How do you get through the cold, dark winter months? Do you hibernate? Enter into a state of ennui? Bundle up and make the best of it? Or are you one of those rare hardy souls who inexplicably find subzero temperatures “bracing” and “invigorating”?
Despite having lived in the frozen tundra known as Maine for the majority of my life, I am not a cold weather person. And surprise, surprise, I escape by reading. Most years, I try to mentally revisit temperatures above freezing by focusing on books set in summer or in desert locales. This year, though, I’ve found myself gravitating toward stories about people who have it WAY worse than I do.
For instance, I recently reread Geraldine McCaughrean’s phenomenally excellent The White Darkness, which features a fabulously original narrator in terms of voice AND personality (Sym’s relationship with long-dead Captain Titus Oates is both heartwarming and heartbreaking); a mystery that involves murder, madness, and a journey to the center of the earth; family ties, friendship, love, trust and betrayal. And, of course, the majority of the book is set in Antarctica, and McCaughrean does a beautiful job of showing how terrifyingly vast and open it is…while also using the extreme elements to create a claustrophobic, tense atmosphere.
I loved it so much after my first read-through that I didn’t think it was possible for me to love it more…but this second time around, I proved that assumption wrong. And I have no doubt that I’ll love it EVEN MORE when I read it again. I really can’t recommend it highly enough.
And then I reread Michael Northrop’s Trapped, which has this nightmarish premise: A small group of teenagers—and one teacher—get snowed in at their high school. Before long, the power is out, they’re all getting hungry, it’s still snowing, and the temperature is dropping lower and lower and lower… it’s a great survival story, and rereading it made me EXTREMELY grateful for our woodstove.
I don’t think I’ve ever written about nonfiction here at Kirkus, but Northwest Passage, by Stan Rogers and Matt James, totally blew me away. BLEW ME AWAY. In it, artist Matt James illustrates the lyrics to Stan Rogers’ folk song “Northwest Passage” while also telling the real-life story of John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition. The artwork is beautiful and James subtly uses it to set the tone—on the pages with the song lyrics, there’s more color and fantasy, whereas on the pages about the expedition, there are maps and portraits and his paintings are almost all in cool blues and greys—and the factual information is so compelling that I read the majority of it aloud to my husband…and then he demanded that I hand the book over so he could read it himself. Absolutely fantastic.
Finally, I’m about to revisit Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin Family novels purely because the fifth book in the series, Troubling a Star, opens with 16-year-old Vicky Austin stranded on an iceberg in Antarctica. Which pretty much takes the cake, cold-wise.
And, wow. Suddenly I’m feeling almost guilty complaining about the weather.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.