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Children's Fiction Other, Non-religious


A Solstice Story

by (author) Kelsey E. Gross

illustrated by Renata Liwska

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
Other, Non-Religious, Nocturnal, Values & Virtues
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price
    $10.99 USD

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
  • Reading age: 4 to 8


From debut author Kelsey Gross and New York Times bestselling artist Renata Liwska comes a gentle and lulling picture book celebrating the magic of the Winter Solstice with a group of animal friends in a quiet forest.

Tonight is the longest night of the year—solstice is here! Deep in the forest, the dark, cold, and quiet of winter is all around. Owl, Mouse, and Deer all watch the light fades and dark surrounds them, but they have a gift of hope to share with their neighbors. The moon and stars shine down on a lone tree in the forest, and the animals gather around to bask in its light. Winter Solstice arrives as the winter sky brings magic for all to share.

About the authors

Kelsey E. Gross grew up in Wisconsin and lived in New Mexico and California before returning to the Midwest. She now lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her partner, son, and silly, snow-loving pup. When she’s not writing, she looks for owls and other forest friends while hiking and skiing in the woods. Kelsey aims to write books that inspire readers of all ages to take care of one another and the natural world. Winter: A Solstice Story is her picture book debut. Find her online at

Kelsey E. Gross' profile page

Renata Liwska grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and now lives in Calgary, Canada. She is the illustrator of The Quiet Book and The Loud Book!, both written by Deborah Underwood and both New York Times bestsellers, and Places To Be, written by Mac Barnett. For The Quiet Book, Renata Liwska was awarded the 2010 Society of Illustrators Gold Medal and was named a 2010 Governor General’s Award finalist. You can visit her online at

Renata Liwska's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Woodland creatures celebrate light and winter on the longest night of the year.

Owl calls to friends to help him “shine the light, / and share a gift of hope this night,” the winter solstice. Deer, Squirrel, Mouse, and others have gifts to share. Duck brings feathers as “hope / for warm, cozy beds,” while Racoon places berries in the snow as “hope / for sweet surprises.” When a bear surprises the group as they celebrate around their decorated tree, they welcome their new friend. Though the final decorated tree evokes Christmas imagery, there’s no specific mention of the holiday. Simple text largely follows a pattern, explaining what “gift of hope” each animal brings. A final italicized sentence notes how each will help “spark,” “shine,” or “spread” the light. The illustrations have a soft, brushed quality that, despite the snowy setting, gives the book a comforting feel. The animals are fuzzy and feathery, almost touchable. One large, vertical image requires a tilt of the book to truly take in the decorated tree in all its splendor. Today’s readers, accustomed to producing light with the flip of a switch, may not appreciate the story’s subtext about treasuring light through long, cold winter nights; nevertheless, the charming artwork will stir them.

Warm visuals bring to life a snowy solstice. (Picture book. 3-5)


On the longest night of the year, Owl calls on his forest friends to “shine the light” and “share a gift of hope.” Deer leaves nuts on tree branches so that all may have enough to eat. Raccoon hides berries in the snow as “sweet surprises.” As different animals explain how they can contribute (“I can help to shine the light…I can help to spark the light”), they decorate a tree, and their efforts culminate in the completed tree featured in a vertical gatefold. Liwska’s muted digital illustrations, with primarily blue backgrounds, help to set a peaceful wintry mood. MARVA ANNE HINTON

November/December 2023 Issue

A meditative story set in a snow- covered wood. The prose is careful and smooth, mirroring the peaceful illustrations as the story builds spread by spread to envelope onlookers in a winter forest, colored in cool blues, soft whites, and muted browns. Together, words and images carry readers through the woods with an owl, who meets other woodland creatures, preparing for winter. As they make their preparations, the animals create a solstice tree, where they share tender, collected moments together in the cold but cozy setting. VERDICT This beautiful book offers young readers a way into a world they may not encounter, deep in the woods, in winter


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