Christmas Books for Families
Authors both in Scandinavia and abroad have drawn inspiration from Scandinavian Christmas traditions and the snowy winter wonderland to create heart-warming holiday stories. Norway, Denmark, and Sweden share many similar traditions, among them a little elf, porridge, and festivities on Christmas Eve, but Sweden seems to have the monopoly on Christmas-themed books available in English. No matter what your heritage, books set in Scandinavia make a welcome addition to your holiday library. On this list you’ll find classic and contemporary authors from within and outside Scandinavia writing about Christmas and wintertime in Scandinavia. Many of these books might even be available at your local library.
(Book descriptions are taken from Goodreads. Book links are Amazon affiliate links and help support what I do here on the blog. Your support is much appreciated.)
Elsa Beskow Books
Elsa Beskow (1875-1953) was a popular Swedish author and illustrator of children’s books.
Peter and Lotta go to live in the country with Aunt Green, Aunt Brown, Aunt Lavender and Uncle Blue. As Christmas approaches, they discover all kinds of new surprises, but best of all is finding where the presents come from. Is it from deep in the forest where the tallest fir trees grow?
Six-year-old Ollie is given his first pair of real skis. As soon as the snow begins to fall, he sets off on an adventure by himself to the palace of King Winter. Along the way, he meets Jack Frost, who makes everything sparkle, and Mrs. Thaw, who makes everything melt. At the palace, Ollie meets children helping to make Christmas presents―that is, until breaktime, when they rush outside for a big snowball fight. Finally, Mrs. Thaw gets her way, and the lovely snow starts to disappear. Ollie is very upset and wishes it could be winter forever―until Spring arrives one lovely day when in her carriage, pulled by butterflies.
Astrid Lindgren Books
Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002) was a prolific Swedish writer of children’s books and screenplays. Among her many works are several that take place during Christmas time.
The noisy children of three neighboring families are celebrating the season by baking cookies, cutting and decorating trees, eating fruitcake and tarts, and opening Christmas gifts. With illustrations by Ilon Wikland, the master storyteller Astrid Lindgren takes us through Christmas in the Noisy Village!
It’s the last day of school before Christmas and snow is falling heavily. Johan heads to school on his sled, but he can’t stop thinking about the terrible thing that happened yesterday–his family’s only cow died, and they have no money to buy another.
The rich farmer Peter Jonsson has come to town today for the Christmas market. He buys a calf then, after spending some time in the local inn, loses it on the sleigh ride home! When Johan heads out to clear snow, what does he find?… Maybe he’ll have a happy Christmas after all.
No one knows when he came to the farm, no one has ever seen him, but everyone knows it is the troll Tomten who walks about the lonely old farmhouse on a winter’s night, talking to all the animals and reminding them of the promise of Spring.
Sven Nordqvist Books
Sven Nordqvist (1946-) is a contemporary Swedish author best known for his series Pettson and Findus about the old farmer Pettson and his talented cat Findus.
It is the day before Christmas Eve and there is lots to do but disaster strikes when Pettson sprains his ankle. How can they celebrate Christmas now–with no tree, ham, meatballs or gingerbread? For all their resourcefulness, Findus and Pettson are close to giving up, when suddenly there is a knock on the door…
Every Christmas Eve, the Master puts out rice pudding for the tomtes to say thank you for their help around the house during the year. Recently, however, the Master has forgotten, and Mama tomte knows he will forget again this year. The elves hatch a plot to steal a bowl of Christmas porridge, without being seen, so that Papa tomte doesn’t get angry.
The Troll of Trafalgar Square (2016) by Fiona Scott, illustrated by Jess Bragg
Every year, the people of Oslo give the people of London the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree as thanks for the help during World War II and to mark the strong bond between the two nations.
Anfred is a lost little Norwegian troll who was fast asleep in his favourite spruce tree but awakes to find he has been transported hundreds of miles away to London! Surrounded by the big grey lions in Trafalgar Square, millions of strangers, cars, and bright lights (not to mention the pigeons everywhere), Anfred is afraid. Luckily for him he meets Hudson, a young boy with a nose for adventure… Join Hudson and Anfred on their Christmas Eve journey! Are there trolls living in Trafalgar Square? Will Anfred ever get home?
The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits: A Christmas Story for Advent (2014) by Ulf Stark
Translated from Swedish by Susan Beard and illustrated by Eva Eriksson, this story is told over 25 chapters ― one for each day of Advent — with festive illustrations.
Grump the Yule Tomte lives all alone, which is exactly how he likes it! He’s waiting for Christmas to arrive when all of a sudden a gust of wind steals his mittens from the washing line and his hat from his head. That’s the last straw…he won’t be the Yule Tomte anymore!
Binny and Barty, the rabbit children, live with their family in the forest. They’ve never heard of Christmas, or the Yule Tomte, until the wind brings them some strange gifts…
All the animals in the forest prepare for the arrival of Christmas. They make presents, bake sweet treats and even write a song. But will the Yule Tomte ever bring Christmas to the big forest?
Lucia Morning in Sweden (2014) by Ewa Rydaker, illustrated by Carina Stahlberg
In the busy house of the Svennson family, everyone is getting ready for the Swedish holiday of Lucia Day, December 13. The book tells the story of Santa Lucia through the eyes of three children in modern-day Sweden. It describes their giddy activities, brought to life in colorful, full-page illustrations, and also provides sheet music, recipes, and sewing patterns for the costumes traditionally worn by children on this day, when many Swedish people celebrate the legacy of Lucia and the coming of the light with coffee, saffron buns, ginger snaps, and wonderful singing.
The Christmas Mystery: A Novel (1992) by Jostein Gaarder
Jostein Gaarder is a Norwegian intellectual and author of several novels, short stories, and children’s books. This Christmas novel in 24 chapters is translated from Norwegian by Elizabeth Rokkan and illustrated by Rosemary Wells.
One day Elisabet, while Christmas shopping with her mother, vanishes into thin air. Accompanied by angels, shepherds, kings and even a Roman governor, she is rushing back through time and space to Bethlehem, to be present at the birth of Christ. Fifty years later a boy called Joachim pieces together her story from a magic advent calendar and brings it to a conclusion.
The Christmas Wish (2013) by Lori Evert
This book is one of the Wish series created by the family together with the mother as writer, father as photographer, and daughter as character in the story. They divide their time between Minnesota and Norway.
Long ago, a brave little girl named Anja wanted to be one of Santa’s elves. So she leaves a note for her family and helps her elderly neighbor prepare for the holiday, then she straps on her skis, and heads out into the snowy landscape. From a red bird to a polar bear to a reindeer, a menagerie of winter animals help Anja make her way to Santa.
Winterfrost (2014) by Michelle Houts
Jan Brett Picture Books
Jan Brett, an American author and illustrator, has written and illustrated a number of picture books inspired by visits to Scandinavia. She loves trolls and is energized by the colors and landscapes of Scandinavian countries (Author Jan Brett trolls Scandinavia for atmosphere).
Every year, trolls knock down Kyri’s door and gobble up her Christmas feast. But this year, the trolls are in for a surprise: a boy and his pet ice bear on their way to Oslo have come in from the cold. And once the ice bear is finished with the trolls, you can bet they won’t come knocking next Christmas Eve!
The Wild Christmas Reindeer (Norway)
Little Teeka thought she had to be firm with the reindeer to get them ready for Santa’s important flight, but when her bossy yelling only got their antlers tangled up, she knew she had to try something different.
Home for Christmas (Sweden)
A wild little troll runs away from home because he doesn’t want to do his chores. Rollo tries living with various woodland animals, but he finds out that there is no place like home, and returns to his family just in time for “the best Christmas ever.”
Christmas Trolls (Scandinavian Trolls)
Christmas is Treva’s favorite time of year, especially the preparations — finding the perfect tree, decorating the house, and making presents for her family. But this year is different. Small things are disappearing, then some of the presents themselves. Treva is mystified, until early one morning she sees a small creature scurrying across the snow, carrying the Christmas pudding. Treva races after it into the forest where her adventures are just beginning. . .
The fourth book in the very popular Very Christmas series, this collection brings together the best Scandinavian holiday stories including classics by Hans Christian Andersen of Denmark; Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, August Strindberg and Hjalmar Söderberg of Sweden; as well as the acclaimed contemporary Norwegian authors Karl Ove Knausgaard and National Book Award nominee Vigdis Hjorth. These Nordic tales―coming from the very region where so much of traditional Christmas imagery originates―convey a festive and contemplative spirit laden with lingonberries, elks, gnomes, Sami trolls, candles, gingerbread, and aquavit in abundance. A smorgasbord of unexpected literary gifts that make up a vibrant, elegant hardcover volume sure to provide plenty of pleasure and hygge, that specifically Scandinavian blend of coziness and contentment.
Do you know of other Christmas or winter-themed books that take place in Scandinavia or are by Scandinavian authors and available in English? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.