Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?

Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? is a beautiful book by Jan Brett, one of our favorite children’s book authors. In this story, naughty trolls threaten a Norwegian Christmas dinner till a passerby with a pet polar bear scares them off.



  • Jan Brett’s wonderfully imaginative story has a polar bear coming to the house on Christmas Eve. I recently read and very much enjoyed The Great White Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History of the Polar Bear, so I can tell you that polar bears do come up to people’s houses sometimes and knock on the window. Scientists who study the bears think it’s the same for a polar bear as going up to the ice den or breathing hole of a seal, so probably more about looking for food than paying a friendly call. Have students study polar bears and decide whether the bear in the story is realistic.
  • The aurora borealis are a background feature in the story. Check out Michigan Tech’s page on the subject, a clear but fairly advanced explanation of the phenomenon at YouTube, or time lapse photography from National Geographic below.  Art connections include links to a number of interesting lesson plans and a view of the Southern Lights.

Social Studies

  • This book is set in Norway, so you might wish to study that nation. Look at the Google Earth map of Norway and take virtual cruises. Once you’ve downloaded a cruise, you can play it on Google Earth. Click on any of the little squares to see gorgeous photos of the places you’re visiting. This could be a good computer center for student exploration.
  • Use the picture book as an introduction to a serious study of Norway for middle school and high school students.
  • Another Jan Brett book, The Three Snow Bears, is a far northern take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. That story uses folk art of the Inuit, while Who’s That Knocking uses images influenced by the folk art of the Sami. Both groups of people live in polar bear country. Have students research these two cultural groups and use a Venn diagram to compare them.
  • While this book is based on a different Norwegian folktale, it reminded me of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” a lovely Norwegian fairy tale. Use Venn diagrams to compare the two.
  • Both of these folktales involve trolls, common in Norwegian folklore. Read Christmas Trolls, Trouble with Trolls, or The Three Billy Goats Gruff to explore other examples of trolls in stories.
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