If you don’t like East, I’ll have to recommend you get your head examined. Epic journey. Romance. Magical artistry. Dangerous enchantments. Betrayal. Yum.
This is one absorbing read. I’m always skeptical when I see the words “saga,” “epic” and the like used to describe a book (especially when they’re tossed around on the front cover). Right there, my expectations get jacked up, and rarely does the book meet them. Not so with East. Pattou based her novel on the gorgeous Norwegian fairy tale, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” For those unfamiliar with the story, run out and get the version with P.J. Lynch’s awesome illustrations. This was one of my favorite books when I was about 10 years old. I used to go downstairs to my bookshelf in our basement and read it in a secret sort of fashion, feeling that I was really too grown up to still be enjoying a fairy tale picture book. It only took a moment after I opened the cover for me to forget my shy embarrassment, as I was drawn into the wild, cold, romantic world of the white bear and the farmer’s lass. (Sigh) So I wasn’t sure how East could possibly measure up. It did.
I think that I enjoyed Pattou’s book so much because it stayed true to the tale I loved as a girl. Rose, the youngest daughter of a struggling farmer, is given the opportunity to rescue her starving family when one evening, a giant white bear comes to her home and offers health and prosperity to the family in exchange for the girl. Rose agrees and travels with the bear to a distant, mysterious castle within a mountainside. She finds in this journey a destiny far beyond her wildest imaginings. Pattou offers a fairly straight up retelling of the fairy tale, adding elements that enhance the richness of an already satisfying story. For instance, the history and art of mapmaking as well as the symbol of the compass rose are important threads in the story, and Pattou develops these elements in a way that begs readers to learn more about these fascinating subjects. This is a fantasy that you will sink down into and sigh over when you’re finished. Promise.
So here’s the plan. If you know a girl, say about 8 or 9, buy her this book:
And you might consider pairing it up with this:
(Mapping the World by Sylvia Johnson)
Then when she’s about 14 or so, she’ll be all set for East – and she won’t be disappointed.