Skip to main content

Winterfrost by Michelle Houts, 259pp, RL: 4


Winterfrost  by Michelle Houts features a mythical creature that captured my imagination as a child - gnomes, also known as "nisse." Gnomes was one of the first books I remember purchasing with my own, hard earned money, and I think it also is the first encyclopedic book about a fictional creature. Winterfrost  is a superb story that combines holiday and cultural traditions with a story of determination and bravery that makes for an exciting story for readers of all beliefs and traditions. And, while Winterfrost  begins on Christmas Eve and is filled with lovely images of the natural world covered in white, (especially the winterfrost of the title, a glistening cover of frost that comes when a heavy fog settles and freezes - a rare event) it is a wonderful read, all year round.

On Christmas Eve, twelve year old Bettina Larsen, a resident of Lolland, an island in the south of Denmark, is preparing for the holiday without her grandfather, Farfar, when the phone call comes in. With a flurry of frantic activity, both of her parents (and for very reasons that are not farfetched) are packing their bags and preparing to depart, leaving Bettina in charge of the farm and her infant sister, Pia. While this may seem shocking to modern Americans, Houts writes in a way that conveys the culture of the region while also seeming believably reasonable, especially since the Pedersens are right next door! And Bettina does do an admirable job taking care of her little sister and the barnful of animals. That is, until one terrible oversight is noticed. Farfar had always kept the belief and traditions of the nisse, small and sturdy gnomes who are both protective and caring of the human family's farm and animals, but also easily offended. Tradition dictates that a bowl of buttery rice pudding is left in the barn on Christmas Eve as a tribute to the nisse, and this has always been something that Farfar and Bettina did together. With Farfar gone and the excitement of Mor and Far leaving, the tribute is forgotten.

This sets off a chain of events that begins with baby Pia's disappearance, followed by the shrinking of Bettina and a visit to a nisse home, the revelation of a long-held grudge, as well as the abduction of Klakke, the Larsen's nisse by a seagull. Houts tells this charming story in a way that will remind readers of traditional fairy tales. While dangers are faced, there is a comforting tone in the narrative that allows readers to never fear for the fates of Pia, Bettina or even Klakke, the young nisse with questionable decision making skills. Hoult does a magnificent job conveying the culture of the country and the wonder of the winter world and the accompanying traditions. As the Kirkus reivew aptly notes, Winterfrost  is a "timeless story that upholds and nurtures the magical worlds of nature and childhood."

Source: Review Copy

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…