• Celebrate Midsummer with the Midsummer Tomte!

    by  • 19 June 2020 • Children's Books, Extract, Seasons • 0 Comments

    Midsummer Eve is a national holiday in Sweden, second only to Christmas in importance. It’s traditionally celebrated between June 19 and 25, to mark the summer solstice. In Sweden, where the summers are so short and the long winters are so very dark, it’s particularly important to celebrate the longest and lightest day of the year.

    Enjoy the first chapter from The Midsummer Tomte and the Little Rabbits – a story of midsummer magic by Ulf Stark, illustrated by the award-winning Eva Eriksson.

    Chapter One: The First Mosquito Bite of the Year

    Grump the tomte sat on a stool outside the old dog kennel, which he had made his home, with a stove, a bed, rugs and everything he needed. It was not big, but it was just the right size for a house tomte like him.

    He had taken off his boots and socks because today the sun was shining.

    Grump was enjoying his breakfast porridge. He breathed in the sweet scent of the lilac flowers and watched a mosquito walk over his foot, looking for a good place to bite him.

    “Hello little mosquito,” he said absentmindedly. It was such a lovely morning that he forgot to be grumpy, as house tomtes should be. He even hummed a little tune to himself: “Hmm hmm, ho ho, ha ha.”

    His friend the bumblebee was flying around looking for flowers that had come into bloom. It swooped over the nettles beside the pigsty.

    “Soon it will be time to leave and find a home of my own,” thought the bee.

    Every time it mentioned leaving, Grump grunted and said it was far too soon for that. “What are you thinking of, you bumblenoddle? There aren’t enough flowers yet. You’ll starve.” Then Grump sighed. “No, I’ll have to put up with you a bit longer, you nuisance.”

    The bee looked down at the tomte and wondered, “How will I have the heart to leave the old crosspatch? He saved my life once. I don’t want to make him sad.”

    The mosquito on his foot grew fat and red until its body looked like his own tomte hat. But Grump didn’t squash it because tomtes, as you know, are kind to all animals, even ones that bite.

    Instead he hissed, “Why don’t you learn to eat porridge!”

    And then he thought of all the things that had to be done.

    Grump walked into the farm cottage and flung open the windows to let the winter air out and the summer air in. He shook sheets, plumped up pillows and scrubbed the floor with a pine-needle brush. He dusted the wedding photograph on the chest of drawers and buried all the flies that had died during the winter.

    He had done this every year – and there had been many – since the family that lived in the house moved away.

    Now it smelled lovely and clean. But he had to complain, because that is what house tomtes do.

    “Work, work, work, that’s all I do,” he muttered as he polished the heavy brass gong that hung in the hall. The mother who lived there in the old days used to bang it when it was time for the children to come in and eat.

    He tested the gong by hitting it with the broom handle. BONG! it went, just the way it should.

    Then it seemed as if the empty house came to life again. He heard the happy shouts of the boys and girls, and the sound of feet running across the floor. He heard the voices of the mother and father, dogs barking, chickens cackling in the yard outside and pigs grunting. Just like it was before.

    He was so lost in his daydream that, when he had finished cleaning, he sat down on a tree stump and carved an extra-special reed pipe, with six holes on the top and one underneath, like a proper penny whistle.

    “Boy!” he called.

    But the boy was no longer there. He hadn’t been there for many, many years.

    Grump snapped out of his daydream, feeling embarrassed. He stuck the pipe in his mouth and blew as hard as he could.

    “How was that?” he asked the bee.

    “Nothing special,” said the bee.

    “It wasn’t that bad, surely?”

    “It was terrible,” buzzed the bee.

    That made Grump cross. “What do you know about music? You might as well move out,” he bellowed.

    “I will. Tomorrow,” said the bee.

    Grump left the reed pipe in the boy’s old room and made up his mind to forget all about it.

    Will Grump the Tomte find something to be happy about this midsummer? Find out in The Midsummer Tomte and the Little Rabbits!

    It’s summer in the big forest and the rabbit children are looking forward to their first Midsummer party. Owl, who knows everything, says Midsummer is a time for dancing, love and magic. What a fun time they will have!

    Then a terrible storm sweeps through the forest and the woodland animals must find shelter at Grump the tomte’s cottage. Will the magic of Midsummer help restore harmony to the forest in time for the party?


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