|Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A beautiful edition of what was, originally, a World Book Day book - our limping, smiling hero meets the Frost Giants. Gaiman's witty prose, Riddell's beautiful and detailed illustrations, and fantastic production values combine to create a magical little keeper of a story.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 120||Date: September 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Odd is a young Viking boy. His father died in a raid not so long back. While trying to emulate his woodcutter father - Vikings weren't full-time Vikings, you know: they all had other jobs - in the woods, Odd got too enthusiastic with an axe and a falling tree crushed his leg. With a dead husband and a crippled son, Odd's mother had little choice but to remarry. And what with his strange habit of smiling at the wrong time and his crippled leg, Odd isn't well-liked, either by his stepfather or the rest of the village.
In the end, tired of the mocking and the beating and the mistrust, Odd decides to try and make it on his own. But before he can even get settled in his father's old cabin in the forest, Odd stumbles across a fox. The fox leads him to a bear who's been trapped while in search of honey. And the bear is watched by a beady-eyed eagle. Not the most promising of companions, but all three follow Odd back to the cabin. During the night, Odd hears them talk...
... yep. Talk. And that conversation between those three talking animals leads to an adventure and a half for Odd. He will cross the rainbow bridge into Asgard and do battle with the Frost Giants.
Originally written for World Book Day a few years back, Odd and the Frost Giants is a short and sweet little story. My edition has 120 pages or thereabouts and at least half of them are taken up by full page, sometimes double spread, illustrations. So it isn't a daunting read for a middle grader. There might be a little stretching with the vocabulary, but this is a good thing. And it's an even better thing to stretch your vocabulary by reading Neil Gaiman, who has such a humorous and playful approach to language. He writes as vividly for children as he does for the grown-ups and it's irresistible, really. His characters are wry and dry and spry (I'm not Very Good At Writing like Gaiman, so three rhymes are all you're getting) and, even when they are engaged in acts of derring-do, never fail to make you laugh.
The story itself is lovely. Odd might smile a lot but he has a lot of sadness in his life. So much sadness that he's felt driven from his village. But he's a kindly person and so he follows the fox, helps the bear, and then gives food and shelter to fox, bear and eagle. And when he discovers that three gods are helpless and need aid, he doesn't think twice about giving it. You're rooting for him all the way. Gaiman cleverly writes in the famous attributes of the Norse gods and draws in many elements of the pantheon from characters to talismans to events. Norse mythology is my favourite mythology, so I loved all this.
What can I say about the illustrations? You all know Chris Riddell. You all know that he makes beautiful, detailed pictures that you could gaze at for hours and that match the text in mood. He's been given free reign here in this beautiful book of incredibly high production values. There are silver borders around single and double page spreads. There are giants and gods and animals and ships. The front cover has a cut-out with frost giant eyes staring out at you from the frontispiece, absolutely daring you to be brave enough to read.
Be brave enough. Because this one's a keeper.
You mustn't miss The Graveyard Book also by Gaiman and also illustrated by Riddell. We read it once a year AT LEAST!
You can read more book reviews or buy Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell at Amazon.com.
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