Warming Up with Reading: Short Stories for Winter

Reading short stories is a great way to keep your child engaged with literature during the cold winter months. Unlike a novel, a short story might last only as long as a cup of hot chocolate, making it ideal for this time of year. Here are ten short stories with winter themes for winter days.

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winter reading suggestions

1. To Build a Fire by Jack London

Jack London's story portrays a man and his dog traveling on foot through the Yukon on an exceptionally cold day, when the temperature is more than 50 degrees below zero. When he falls through the snow and his legs get wet, he knows he must build a fire in order to survive. The story then turns into a race against time, while the man struggles to stave off the cold.

2. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

In this famous story, Jim and Della, a young couple with little money, attempt to buy thoughtful Christmas gifts for each other. In order to buy a chain for Jim's prized gold watch, Della sells her long, beautiful hair. Yet Jim sold the watch in order to buy Della combs for her hair. While their gifts are now useless, they realize how far each is willing to sacrifice for the other.

3. Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff

Kenny, Tub and Frank are the titular hunters in this story. The story takes a turn when Tub shoots Kenny in what is possibly, but not certainly, an accident. Tub and Frank begin to take Kenny for help, only to end up at a diner, then driving away from the hospital.

4. Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken

In this story, Paul Hasleman is a boy who begins to grow distant from his classmates and family. He becomes preoccupied with daydreams about snow. As time passes, his visions of snow become all-consuming, alarming his family and cutting him off from the real world.

5. The Snow-Image by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hawthorne's The Snow-Image follows Violet and Peony, two siblings who make an image in the snow. The image, a little girl, comes to life and begins playing with the children. The image mystifies the children's parents, who don't understand where she came from or why she is playing outside while so lightly dressed.

6. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

This fairy tale tells the story of Kay and Gerda, two childhood friends and neighbors. Kay is captured by the Snow Queen and taken to her palace near the North Pole. Gerda sets out to find him, which becomes an epic and harrowing adventure.

7. A Christmas Tree and a Wedding by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The narrator of this story describes a Christmas party he attended at which he knew no one except the host. Because he has no one to talk with, the narrator observes the other guests. He becomes especially fascinated with the children, who receive gifts that match their social status.

8. Top Man by James Ramsey Ullman

Top Man is the story of a group of climbers on Kalpurtha, the fourth highest peak in the world. Two of the climbers, Osborn and Nace, argue about how to best reach the summit. Nace approaches the potentially fatal hazards, such as a dangerous snowstorm, with caution. Osborn, however, is more reckless, putting others at risk in order to move more quickly.

9. The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

One of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, this tale centers around a piece of jewelry of immense value. When three beryls go missing from the coronet, Holmes is called in to solve the mystery. Because the story takes place in the wintertime, Holmes is able to use the snow as an aid in uncovering the truth.

10. The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane

In a small Nebraska town in the 1800s, a fierce blizzard is raging outside while the guests of a hotel huddle around a stove for warmth. One of the guests, a foreigner who has read too many dime novels about the untamed West, announces that he expects to be murdered that night. His erratic behavior leads to his irrational proclamation becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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