Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

oddCindy: Last year Gaiman gave us a boy named Bod. This year, “there was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place.” Odd meant the tip of the blade and it was a lucky name.” But like most folktale heroes, Odd is not lucky, at least not at the start of his story. Odd’s father was killed in a Viking sea raid involving nary a daring battle but instead drowning during an overboard pony rescue attempt. Odd’s leg was damaged from a falling tree, and then a cruel stepfather makes everything worse as winter drags on and on. Odd finally steals away in the night and the real adventure of Odd and Frost Giants (HarperCollins, 2009) begins.

The book was written as a World Book Day contribution. What a great charity! UK school children are each given a book token to buy a book from those written and published by donation for the event–I’d love to have someone comment who knows first hand about this special day. Gaiman challenged himself to write a novel in under 15,000 words, the maximum allowed. In the deft hands of such a master storyteller, Odd’s adventures provide perfect entertainment for a snowy winter night. Norse mythology infuses the story: there are gods disguised as animals, Frost Giants that are preventing spring from arriving, and a happily-ever-after ending of sorts. Our first major snowfall is in progress and we’ve had at least three inches in the last two hours, so our Frost Giants are a long way from being defeated. Fortunately, Gaiman’s author bio at the back of the book states that he thinks “there are more stories about Odd he would like to tell.” I’m glad to hear it, it’s going to be a long winter.

odd-21Lynn: Here is a book for sharing, for lingering over, for reading in front of the fire or just before bedtime. Gaiman captures the timeless sense of sagas and legends. This has the feel of a classic tale, honed by years of telling so that the story wraps around the listeners, enfolding them in the magic. It is an old story – a story of a lonely boy who takes on a giant. It is an old story of tricksome gods meddling in the lives of humans. But it is a new story – a blissful blend of humor, sweetness and Gaiman’s imaginative flair. Brett Helquist’s intricate illustrations are enchanting and are the perfect pairing for the text, carrying forward the classic feel of the book. It’s hard to pick a favorite illustration but Odd and the giant just might be mine. This is great for independent readers and for reading aloud and would make a terrific gift for the holiday. Here’s my wish for more stories about Odd!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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