I think I need to create a new category for tagging reviews: ageless. (Or age-defying, or age-free?) Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants is the sort of story that anyone with even the tiniest smidge of youthful spirit left inside them will treasure. It’s a story to remind you of the first fairy tales you read by yourself, or had read to you. Remember? You were probably sitting tucked up in a blanket, far away in your imagination in cursed lands, with heroes on quests and magical creatures as your companions. That’s exactly what you’ll find in Gaiman’s most recent short tale inspired by Norse mythology.
Things are not well with Odd. His father has been lost in a Viking expedition. He’s been nearly crippled by an accident that left his leg shattered. Then, to make it all even harder to bear, there’s the endless winter that seems to have settled over his village. Everyone is grouchy and fearful about what will happen if spring never comes. So Odd takes off. He runs away, not with any real purpose. He finds a purpose, however, when three animals find him: a bear, a fox and an eagle. Odd learns these are no ordinary creatures, but in fact, they are much more than they seem. The three are Norse gods, Thor, Loki and Odin, who’ve been transformed into animals by an angry Frost Giant. The giant has captured the gods’ city, Asgard, and for as long as he is there, winter will not leave the land. Odd joins them and they journey to Asgard, where Odd proves that no matter how unassuming he might seem, or how insignificant, he is capable of great things.
This was such a sweet little tale. You’ll like Odd a great deal, for his pluck and his sheer determination. In a short book, we get a strong sense of his character. The Norse gods in animal form are pretty funny. They are a bumbling, blaming, frustrated trio and it’s hard not to laugh at their predicament. I imagine this will make a fabulous read aloud, partly because it’s so short. It could be enjoyed in just a few hours. For a child with any interest in mythology (aka most kids), it’s perfect. I’m thinking this is the stocking stuffer for Christmas this year. It has the feel of a tale that’s been around for a while, which is always the sort of book that grandparents, in particular, like to give. Also, it must be said that the book itself is lovely in its design. It’s small, with a wintry dark blue and gold colour theme going on, that really reinforces the idea of it as a classic-in-the-making. Brett Helquist’s illustrations are spot on, I only wish there had been even more of them, and maybe even one or two in colour plates. My favourite: the one where the three god / animals are grumping about their fate, trying to blame each other. The expressions say everything.
Here’s the trailer:
Gaiman wrote the book for World Book Day in the UK, an amazing-sounding annual event where kids get tokens for books for just £1. I wish Canada would jump onto that idea.
Odd and the Frost Giants is published by Harper.