The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits.
The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits
Ulf Stark, author
Eva Eriksson, illustrator
Susan Beard, translator
15 Harrison Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
9781782501367, $24.95, www.florisbooks.co.uk
"The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits" is a wonderful yuletide excursion into the magical winter world of the Swedish traditional Yule Tomte, (jultomte) who delivers presents to children at Christmas time. Translated from the original Swedish to English for the enjoyment of yet more young children, "The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits" weaves a compelling Christmas story over 25 beautifully illuminated chapters, to be read to children as a daily treat over the Advent season. Grump, the tomte lived alone in a deserted cottage, coming in and out the cat door. He was very particular about his routines. He was not especially sociable. As Grump continued through his quiet Advent preparations, he was joined by bee whom he grumpily welcomed and cared for. Over the succeeding days, Grump was to encounter many more forest animals, the Rabbit children, Mouse children, Owl, Fox, many forest birds, the voles, and more. The forest animals decide to do a special presentation to welcome the Yule Tomte, who they understand is coming by piecing together a variety of amazing clues, such as a lost red pointy hat and mittens, and a sign saying TOMTE CO. The Jackdaws are amusing and helpful at reading the sign and the animals think together what to do to welcome the Tomte. Meanwhile, Grump has a dream visit from St. Lucia on December 13 (her traditional feast day), which includes the message that he will be having two children for company, whether he wants them or not. Grump is tempted to dismiss this dream, but the presence of real ginger biscuits and coffee and saffron buns (left by St. Lucia) is too convincing to ignore. The sweetly compelling story of Grump and the Rabbit children, Binny and Barty, continues to unfold, with many secret, joyous parallels to the Nativity and the Christmas story. While Grump complains, in a most convincingly human way, his actions are gentle and caring for both the bee, the mice and rabbit children, and each creature and challenge he encounters. Despite all his grumbling, or maybe because of it, the hospitality of the Tomte is warm, real, and tangible. Finally, at a celebration with the Rabbit family when Grump returns the lost Rabbit children safe and sound, Binny asks, "Why do we celebrate Christmas?" The tomte answers, "Because a child has come to earth." The expected yet surprising ending comes with yet one more special sharing gift appreciated by all the animals together, and a very satisfying conclusion that embraces both spirituality and human shortcomings lights the final candle of this Advent tale.