We love Jan Brett’s books. They are such great stories for reading aloud and the illustrations always provide so much for discussion. My children particularly like the sidebars which foreshadow what is going on with the other characters in the story. Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? retells an old Scandinavian folktale in which a pack of trolls eats a family out of house and home every Christmas. In this version, a boy from Finnmark, the northernmost and easternmost county in Norway is skiing to Oslo with his polar bear. Skiing or hiking through the mountains from hut to hut is a popular pasttime and if you’re interested, have a look at the huts managed by Den Norske Turistforening (The Norwegian Trekking Association). They offer guided tours and suggestions for independent trekking, though most people do not usually ski or hike the length of the country!
The boy from Finnmark sees smoke curling up from a hut far in the distance and he skis toward it hoping for a bite to eat and a warm place to sleep for the night. Little does he know that he’s not the only one who notices the smoke! Kyri is busy preparing Christmas dinner and hoping that the trolls leave them alone this year when she hears a knock on the door. She welcomes the boy from Finnmark, but warns him that there may be trolls. In fact, her father is up in the mountains hoping to stop the trolls and chase them off.
Glad to be warm, the polar bear crawls under the stove and falls asleep. Just as Kyri and the boy from Finnmark are settling down to eat, the trolls arrive and Kyri and the boy from Finnmark quickly escape to the animal shed, leaving the polar bear asleep under the stove. The trolls are initially content to just eat until they are stuffed, but eventually go looking for trouble. One of them spies the “kitty” asleep under the stove and pokes the bear with a hot piece of sausage. With a roar, the polar bear leaps up and chases the trolls out of the hut. Hearing the noise, Kyri’s father quickly skis home. He thanks the boy from Finnmark and invites him back next year on his return from Oslo. All is calm until the following year when the littlest troll stops Kyri to ask about the kitty that sleeps under the stove….
While Norwegians don’t live in log cabins like Kyri’s anymore, you can can see similar types at the Norwegian Folk museum in Oslo. You can also experience traveling through the mountains (though perhaps not as far as the boy from Finnmark) and staying in huts and mountain hotels on trails maintained by the Norwegian Trekking Association. Even if you’re not up to going from hut to hut, they are great places for families to stay for day trips and more local explorations.