Winterfrost

Winterfrost

4.3 3
by Michelle Houts
     
 

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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,

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/15/2014
Never neglect a nisse. Such is the hard lesson learned by young Bettina in this novel, set in Denmark. Bettina’s grandfather, or Farfar, has always believed in the nisse, the elflike creatures rumored to look after the family and its livestock, and he never forgot to leave them a bowl of Christmas pudding. But on this first Christmas since Farfar’s death, Bettina’s parents are called away and leave her in charge. In the resulting confusion, Klaake the nisse gets no holiday treat and resorts to mischief as payback. Things get out of hand when Klaake snatches away Bettina’a baby sister and sets off a chain of dramatic magical encounters between Bettina and the nisse. Houts’s descriptions of the glistening weather phenomenon of winterfrost heighten the air of wonder in the story. The mix of fantasy, legend, and holiday tradition makes for a heady, escapist read. Ages 8–12. Agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
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. ... A timeless story that upholds and nurtures the magical worlds of nature and childhood.
—Kirkus Reviews

Children with a fascination for all things cute and tiny will delight in the cozy details of nisse household life, with its acorn cups and thistledown stockings. At the same time, they will appreciate Bettina’s struggle to cope with very adult responsibilities. A gentle holiday adventure with a quiet message of courage and responsibility.
—School Library Journal

A sweet but suspenseful story... The plot comes together as Bettina bravely searches for her sister in the sparkling wilderness, which seems to be under some sort of winter spell.
—Booklist

Readers will enjoy this benevolent Christmastime adventure inspired by Danish folklore.
—Horn Book

Simple and sweet, this contempo- rary fairy tale uses straightforward prose and measured pacing to tell a story both slightly otherworldly and utterly accessible. Bettina is calm, rational, and brave, an admirable ... heroine, and Houts paints the nisse with humor and whimsy. Charming and guileless, this story of adventure and enchantment would work well for a young fairy-tale aficionado or as a classroom readaloud in those restless days just before winter break.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Houts’s descriptions of the glistening weather phenomenon of winterfrost heighten the air of wonder in the story. The mix of fantasy, legend, and holiday tradition makes for a heady, escapist read.
—Publishers Weekly

Written in the folkloric language and style of old tales, young readers will enjoy the tiny lives of the nisse and appreciate the spunk and courage displayed by Bettina as she solves the problem of the troublesome Klaaka.
—Reading Today Online

This magical adventure leads you into a winter-frost world of Danish folklore and family love.
—Discovery Girls

Charming.
—The Buffalo News

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
It is Christmas Eve for the Larsen family on a small coastal island near Denmark. Suddenly, phone calls shrill—there is a family emergency. Twelve-year-old Bettina is left in charge of the house, the barn, and her baby sister, Pia, while her parents depart for a week. During the night, coastal fog freezes into rare, fluffy “winterfrost,” thought by some to be magical. One thing has been neglected, though: leaving a bowl of warm rice pudding in the barn for Klakke, their nisse (elf-like creatures who live in barns or forest; helpful, but can be mischievous). Next day, Bettina falls asleep after putting Pia down for a nap on the deck. When she awakens, she finds that Pia is gone! Here, Houts is asking for suspension of disbelief—Danes have cell phones, iPhones, and telephones. It is hard to imagine Bettina taking on a search alone; kidnapping is a serious crime. If readers can accept that premise, however, the story really begins, as Bettina suspects the aggrieved Klakke. Her adventures with his family take her deep into the forest and onto a barren winter island in search of Pia. Twice she flies, riding high on a goose and a seagull, magical events evoking memories of Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina. Bettina learns that the tiny nisse have family problems much like humans, but a vastly greater knowledge of the woods and forest creatures. As she returns home with Pia safely recovered, the winterfrost disappears, but Bettina will always cherish the nisse and remember to watch for them in barn and forest. A coming-of-age story with folklore and love of nature at its heart, this novel will appeal to thoughtful middle readers, who may also enjoy characters by Astrid Lindgren (Tomten) and Finnish artist Tove Jansson (“Moomintrolls” series). Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
07/01/2014
Gr 3–5—The Larsens' Christmas dinner is interrupted by a frantic emergency call that summons both parents away, leaving 12-year-old Bettina in charge of the farm, the household, and baby Pia. Unfortunately, in the confusion, family members forget the tradition of putting a bowl of holiday rice pudding out for the nisse who protects their Danish homestead. While the wee magical folk are usually kind and helpful, tradition warns that they can be prickly when slighted. So, when little Pia vanishes, Bettina fears that the offended nisse are to blame. An enchanted winterfrost opens the way for her to enter their hidden world. She learns that Pia is being held by Ulf, an angry nisse, estranged from his family and filled with guilt over a long-ago mistake. To bring her sister home, Bettina must travel to Ulf's lonely island and help the unhappy recluse make peace with his family and his past. Children with a fascination for all things cute and tiny will delight in the cozy details of nisse household life, with its acorn cups and thistledown stockings. At the same time, they will appreciate Bettina's struggle to cope with very adult responsibilities. A gentle holiday adventure with a quiet message of courage and responsibility.—Elaine E. Knight, formerly at Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-29
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)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763665654
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
09/09/2014
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
310,629
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile:
810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Michelle Houts fell in love with the nisse folk more than twenty years ago while living in Denmark, where she became fascinated with their tales of mischief and fun. Her Danish friends continue to share nisse stories and an occasional sighting. Michelle Houts lives in west central Ohio.

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