable for mid-late teens upwards.
For kids... Enid Blyton, mum pointed out to me that some of the stories are racist, but they were good adventures.
'The fat of the land' by John Seymour is my most-read self-sufficiency book, followed by my side of the mountain, which I was just reading on the weekend.
And Sharon - I love your blog, just thought I'd thank you for all the time i've spent reading on here (long time lurker).

By Heather C (not verified) on 25 Feb 2010 #permalink

Fairies, Pixies goblins, a fairy Queen and Mr. Ponkey, the King of the pixies, all live in Granny's Magic Garden. The silly fairy, Dirty Gertie learns not to be naughty and rude: She earns her wings by being kind to a sad little fairy. The water sprites learn to say, sorry to the goblin.
Join George and Freddie, and Harvey and Saffie as they explore the mysteries and adventures in this newly released book: Granny's Magic Garden.
There is a simple lesson in behaviour in each chapter; Told throught the actions of the fantasy characters. Children learn reasons to do good things and to show respect and good manners.
All children love mysery, magic, excitement and most of all laughter. This book is easy to read and will have the child, or adult reading to a child,laughing as they read this delightful book for children 4 - 8 years old, although some children younger and older woud be equally captivated.
An ideal Easter or Christmas gift. Available on Amazon.com and on Barnes & Noble. Free postage and gift wrapped.

Baking in the wood stove?

Salt-flour-water sculptures?

Drawing a story and telling it?

A biology colouring book: wild flowers, marine biology, human anatomy, microbiology, etc.?

I just re-read three John Wyndham novels.

I noticed in this blog that someone, named Brad K., remembered "Rufus the Red-tailed Hawk". I have been trying for years to find out the name of the author of this book so I could try to located a copy of it. Does anyone know the name of the author?