This will be the first of many Christmas/winter themes books I will be reading, both this month and probably for the rest of winter. I don’t what it is about winter that makes me want to read books set in cold places.
Anyway, I was drawn to this book both because of its cover and because it deal with Danish folklore. And I have a thing for northern Europeon folklore (Nordic, Russian, etc.), so I picked it up. It is a children’s book, but if you read my recent review of City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab, you’ll know I like middle grade books.
Release: September, 2014
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Bettina lives on a Danish farm. On Christmas Eve just as the winterfrost is coming, her parents are unexpectedly called away to visit a hospitalized relative, leaving Bettina and her one-year-old sister Pia alone. When Bettina forgets to leave the traditional bowl of rice pudding out for a legendary creature known as a nisse, the creature steals Pia and Bettina must journey to rescue her sister.
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.
Bettina is not exactly a regular twelve-year-old. She’s so…responsible. I don’t care if her parents did have to go visit relatives. They were incredibly stupid for leaving a child to take care of a baby. In fact, if the nisse hadn’t helped Bettina, Pia would probably have died somewhere along the journey. But I didn’t hate Bettina; my twelve-year-old self just couldn’t relate to her, perhaps because I have no younger siblings.
The other characters were all rather bland. I can’t be bothered to remember any of the nisse names (except for Klara, which is rather easy to remember), mostly because I already returned the book to the library. But the main nisse who helps Bettina’s family is predictable and the one character I was excited to meet (Ulk? Urk? Or something like that.) turned out to be rather anti-climatic.
One of the things I was looking forward to learning about was the mythical world, but we didn’t learn anything beyond the fact that there was one nisse family living in the forest.
However, my favorite part of this book is the theme of remembering the fantasy world. Farfar (Bettina’s grandfather) always believed in the nisse, and after he died the year before, Bettina felt unhappy. And yet after discovering that the nisse did actually exist, she began to believe in hope again. I loved that theme and it was the only part of the book I really enjoyed.
The arrival of the winterfrost at the beginning of the book was about as exciting as this book got. It wasn’t a horrible book and had the makings of being good, but in the end it wasn’t that interesting. I’m not going to even bother to do a spoiler review for this story, because there isn’t that much to spoil.
Have you read this book? What is your favorite children’s book to read around Christmas? What is your favorite type of mythology? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,