Winter Solstice: Books Reviews and Recommendations


Hello! This is my first Blog post since my HusBear was kind enough to create this page for me. 

With the end of the calendar year swiftly descending on us all, I am hard at work trying to keep my self-imposed deadline of finishing the first draft of my book! I have been actively writing this for the past 4 years now, so to say this is an exciting time for us is a gross understatement. However, until I publish my book, please allow me to introduce you to some favorite books my family reads around Winter Solstice. The first three are for the older crowd and the rest are children’s books. The views I have written about each book are my own. Obviously different people will feel differently about each book, but I hope to give a glimpse into each book for people that have not read them before and might be interested in my take on. 

Again, these are just my personal takes. If you enjoy this list, please let me know and I will be sure to make other posts like this for other pagan observances and related subjects in the future.

‘The Return of the light: twelve tales from around the world for winter solstice’ by Carolyn McViker Edwards

This is a lovely book to read a chapter from every night if you celebrate the 12 days of Yule (or Christmas if that is how your family celebrates). In this book you will find 12 tales from around the world celebrating the return of the Sun, light, warmth, and rebirth. There are also ideas of things to do (rituals, games, songs, and so on) around this time of the year.

‘The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide traditions for the darkest days of the year’ by Linda Raedisch

This is one of my favorite books to reread every year around this time. It is an eclectic treasury of folklore, crafts, and recipes from Scandinavia, Germany, and the British Isles. It contains a section called ‘A Christmas Witch’s Herbal’, which I’m sure many of you can guess is one of my favorite sections. Some of the accuracy is a bit off in this book, but from an eclectic view, this is a guilty pleasure to read. I was gifted this book a few years back by my dear childhood friend and soul sister. I often find myself during this time of the year, on quiet snowy nights, long after my children have gone to bed, snuggled down with this book in front of the fire with a soft blanket and cuppa.

‘Yule: A celebration of light and warmth’ By Dorthy Morrison

This book is rife with historical inaccuracies, but I love the ideas that it gives to me to help my children join in the festivities and give them some small understanding of why we do the things we do. I know this book gets a bad rep from some people, but it can be a useful tool. Just remember to research everything carefully for yourself.

‘The Solstice Badger’ by Robin McFadden

This is an adorable children’s book that explains seasonal changes and the return of the sun. It is about a Badger that befriends the sun and reminds him to return to the earth to break winter’s hold on the earth. This book has beautiful watercolor illustrations and I happily put it into the category of guilty pleasures. It isn’t your traditional solstice story, but my children love it.

‘The Holly King and the Oak King: a Pagan children's tale’ by J.C. Artemisia

The battle between the Holly and Oak king. This is a lovely book for putting things into a format that children can more easily digest. I don’t know if it’s the style that the illustrations are done in, or even that this isn’t how the tale was told to me. Something about this book has always bugged me. It isn’t my personal favorite, but my children love it. I suppose in the end that’s what counts. Pagan families do not have as many choices when it comes to children’s books, so it’s good to see more and more Pagan flavored books hitting the shelves these days. Of course, this is my personal take on the book. I have heard from many families that just love it. To each their own.

‘Elsie and Pooka stories of the sabbats and seasons, Winter’ and ‘Elsie and Pooka stories of the sabbats and seasons, Yule and Imbolc’ by Laura Craig-Gaddis

I love everything Elsie and Pooka. Our cat is even named after Pooka the black cat in Laura Craig-Gaddis’s works. There is a lovely website /The Pooka Pages for Pagan Kids and facebook group where she would put out beautiful coloring pages, activities, stories and more every sabbat for children. I have followed her work for years and our whole family mourned with hers and all her fans when she left this world earlier this year (February 8th, 2022). Her work has been archived and will live on. It is available for those that wish to seek it out. She was a wonderful gift to this world and will be sorely missed. These books capture a tiny bit of her work in book format. Stories of the adventures of Elsie and Pooka, crafts, education, and more can be found with in these pages.

‘The Winter Solstice’ by Ellen Jackson

hmmm, what to say about this book. Let’s start with what I like. I like that it represents different cultures. I also like many of the illustrations. However, I think this is a book that might just fade out of our library all together. I have never been at ease with how it represents pagans as a thing of the past and not an umbrella term for many religions and spiritual practices that are still alive and flourishing today. The accuracy and even wording of how it depicts people indigenous to the Americas leaves a bad taste in my mouth to put it mildly. The book ends with a bastardized “Cherokee Creation Story”.. No.. Just no.. I don’t know why people keep suggesting this book in my homeschooling groups. However, they do, and it is in my library, so I feel like I should put my two cents worth down about this book for anyone curious about it… But I highly recommend just walking away.

‘The Shortest Day: celebrating the winter solstice’ by Wendy Pfeffer

This is a nice educational book we used while we were still homeschooling. It talks about how ‘our ancient ancestors’ celebrated, the science behind what winter solstice is, and has a few nice activities such as measuring your shadow, making treats for the birds, and a simple little solstice celebration. It is a good book. The only bone I have to pick with it is that it talks about pagans and celebrations in past tense and does not present them as the very much active and alive celebrations that are still practiced by many pagans today.

‘The Shortest Day’ by Susan Cooper

If I’m being honest, this book sits largely unused. It is an illustrated poem by Susan Cooper. The illustrations are lovely as is the poem, but it just doesn’t mesh with my family. It isn’t a story in the traditional sense. It works better as a poem than a book in my opinion. I keep it on the shelf because it kind of works as a beginner reader book because the lines of the poem are stretched far to fill an entire book.

‘Rupert’s Tales: the wheel of the year Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostar’ by Kyrja

This is part of a two-book series that covers the wheel of the year. These stories follow a rabbit named Rupert as he watches and follows children as they learn about the wheel of the year, corresponding 8 sabbats, tolerance, and acceptance. These books are beautifully written. I would suggest them for children 6 and up. They are a bit too deep and wordy for many younger children (note, I said many and not all. You know what your children can take in best).

‘Sun bread’ by Elisa Kleven

My youngest absolutely loves this book. It is written in rhyme and has cheerful animal illustrations. A baker makes some bread during the cold of winter, and it helps warm everyone up and even calls the sun back. In the back of the book there is even a recipe for Sun Bread if you should want to make some with your children. Making the bread has also found it’s way into our family traditions. An absolute delight to share with younger children (anywhere from ages 3 to 7-ish I would guess).

‘Children's Intro into Yule’ by Liam Carew

This is a newer addition to our library. Liam Carew is currently releasing different children’s books for pagan observances. We have the books for Imbolc, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule. I believe he also has a book for Lupercalia published, but that is all that is released at the time of my writing this. They are written in verse, which my children love. The book is filled with lovely watercolor pictures of various activities and imagery that correspond to the season. It briefly goes over the significance of winter animals, the yule log, colors used this time of year, and even the meanings that accompany certain plants this time of the year, all in easily digestible rhyme for children. I highly recommend these books and can’t wait to see what else he puts out.

‘Yule With Grani Hulda: Pagan books for Pagan kids’ by Grani Hulda

Grani Hulda has several pagan Sabbat books that are usually a hit or a miss with our family. I happen to like the Yule one but did not enjoy the Samhain book. This is a book for very young children. It is a surface dusting of what families do around Yule/Winter Solstice that is easily digestible for children as young as two and three. It also has adorable illustrations. The wording is simple, and text is in a large font so we will keep this in our collection as a beginning reader book which stretches the age group for this book out a little longer.

‘The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits’ by Ulf Stark

I find in pagan parenting groups this is the book I get asked about the most, so I will spend the most time on this book. 

It is a story about a lonely tomte that meets a family of rabbits and together they have a “Christmas” celebration of sorts. There are 24 chapters designed to read every night in December, ending on Christmas. Now, I don’t believe the word Yule is used anywhere in this book and it is frustrating because the title is literally YULE TOMTE. However, to say this is a book about “Christmas” as in the Christianized holiday isn’t fair either. 

My boys find the chapters too short and like me to read several of them at a time to really feel like they have had a good bedtime story. So, we wait and just read several chapters in a row every weekend ending on Winter Solstice. It can be made to flow just fine this way. 

There is a mention of “attending service”, however the animals do this by sitting in a house of ice the Tomte built and sit in quiet reverence or quietly singing with lit candles. No religious ties to this act are mentioned, and quite frankly this mirrors our own family Solstice celebrations quite well. The only difference is we don’t call it Christmas. There are a few mentions that a child will be born as an important event, but it is only that tiny mention and no further explanations. When my children ask what child, they are talking about, we simply tell them they are talking about the rebirth of the sun. The only other Christian reference I can think of is that on Santa Lucia day a woman comes down from the stars wearing a white dress and wreath with lit candles on her head. She offer’s the tomte coffee, saffron buns, and ginger cookies. She looks like a fairy and there is no actual mention as to the significance of her appearance, or the timing in the story, or even the name Santa Lucia. So, we just see her as a fairy that comes with a message and that’s it. If you want to expand on that you can choose to or not, but the story will still read smoothly. If you’re wondering the message is simply that he is going to have a family. 

Its arguable this could be in reference to the Christian nativity, but even I have a hard time believing that. I think it’s just a bit of foreshadowing that the lonely gnome is going to meet the rabbit family and that’s the end of that. I often switch out Christmas with Solstice while reading. I keep meaning to whiteout Christmas and write Solstice over. 

To sum it up, I find the book is entirely enjoyable and works well with our pagan family and traditions. There are some mentions that have a more “Christmas” flavor to them but can easily be absorbed or slightly altered without out damaging the overall story.