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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, 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.
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School Library Journal Review
Gr 3-7-It's Christmas Eve on a farm in Denmark and the Larsens are suddenly called away to attend to their grandmother, who has broken her hip, leaving 12-year-old Bettina to care for her baby sister Pia alone. Or at least she thinks she is alone. When they forget to put out the traditional rice pudding for the gnome-like nisse, Klakke the barn nisse takes revenge. This sets in motion a series of events that put Bettina in a very difficult situation. Based on real Danish customs, Houts's contemporary folktale has all the right ingredients-heroine, villain, magic, conflict, and resolution through kindness and courage. Narrator Amy McFadden brings to life Bettina and the imaginary world of the tiny nisse with a wide range of distinguishing voices. The listener is swept along by the suspenseful plot, witty dialogue, and vivid descriptions of woodland scenery. This audiobook is well suited for children, but adults who enjoy stories about wee folk, such as The Borrowers or The Spiderwick Chronicles, will also find much to enjoy here. VERDICT This gem of a book is ideal for a classroom study in Christmas traditions.-Alice Davidson, Indianapolis, IN (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
A sweet but suspenseful story set on the Danish island of Lolland, Houts' latest reveals two worlds: that of 12-year-old Bettina, who must watch over her baby sister when her parents are called away, and that of the nisse folk, the small, magical creatures who have long provided hidden help and made mischief in the countryside. Few adults believe in them, but they cause real trouble, starting when Klakke, the nisse who lives in Bettina's barn, impulsively steals baby Pia from her carriage. Houts focuses on Bettina's lamentable situation but also shows how Klakke's mind works; he's not malicious, just upset and immature. 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. Houts wonderfully conveys how Bettina gets caught up in a blur of frost and leaves and roots and cider as she travels to the nisse's hideaways and then makes her way back home with not only her sister but also with more friends than she had before.--Nolan, Abby Copyright 2014 Booklist
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