As the days shorten and the mercury sinks, boys and girls in many parts of the country watch for the first snowflakes to fall. Anticipation is in the air. Will the skies bring enough snow this year to go sledding, build snow forts and maybe even cancel school for a “snow day” or two? But frosty air is not the only change to look for as winter closes in. In fact, if you’re Catholic, a break in routine is on the way no matter where you live. Even if it’s Los Angeles or Laredo or Key Largo.

For starters, the Church’s liturgical year draws to a close with the feast of Christ the King on Nov. 25. Then we ready ourselves to step into Advent.

What a wonderful time this is to pour the season’s first cup of hot cocoa and read up on the various kinds of changes on tap. Books away!


WINTER: AN ALPHABET ACROSTIC

written by Steven Schnur

illustrated by Leslie Evans

Clarion Books, 2002

32 pages, $15

Available in bookstores

Kids will shiver but warm to the season depicted in this cold-weather acrostic alphabet book. When “Crystals Of ice as delicate as Lace ring the Duck pond,” it’s COLD! It’s so cold, in fact, that little EARS are at risk (“Even under caps, they Ache and turn Red in the Stinging cold”). When a STORM moves in, “School is closed” — and, well, you get the idea. Hand-colored linoleum-cut illustrations accompany each acrostic. Ages 4 to 8.


SNOWMEN AT NIGHT

written by Caralyn Buehner

illustrated by Mark Buehner

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007

12 pages, $10.99

Available in bookstores

Does the snowman you made look a little worse for wear the morning after? “His hat had slipped, his arms drooped down, he really looked a fright / It made me start to wonder: What do snowmen do at night?” Tucked in this board book are the answers to this chilling mystery along with six jigsaw puzzles. Each 12-piece puzzle unveils the hidden lives of fanciful snowmen — who, it seems, enjoy slipping off to the park, drinking ice-cold cocoa and playing baseball under the moonlight before returning home. Ages 4 to 8.


THE THREE SNOW BEARS

Written and illustrated by Jan Brett

Putnam, 2007

32 pages, $16.99

Available in bookstores

Set in the Arctic, this tale puts a chilly twist on the story of Goldilocks. When a young Inuit girl sets out to find her sled dogs, she comes across a large igloo. She peeks inside and finds three bowls of soup. And guess what? One is too hot, one is too cold and one is just right. She explores the rest of the igloo — Goldilocks style — and finally falls into a deep sleep in baby bear’s bed. When the bears return, the young girl flees the igloo and is reunited with her dogs. Jan Brett’s gorgeous illustrations give the friendly bears personality and put a charming twist on a traditional story. The illustrated borders on each page tell a unique story-within-a-story that will invite a second look. And a third. And … Ages 3 to 8.


HANS BRINKER

Retold by Bruce Coville

Illustrated by Laurel Long

Dial, 2007

40 pages, $16.99

Available in bookstores

Hans and his sister Gretel long to take part in the town’s skating race, whose winner will take home the silver skates. So poor that their skates are made of wood, they know they can’t compete. Against this backdrop unfolds a story of heroic virtue that has enchanted readers since the story’s first publication in 1865. Presented here in picture-book form, the enduring classic is given new life through an abbreviated text and exquisite oil paintings. Children and adults alike will be inspired by the many ways that kindness begets kindness in this wintry tale. Ages 6 to 12.


THE ADVENT-CHRISTMAS BOOK

written by Joan Marie Arbogast

illustrated by Virginia Helen Richards, FSP

photos by Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP

Pauline, 2004

144 pages, $14.95

Available in Catholic bookstores and at pauline.org/store

This spiral-bound guide to the Advent and Christmas seasons is a perfect companion for parents (or teachers) who wish to help their children prepare for the birth of Christ. Weekly themes and daily activities provide valuable background information, stories to read aloud and kid-appropriate prayer guides. The book also includes a host of suggestions for crafts and creative cooking. Creativity unleashes the imagination so that children can more fully enter into Advent anticipation, preparing their hearts and minds for the celebration of Christ’s birth. For families.


THE JESSE TREE KIT

written by Lynn M. Simms and Betsy Walter

Pauline, 2006

24 pages, $10.95

Available in Catholic bookstores and at pauline.org/store

This book tells the story of the Jesse Tree and includes an ornament for each day of Advent. The ornaments — which can be colored, cut out and hung on the tree — symbolize the key people in salvation history, beginning with Adam and Eve and ending with Jesus. The Ten Commandments (tablets), Elijah (chariot) and John the Baptist (shell) are a few of the salvation markers children will make their own as they decorate a small evergreen or the Jesse Tree poster, which is included. Scripture verses accompany each ornament. Ages 6 to 12.


ADVENT, CHRISTMAS AND EPHIPHANY IN THE DOMESTIC CHURCH

written and designed by Catherine & Peter Fournier

Ignatius, 2001

110 pages, $15.95

Available in bookstores

Designed with families in mind, this book provides a range of activities for helping children to participate and gain a better understanding of the liturgical seasons. Helpful resources include family activities, a guide to saints of the season, craft activities and coloring pages. Parents will find learning experiences here that are appropriate for a variety of ages and interests (like “perfect playdough” and simple cut-and-paste projects for young children, along with seasonal counted cross-stitch projects for older ones). The flexible, spiral-bound format makes for easy reference. For families.

The Crawford Sisters

write from Pittsburgh.