Book Advent Calendar

Staff in the English department are recommending some of their favourite winter-themed books for students to try. Books are available for students to borrow from the school library. Where will you escape to this winter?!

1st December: October, October
A classic in the making for anyone who ever longed to be WILD.
October and her dad live in the woods. They know the trees and the rocks and the lake and stars like best friends. They live in the woods and they are wild. And that’s the way it is.
Until the year October turns eleven. That’s the year October rescues a baby owl. It’s the year Dad falls out of the biggest tree in their woods. The year the woman who calls herself October’s mother comes back. The year everything changes.
2nd December: Shiver
Grace is fascinated by the wolves in the woods behind her house; one yellow-eyed wolf in particular. Every winter, she watches him, but every summer, he disappears. Sam leads two lives. In winter, he stays in the frozen woods, with the protection of the pack. In summer, he has a few precious months to be human… until the cold makes him shift back again. When Grace and Sam finally meet, they realize they can’t bear to be apart. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human – or risk losing himself, and Grace, for ever.
3rd December: The Wolf Wilder
Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora’s mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans.
When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.
6th December: Revolver
1910. A cabin north of the Arctic Circle. Fifteen-year-old Sig Andersson is alone. Alone, except for the corpse of his father, who died earlier that day after falling through a weak spot on the ice-covered lake. His sister, Anna, and step-mother, Nadya, have gone to the local town for help.
Then comes a knock at the door. It’s a man, the flash of a revolver’s butt at his hip, and a mean glare in his eyes. Sig has never seen him before but Wolff claims to have unfinished business with his father.
As Sig gradually learns the awful truth about Wolff’s connection to his father, his thoughts are drawn to a certain box hidden on a shelf in the storeroom, in which lies his father’s prized possession – a revolver.
As the stakes rise and Wolff begins to close in, Sig’s choice is pulled into sharp focus. Should he use the gun?
7th December: Race to the Frozen North
Matthew Henson was simply an ordinary man. That was, until Commander Robert E. Peary entered his life, and offered him a chance at true adventure. Henson would become navigator, craftsman, translator, and right-hand man on a treacherous journey to the North Pole. Defying the odds and the many prejudices that faced him to become a true pioneer.
This is his incredible and often untold story. 
8th December: Murder in Midwinter
Sitting on the top deck of a bus days before Christmas, Maya sees a couple arguing violently in the middle of a crowded Regent Street. They see her watching, she looks away, and the woman disappears. Maya goes to the police, who shrug and send her away. Then a body turns up… Now convinced she is a vital witness to a crime, the police send Maya into hiding in rural Wales. She resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery. Then the snow comes and no one can get out. But what if someone can still get in?
9th December: My Swordhand is Singing
Woodcutters Peter and his father Tomas arrive in the lonely village of Chust.
Peter doesn’t understand why his father carries a long wooden box around with him, or why he has dug a deep ditch around their hut. But he is increasingly aware of malevolence about the place. Menacing shadows, villagers missing and people murdered only to reappear.
With the help of Sofia, a travelling gypsy, Peter sets out to conquer the evil threat to the village and uncover the secrets of his father’s past. Set in the seventeenth century amid the bleakness of winter in Eastern Europe, and inspired by vampire folklore, this is a superbly crafted, dark and menacing tale.
A sense of hardship, bitter cold and fear penetrates the text, resulting in a chilling page-turner.
10th December: Winterkill
Emmeline lives in a walled settlement where they must all obey the three virtues: Bravery, Honesty and Discovery. Anyone who goes against the community is considered a Wayward and is banished outside the walls to face the freezing winter and the terrifying malmaci who inhabit the woods. When Emmeline discovers she is to be married to the community leader, a man she distrusts and fears, she feels more trapped than ever. She has to decide between living in claustrophobic security or trusting her dreams and the whispers in the woods that are calling her outside into the unknown.
Boorman’s debut novel is an exciting and atmospheric adventure story. Emmeline is a great protagonist, brave, independent and curious, yet she also battles with her self-worth, fearing her family’s stained history and her disability make her less worthy than those around her. This is the first in a series and is sure to gather many fans. A great read.
13th December: The Girl Who Speaks Bear
Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, Yanka has always wondered about where she is from. She tries to ignore the strange whispers and looks from the villagers, wishing she was as strong on the inside as she is on the outside. But, when she has to flee her house, looking for answers about who she really is, a journey far beyond one that she ever imagined begins: from icy rivers to smouldering mountains meeting an ever-growing herd of extraordinary friends along the way.
14th December: There May Be A Castle
A boy wakes from a car accident to find himself in a magical kingdom where he must go on a quest.
Eleven-year-old Mouse is travelling to see his grandparents on Christmas Eve with his mother and two sisters. But it’s snowing, and visibility is bad, and the car goes off the road, and crashes. Mouse is thrown from the car.
When he wakes, he’s not in his world any more. He meets a sheep named Bar, who can only say Baaa, and a sarcastic horse named Nonky, who is a surprising mix of his beloved toy horse and his older sister. So begins a quest to find a castle in a world of wonder – a world of monsters, minstrels, dangerous knights and mysterious wizards; a world of terrifying danger but also more excitement than Mouse has ever known.
But why are they looking for a castle? As the cold grows, we realise it might just have something to do with the family he’s left behind; and that Mouse’s quest is more important than ever.
From the winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize
This is a novel about love and death. It’s about the power of stories to change the way we view the world – and it’s about the power of a child to change their own world.
Emotionally arresting but ultimately uplifting, this is a remarkable novel for our times.
15th December: The Dark Is Rising
It is Midwinter’s Eve, the night before Will’s eleventh birthday. But there is an atmosphere of fear in the familiar countryside around him. Will is about to make a shocking discovery – that he is the last person to be born with the power of the Old Ones, and as a guardian of the Light he must begin a dangerous journey to vanquish the terrifyingly evil magic of the Dark.
This is probably one of the greatest fantasy sequences ever written. Darkly magical and intense Cooper weaves her storytelling wonder over fully realised characters and worlds, drawing in the reader and leading them on a journey that will leave them clambering for the rest of the series.
16th December: Freeze
Award-winning master of scary stories Chris Priestley returns with a spine-tingling collection of ghostly tales to chill you to the bone…
When Maya and her classmates are asked to write a creepy story with a winter theme, they come up with some brilliant ideas. Rising floodwaters uncover long-buried bodies and ghostly children take to the ice on a frozen canal. But as each of the stories is read out in class, Maya grows more and more uncomfortable. She features in each of her friends’ creepy tales and they start to feel a little too real. Finally, when a mysterious new girl stands up to read the last story of the day, the light outside dims and it starts to snow. The classroom starts to freeze but everyone is trapped. Can Maya stop the story before the nightmare comes true?
17th December: Father Christmas’s Fake Beard
A selection of Christmas-themed short stories by Terry Pratchett.
Have you ever wanted Christmas to be different? Turkey and carols, presents and crackers – they all start to feel a bit… samey. How about a huge exploding mince pie, a pet abominable snowman, or a very helpful partridge in a pear tree? What if Father Christmas went to work at a zoo, or caused chaos in a toy store, or was even arrested for burglary?
Dive into the fantastically funny world of Sir Terry Pratchett, for a festive treat like no other. These ten stories will have you laughing, gasping and crying (with laughter) – you’ll never see Christmas in the same way again.
Lead Practitioner for English | + posts

Mrs E Taylor-Hamblett is Lead Practitioner for English.