The Tough Winter by Robert Lawson, Puffin Books, 1982, 128 pages, ASIN: B000O8E2IE
Today is the first day of winter, aka the Winter Solstice, and tonight there will be a full moon. And an eclipse. This is the first time in 456 years that the Winter Solstice has coincided with a Full Lunar Eclipse. That means not since 1554, ten years before Shakespeare was born. To celebrate this special Winter Solstice, I suggest curling up with a good cup of cocoa and a great winter's tale.
I can't think of a better winter story than The Tough Winter, particularly given that we seem to be in for a pretty tough winter ourselves, weather wise anyway. Written and illustrated by Robert Lawson in 1954, it is, unfortunately, out of print, though it is still available used, and some libraries may still carry it. I first read this sequel to the Newbery-award winning Rabbit Hill with my son when he was still in elementary school. It's a bit twee, but it's one of those good-for-readers-of-all-ages books and is particularly fun to read aloud. My son excelled at reading in Uncle Analdous's backwoodsy dialect.
Rabbit Hill's themes of careful stewardship of the earth and enough for all are tested in The Tough Winter, which brings back Little Georgie the rabbit, his friend Willie the field mouse, wise (but now sick) Father, Mother, and Uncle Analdous. Uncle Analdous warns of the tough winter coming. And he's not kidding. It's cold and icy, and the snow is deep. To compound things further, the kind Folks have gone away leaving the Hill to some slovenly, neglectful caretakers and a mean dog. Because of the weather and the food shortage, many of the animals on Rabbit Hill have to leave. Before long only Georgie, Willie, and Father remain. Find this book and see how the residents of Rabbit Hill make it through this tough winter.
For the cocoa, mix 2 heaping teaspoons of sugar and 1 heaping teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa in a mug. Stir in 1 Tbsp. milk until smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup of milk. Microwave on high until hot, about a minute and a half. Stir well. Top with mini marshmallows or a dollop of whipped cream.
One more thing. Add some Biscoff™cookies, those crisp Belgian cookies made with real sugar and brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon. Yum. I first had them on a flight to Disney World three years ago; then I found them at Walgreens, and they've been a staple in my kitchen ever since.