A magical middle-grade tale of a human child’s encounter with nisse folk—tiny gnomelike creatures who, legend has it, inhabit the houses, barns and woodlands of Denmark.
When 12-year-old Bettina Larsen is entrusted with the farm chores and the care of her infant sister, Pia—after an unexpected Christmas Eve phone call results in the hasty departure of her parents—she is proud of her ability to do both. But in the confusion of leaving, the Larsen family has neglected an important Danish Christmas Eve tradition: putting out rice pudding for the barn nisse. Bettina isn’t sure she believes in nisse, although her Farfar (grandfather) did—the only adult Bettina knows who did. But then strange things start happening at the Larsen farm (nisse are generally helpful, but they do like their Christmas Eve rice pudding). When Pia goes missing after a nap, Bettina searches in the woods behind the farm, where she discovers a nisse family that helps her find her sister, and in the process, Bettina helps them heal an old family rift. Narrated in a comfortingly authoritative voice that is reminiscent of storytelling around a winter’s hearth, this folkloric tale is rich with depth and tradition and full of a child’s wonder of the natural world. Alternating chapters tell the tale from young nisse Klakke’s point of view.
A timeless story that upholds and nurtures the magical worlds of nature and childhood. (Fantasy. 8-12)