Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Brett Helquist.
Odd’s father died on a Viking ship, leaving Odd and his mother behind. A few weeks later, Odd tried to chop down a tree with his father’s axe and ended up shattering his leg. Now he still walks with a limp and is teased and mocked at home. Tempers are rising in the village because spring should have come but winter continues its hold on the land. Odd heads off to his father’s hunting lodge to escape the increasing teasing. There he meets three animals: an enormous bear, a fox and an eagle. The three turn out to be Norse gods who are trapped in animal form and banished from Asgard which has been invaded by Frost Giants. Can one limping boy and three animals get back into the land of Asgard, bring peace and return spring to the land?
Neil Gaiman has written a small jewel of a book about an unexpected hero. It is a focused story told in a voice that is meant to be shared aloud. Odd is a pleasing character. A smart boy with a sad past who is braver and stronger than anyone knew. Gaiman’s language here is plain and simple, the story short and fast-moving. Yet at the same time this is not a shallow piece. It has heart and plenty of depth. The occasional illustrations by Brett Helquist add to its friendliness for young readers and offer tantalizing glimpses of Odd’s world.
Any teacher doing a unit on mythology should add this book to your list. It will also be useful with reluctant readers who will enjoy the direct story and the fast pacing. Appropriate for ages 8-11, younger for reading aloud. This is a perfect book for cold winter nights.
Reviewed from library copy.