THE TOMTEN by Astrid Lindgren
We always know it’s the holiday season when The Tomten finds its way into the reading basket. Even though my kids are older now and we’ve always inclined toward chapter books for our family readalouds, this sweet winter picture book is essential holiday reading at our house, and I think your family might love it, too.
The Tomten is a kindly Swedish creature who — when winter is at its darkest and chilliest — wakes up from his dreams to remind animals (and any children who happen to be awake) that spring is coming. Busy grown-ups can’t hear the Tomten’s silent language as he quietly makes his way around the farm, but that’s okay: The Tomten is watching over those grown-ups, too, as he keeps his winter vigil. The Tomten is either a troll-ish gnome or a gnome-ish troll; either way, he’s a white-bearded, pointy-capped mythical creature who channels the hope of spring in the chill dark of winter.
And that’s it, really — nothing much happens in this little picture book, with its spare language and dark, dreamy illustrations of a snowbound farm. But there’s something about its magical quietness that captures the way I want the holidays to feel: peaceful, patient, and a little bit enchanted. We read this book and make rice pudding for the Tomten (we eat some, too!), and it feels as though the season of joy and celebration has arrived in the best possible way.
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