Thursday, 31 December 2020

The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits ~ by Ulf Stark and Eva Eriksson


This beautiful book written by Swedish author and screenwriter Ulf Stark, who passed away in 2017.  It is illustrated by author and artist Eva Eriksson and is a must have for anyone who loves Christmas. The story borrows heavily from Swedish folklore and the the Christmas Tompte who brings presents to children at Christmastime. He is a Dobby-like gnome who lives in people's houses or on farms and protects children and animals. If treated badly, he will play tricks and can be grumpy at times. The tompte in this book is certainly grumpy, in fact that is his name! Unlike Percy the Park Keeper - this Tompte is upset when animals come to his home seeking shelter. Yet he is kind despite his best efforts to the contrary.  He doesn't like a fuss and is the most unlikely Christmas character that I have come across in a long time, not since Scrooge perhaps!  

Still, this is a really charming book. Eva Wriksson has created a collection of beautiful illustrations that fills the heart with joy. Published in 2014, this hardback edition is stunningly produced, with a sumptuous red binding in a large format. I have shared lots of illustrations here, just so you can see the quality of the images. 

One interesting thing about this book is that it is broken into 25 sections, one for each day of advent.  What a perfect way to count down to Christmas!  Of course, you don't have to read it in sections, but I strongly recommend it. 

In a way, it it the unexpected meanness of the tompte that reminds us of the spirit of Christmas.  The family of rabbits, embody what Christmas is all about - their faith in the Yule Tompte never wanes.  The little rabbits are especially faithful to the magic of the season - two little rabbits take matters into their own hands and seek out the tompte.  They insist that he visits their home and he cannot refuse them. Their deep concern for one another is truly heartwarming. They live in hope and never doubt that the tompe will come and all will be well. 

And while the yule tompte is meant to bring gifts to the rabbits, it is they who give a gift to him - the return his lost hat!  Yet they also give him something even more important - the gift of friendship and comraderie in the depths of winter. This is something that we can all certainly relate to as 2020 draws to a close. 

The spirit of Christmas is captured between the covers of this beautiful book.  It would make the perfect gift for anyone with an interest in children's literature, or illustration.