• Otto and the Secret Light of Christmas

    by  • 16 November 2023 • Children's Books, Christmas, Extract • 0 Comments

    Adventurous elf Otto journeys to Lapland to find the light of Christmas in this beautifully illustrated storybook, which joyfully celebrates Finnish folklore and culture. Pirkko-Liisa and Nora Surojegin bring magical creatures, traditional villages and stunning landscape to life through expressive and intricate illustrations. Otto and the Secret Light of Christmas shares a positive message about truth, friendship and the spirit of Christmas.

    Step inside the story with this extract from the chapter titled, Frosted Bear. While looking to the stars to guide him on his journey, Otto encounters a great bear, the biggest he has ever seen. To Otto’s surprise, instead of eating him, the guardian of the forest offers Otto shelter from the snow and shows him the way forward. The unique pair become fast friends.

    The chapter is a warm reminder that creatures are not always as they first appear and friendship can blossom even in the most unlikely of places.

    Frosted Bear

    The night was bright and the wind had subsided. Otto looked at the clear, black sky with its twinkling stars. The world felt vast beneath it.

    Frost spread over the forest. Dewdrops froze into strings of pearls, moss became a sparkling blanket and the cold air chilled pine trunks into great silver pillars. The whole wood glistened in the moonlight and was so quiet that even thinking a small thought felt like speaking aloud.

    Otto tried to find the North Star. First he looked for the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, to guide him north.

    Suddenly something big and black blocked the constellation from view: the starlight lit up a fur coat sprinkled with glittering frost and Otto could see a huge real bear standing before him.

    The bear looked at Otto. In her eyes he was just a small grey dot, but the enormous creature responded to the stranger with quiet curiosity. Otto did not look threatening to the bear who, it turned out, was respected by the whole forest, even the mighty King Kekri.

    Otto was afraid she might pop him into her mouth. Should he have stayed at home after all and been flattened to the size of a mouse dropping under a collapsed roof?

    The bear was big, even for a bear. She was used to seeing forest dwellers trembling in her presence, but Otto was different. The bear was intrigued by the flash in Otto’s eyes and above all, by his absurd hat.

    “Tomorrow it will snow,” she said in a soft voice. “I recommend you look for shelter or you will be buried. Your path will vanish.”

    The great bear’s thoughtfulness took Otto by surprise. He replied, “Thank you for the advice, good friend. My name is Otto. I was intending to sleep in a hollow spruce.”

    “That doesn’t sound good,” the bear mused. “Where are you headed?”

    “I’m heading north,” Otto told her. “I’m looking for Father Yule who I hope can tell me about the secret light of Christmas.”

    She looked at Otto with interest. “One time, long ago, I met Father Yule,” the bear reminisced. “He advised me how to become a good leader for the forest. I’m sure he will be able to tell you about Christmas and the winter lights.” The bear dropped her forepaws to the ground and looked at little Otto. “Why don’t you tell me more about your adventures,” she said gently. “I can offer you a warm place for the night so you don’t get buried under the snow.”

    “That’s very kind of you,” Otto said with relief. How very lucky, he thought, that the bear had not even considered having him for a snack.

    The bear lifted Otto onto her back and set off walking calmly through the forest. Otto told her about his journey and the bear laughed when he described the bustling mupples. The new friends also discovered they shared a love of fishing.

    “Nothing can beat the feeling when your wait is rewarded and you hook a big fat trout!” said the bear. The friends chatted merrily as snowflakes drifted down from the black sky.

    By the time its den came into view at the base of a cliff, the path was already hard to see under the snow. The bear lowered Otto to the ground at the entrance and shook snowflakes from her fur. Otto’s hat had fallen over his eyes from the weight of the snow and he shook the powder off. The bear stretched and showed Otto which direction to take when he woke in the morning.

    “I sleep deeply,” the bear explained. “I may not wake for a few months. You are welcome to stay as long as you wish, but if you continue your trip now, while there’s still some daylight, I believe you’ll find what you’re seeking.”

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