An ordinary Danish Christmas turns extraordinary when a family overlooks an important folkloric tradition.
Christmas has come, and with it a sparkling white winterfrost over the countryside. But twelve-year-old Bettina's parents have been called away unexpectedly, leaving her in charge of the house, the farm, and baby Pia. In all the confusion, Bettina's family neglects to set out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the tiny nisse who are rumored to look after the family and their livestock. No one besides her grandfather ever believed the nisse were real, so what harm could there be in forgetting this silly custom? But when baby Pia disappears during a nap, the magic of the nisse makes itself known. To find her sister and set things right, Bettina must venture into the miniature world of these usually helpful, but sometimes mischievous folk. A delightful winter adventure for lovers of the legendary and miraculous.
"My first memory of writing was when I was in first grade. I wrote an awesome retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk using my friends and myself as the characters. I don’t think my best friend was very happy when I cast her as the giant. The person who was happy, however, was my first grade teacher, Miss Course. She was so impressed that she sent me over to the second grade teacher’s classroom to show her what I had created. I remember knocking on the door of the second grade classroom and being very nervous that all those “big kids” would be looking at me when it opened. The second grade teacher, Mrs. Bryant, made a really big deal about my story! I think I decided then and there that I wanted to be a writer. Thank you, Miss Course and Mrs. Bryant!
"Fast forward A LOT of years… I always liked school, so when it came time to decide on a career, I chose to be a teacher. I went to the Ohio State University to study special education. After teaching for several years, I went back to school for a master’s degree in early childhood education. After having three children, I went back to school again for another master’s degree in speech pathology. I finished that one in 2009. See? I told you I always liked school.
"While I was at Ohio State, I met the farmer of my dreams. I always did want to live on a farm when I was a kid. I think that’s because most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins were farm folks and some of my favorite memories are from days spent in their barns, pastures, and haymows. When you fall in love with a farmer, you move to a farm, because he sure isn’t going to move to the city! So here I am.
"Here on the farm, we are raising three kids, calves, hogs, cats by the dozens, one adorable golden retriever and a goat who believes he’s a golden retriever. But that’s another story…"
I feel that 3 STARS is a tad generous as I really didn't enjoy the story that much but 2 STARS just feels a bit harsh. There's really nothing glaringly *wrong* with the story, and it looks like many people liked it, but to me it just didn't feel particularly well-developed in terms of plot or character development and it was not the charming, enchanting story I expected. I might have been more willing to gloss over the flat characters and a rather unexciting story if the writing had been a bit more vivid or engaging or unique, but I just never really felt drawn into the story or that I cared much about what happened. (I actually thought maybe it was a debut novel but it appears the author has several other books out. Maybe I just didn't "click" with her style.) The grown-up in me also found the whole premise just a bit much--how could Bettina's parents leave a twelve-year-old in charge of her eleven-month-old sister in the middle of winter for several days? How could the neighbors, supposed to be checking-up on them, not call the police when the girls were missing? How could Bettina herself not call the police when Pia went missing--or at least tell the neighbors? She was so worried that she would get in trouble that she put her sister's welfare second and I felt that was never addressed. There are clever ways to give young protagonists power while still somewhat involving adults (such as in the Harry Potter books) so I just felt this was too far-fetched. I enjoyed learning a bit more about the nisse folklore and the winterfrost sounded lovely--it was nice to have a "wintery" read this time of year--but overall I just wanted so much more. Also, it's not much of a Christmas read as only the first chapter or two (very short) is about Christmas, so if you're looking for a Christmas-y book this isn't it, but it would be fine to read at any time in winter.
ARC provided by Candlewick Press through Netgalley
“The forests are full of tales unheard, if only humans would pause their busyness to listen.”
The inhabitants of the Larsen Farm are getting ready for Christmas: lighted candles hang from the tree's boughs, nisse figurines line the mantle, and the house is filled with the scent of kringle, wood smoke, and the duck roasting in the oven.
...Until a phone call whisks Bettina's parents away, leaving her in charge of the farm, her baby sister Pia... and the forgotten nisse living in the barn.
Nisse are little creatures with a red pointy cap and a tendency for mischief if not appeased with a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve. What with all the confusion of Bettina's parents leaving and her being left in charge, this Christmas Eve the Larsen Farm's nisse, Klakke, was left porridgeless.
This was already a rough Christmas for Bettina, being the first without her grandfather, leaving her disillusioned and struggling to get into the Christmas spirit. The last thing she needs is a mischievous nisse causing trouble!
As soon as Bettina awakes the next day she sees everything outside covered in winterfrost, which her grandfather had assured her was a magical doorway into another world.
But in the midst of this Christmas wonderland a disgruntled Klakke steals Pia into the forest, and Bettina must get her little sister back! Bettina is a delightful protagonist. She doesn't lose time in self-pity when faced with setbacks. She takes responsibility seriously and, when faced with adversity, she sets to work to solve her problems.
This is very much a book that plays with the trope of adult fear. Any child reading this is bound to be entertained without so much as a spectre of a worry. Any adult will be horrified by the idea of a twelve year old abandoned by her parents on a farm, in charge of her baby sister, and the farm animals, ALL BY HERSELF.
But it's such a delightful book! It really brings to life the magic of Christmas! Any child is bound to love it, and since its publication is scheduled for September it's sure to make a lovely Christmas gift!
This was a completely enchanting book. I started it with the kids a few weeks ago, by the fire, on a cold night, and we all fell in love with it. I was a little surprised, because it's definitely a middle-grade novel and they are only 4 and 6. The pace is almost glacial at first, with a lot of unfamiliar words and similes and metaphor, but they fell into the rhythm and the story and it became something wonderful to look forward to in the evenings after the little one went to bed. Nothing really happens, which is why we loved it. Not too stressful, not too mysterious, not heartbreaking or cruel or scary. Just a lovely, quiet story about siblings and hope, mistakes and responsibility, forgiveness and mercy, and believing in things unseen — gentle and lovely as the winterfrost. I will definitely return to this one with them over the next few years.
I received an ARC of Winterfrost from Candlewick Press after winning it in a Goodreads giveaway (thank you, Candlewick Press!). It’s a children’s book, but that didn’t put me off at all; I think children’s books are some of the best books ever written (like Chronicles of Narnia, Matilda, Wizard of Oz, etc.). Reading that it was about Danish gnomes, or nisse, and it was set in Christmastime in Denmark, I was expecting whimsical, yuletide coziness with magic and Danish traditions thrown in.
What I actually read was none of that; it was boring, though, and a little bit lifeless.
The premise of the book is that Bettina, a 12 year old Danish girl, is left at home to watch her baby sister and take care of her family’s farm while her parents go help a hospitalized relative. In the midst of all of the chaos of her parents leaving, Bettina forgets to leave out a pudding for the family nisse, a tradition akin to leaving milk and cookies out for Santa. When the nisse (whose name is Klakke), wakes up to no pudding, he is offended and takes Baby Pia to his home. The rest of the novel involves Bettina and Klakke traveling to and fro, back and forth, from Bettina’s farm to the woods.
My main complaints with this book are that Christmas wasn’t really discussed, which would’ve lead to a really cozy book, and the characters were as flat as the pages of this book. There was nothing really endearing or emotional in this book, which really let me down.
I might recommend this for children, but not for anyone older than 12, which is disappointing. A good children’s book should span all age groups.
A charming new addition to our family's Christmas library!
On a small Danish farm, a young girl and her baby sister are left alone when an accident befalls their grandmother far away. Young Bettina is resourceful, and does all the chores just so. . . with the exception of forgetting to leave out a dish of Christmas rice pudding for the nisse (gnome) who her grandfather always said lived in their barn. But a forgotten nisse is a mischievous nisse, and now Bettina has trouble on her hands!
Michelle actually did me a favor in writing this book for I was able to read it and watch my father-in-law at the same time (he's 104). Bettina will be in my thoughts forever and Pia will be there also. I will think of this story over and over and how the nisse reacted to Bettina's plight. I recommend this book for anyone's reading.
A fun fantasy read for middle to early YA readers! The plot, although a wee bit predictable, was enjoyable, but the characters are what made this story. Central to the book are the nisse, essentially the Danish equivalent to the 'brownie' of the British Isles-- gnome-like creatures of folklore who secretly perform domestic tasks and chores for a household in return for a rice pudding set out every Christmas. But when the family forgets to observe this custom, mischief ensues. When her baby sister disappears, Bettina suspects the family's slighted nisse is responsible and must set out to find her. Themes include loss, redemption, reunion, and the value of family. A warm, cozy book for a winter's evening by the fire!
This book is absolutely amazing. I love Scandinavian tales and especially so when they are written so charmingly. This book reminds me of Astrid Lindgren's "The Children of Noisy Village" which I adore.
I highly recommend reading this story!
page 40, I was so startled to read about babies being put outside in almost any weather to nap, "'Children need fresh air,' Mormor would say, and every Danish mother would agree. Rain or shine, winterfrost or no winterfrost, Danish babies must be set outside to nap." How wonderful, and this book mentions phones AND computers (plus it was published in 2014) so it is no ancient tome!
page 189, "A horse left before feed will eat without stopping. The sweet grain will be too much to resist, and he'll colic and die before he gets his fill." Is this true??
I had high hopes for Winterfrost, which promised a tale blending a modern Christmas with Danish folklore. Unfortunately, it fell a little short for my children and I. It just wasn't as magical as expected and the premise ended up being a big unbelievable (not the Danish folklore, but the idea that parents would leave their 12 year old daughter alone with her under one year old sister and no adults in sight). We did enjoy Bettina's time spent in the world of nisse and learning about the Danish folklore involving the nisse.
Great book! I found myself often identifying with the main character when I was her age, finding such joy in the rare perfect snow days and the stress of looking out for a younger sibling! I think that most people can relate to something in this book, whether it is the vivid descriptions of holiday dinners, taking care of barnyard animals, or remembering the first time the held down their family's home for the first time. The Magical elements in the books were well written. I really enjoyed the nisse, the small elf/ gnome characters. Their wit and wisdom drove the book for me during the middle chapters. I am excited to share this book with mid-level readers, I think they would find this book fascinating and fitting for the season!
The reasoning of why the parents abandon their 12-year-old and one-year-old daughters is totally absurd. I get it's a kid's book but it needn't of been as ridiculous as this. You could have had them only intend to be gone for a couple of hours or day but have a storm prevent them from getting home. The author could have already had the father be away on his trip instead of him deciding to abandon his daughters so as to not offend his crotchety relative.
The first half is an impressive bore as it's all just set up. When the adventure does finally happen it mostly involves walking back and forth between two locations delivering messages. It's not exactly what I would describe as thrilling material.
And the levity is really not there either. A book about well-intentioned mythological little mischief-makers should be hilarious. Alas it isn't hilarious and it isn't adventurous but it is a fine sleep aid for adults or children.
I enjoyed this book. I liked the world of the nisse and I liked how the book showed Bettina’s enjoyment of learning and exploring this magical world. I really liked Klakke and his sister Klarra, they were my favorite characters. The only reason it didn’t get a higher rating is because I like action packed books. This was more smooth flowing which was a nice change but not really my thing.
I had a hard time getting into this book. The story was quite slow. Nothing ever really happened. It's a lot of going back and forth between worlds. I didn't like the setup for what happened either. It was too far fetched. An adult paying attention wouldn't have ruined the story. I did like the ending. I was afraid it would end up being a dream or forgotten.
Two stars seems so harsh, because it was not a bad book at all, and yet it really was just okay for me. I loved the idea of it, but I never felt connected to the characters, and the ending left many loose ends. It could have been so much better, and I am disappointed it wasn't.
There are many things to like about this book. The descriptions of the Danish winter are beautiful, especially that of the winterfrost (literally a frost in winter). Bettina’s motivations are always clear and I liked the idea of discovering nisse, mythical creatures who turn out to be real. Unfortunately, that’s where my enjoyment of this book stops, as the plot goes downhill rather quickly. First, there’s very little discovery of any magical world after Bettina’s initial contact with the nisse family. If there are nisse, aren’t there other mythical creatures? The book felt slow-moving and meaningless, despite because only just over two hundred pages. And the ending left me wanting more.
4.5 Stars A fun middle grade book about the Nisse in Denmark. One year, a Nisse didn’t get his annual Christmas rice pudding from the family he helps look after. In response, he takes the family’s baby away. The 12 year-old sister, Bettina, is whisked away into the world of the Nisse to find her sister during the magical few days of winter frost.
This was a cozy read. Slow paced and with little plot or character development (who leaves a twelve year old alone for a week with a baby?), but it was nice to read anyway. It’s unlikely I’ll ever reread it but I enjoyed my time with it.
"The forests are fully of tales unheard, if only humans would pause their business to listen."
It is as a tender tale, this Winterfrost, as a simple one. Advisable, really, to whom love to read winter tale in winter time, and stories around nordic or not so usual mythology. I've really liked it, and I have to say I like the cover, too!
It is the seer, after all, who must slow down enough to take note of the world around her.
We LOVED this book. Ending dragged a little but an awesome story about looking for magic, snowy Denmark and the nisse. Will remember this as the first chapter book I read with little M. Asking lots of questions and wanting "another chapter Mom".