Love That Book: warming winter reads

    Published: 22 November 2018


    wintery scene


    In this blog, Kathy Roe – Primary English Adviser – shares some of her favourite winter-time class reads and discusses some ideas for how they might be used to inspire writing.

    Festive winter-time is one of my favourite times of year in school. The singing; the cards and calendars; the nativity plays; the letters to Santa. It can also be tricky - keeping the class of very excited children going until the end of term, through all the exhilaration and seemingly countless wet-playtimes. I always found that English lessons became more motivating for all concerned in that last week or so if we could hook the reading and writing onto a lovely festive book. Here are a few of my favourites, with some ideas for use in class:

    The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

    This wonderful classic – first published in 1978 – is one of those books that would delight pupils equally in a reception or a year 6 classroom (in fact, I have used it in both). Its wordless accessibility appeals to readers immediately and the pastel-tone illustrations capture the various emotional rides that we are taken on, beautifully. I have used this book many times and it never ceases to amaze me how many of my pupils are unfamiliar with it. I would show some snippets from the animated film version too to support immersion; it’s freely available on YouTube (see if you can find the original version which – amazingly -has a lovely intro by David Bowie) Here are a few ideas for its use:

    • add speech or thought bubbles and captions to the wordless text
    • watch from the scenes in the film where we see the landscape from a birds’ eye view and write description
    • explore the snow imagery in the book and in clips from the film. Create metaphors to describe the scenery and write poetry
    • write or illustrate a sequel to the book
    • add some additional verses to ‘Walking in the Air’

    Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Hendry and illustrated by John Lawrence

    cover image of Christmas on Exeter Street

    This is a lovely book for a year 2 or 3 class. Children will enjoy looking at the intricately detailed illustrations, which depict a house steadily filling with the long stream of guests who find themselves left homeless on Christmas Eve for one reason or another. By the time the last visitor has arrived, creative sleeping arrangements have been made: there is a baby in the sink; some gents on the windowsills; ladies on the dresser and a chap in the bath. Will Santa remember to visit them all?  Here are a few ideas for its use:

    • writing letters of thanks to the owners at Exeter Street, in role as one of the visitors
    • writing a news report about the busiest house on Christmas Eve
    • making use of prepositions to write descriptively about the locations of all the guests
    festive house interior
    Illustrations Copyright (c) 1989 John Lawrence CHRISTMAS IN EXETER STREET by Diana Hendry & illustrated by John Lawrence.
    Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd, London, SE11 5HJ.


    A Christmas Carol : The Graphic Novel: Original Text by Charles Dickens

    cover of A Christmas Carol, the graphic novel
    Illustrations Reproduced by permission of © Classical Comics


    I love A Christmas Carol by Dickens and this is a wonderful text to use at this time of year with older children. The crisp descriptions of Dickensian London are so evocative and, of course, it is so compelling for children because of the ghosts and the macabre. I particularly like to use the original text alongside this graphic novel version. The illustrations are completely captivating – chiaroscuro images of dark, snowy London juxtaposed with detailed close-ups of Scrooge’s intricately furrowed, brooding brow.

    page from A Christmas Carol
    © Classical Comics


    The captions and the speech bubbles are in the original language in this version. Here are some ideas for use in class:

    • write character descriptions of Scrooge, using language from the book
    • write a setting description of Dickensian London
    • use the graphic novel to assign characters and perform the story as a play
    • convert sections of prose into the graphic novel form and vice versa
    • write imagined dialogues for the characters that scrooge visits with his ghosts
    • write alternative endings for the story

    Written outcomes from these books could be turned into class books, individual books, cards or calendars and decorated.

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