This holiday offering presents a longish story about an old-fashioned farm family in Sweden celebrating Christmas Eve alongside a family of tomtes, elf-like creatures from traditional Scandinavian tales.
In this original story, the tomte family prepares for Christmas in their cozy home in the hayloft of the barn. Their dinner festivities include special Christmas soup and customized varieties of beer for all the tomtes, from little 4-year-old Pilka to 427-year-old Grandfather. The father tomte is looking forward to his annual holiday gift from the humans, a bowl of porridge with a big pat of butter, but this year the humans have forgotten all about the tomte family. To avert the father tomte’s anger, the mother tomte and her children devise a complicated plot to distract the family and steal a bowl of their porridge to take home as the Christmas offering. Nordqvist’s amusing watercolor-and-ink illustrations are full of distinct personalities and tiny details in costumes and settings, reminiscent of the work of Trina Schart Hyman. An author’s note explaining the Scandinavian origins of the tomte and their mischievous ways would have been a welcome addition, but as it is, interested readers will have to do their own research.
A charming and sprightly story with the flavor of a traditional tale. (Picture book. 4-8)