Monday, November 23, 2009

Odd and the Frost Giants

Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Young Odd's father is a Viking who perished while on a raid. He didn't die gloriously in battle; he died trying to save one of the ponies the Vikings used in their raids. Odd never cries for his father, although he watches his mother's sad face every day. Shortly after his father's death, Odd takes his father's largest ax and tries to chop down the tallest tree he can find, but he's unable to get out of the way before the tree falls, crushing his leg. The leg never heals, leaving Odd to walk with a crutch. When his mother marries Fat Elfred, Odd gains both a stepfather and step siblings who think he lives up to his name. As winter lingers, Odd decides to leave home, heading for his father's hunting hut.

When a bright red fox appears at the hut's door, Odd follows it only to discover it leads him to a bear trapped between two trees. After freeing the bear, Odd waits for it to eat him, but much to his surprise, the bear takes him on his back and delivers him back to the but under the watchful eye of an eagle. Since the animals seem reluctant to leave him, Odd invites them into the hut and there discovers they are not who they appear to be. Instead, they are Norse gods who have been changed into animals by the Frost Giants. In order to be changed back into themselves, they must find a way to outsmart the Frost Giants and Odd seems the perfect boy up to the challenge.

'Odd and the Frost Giants' is a wonderful story that has the feel of a fairy tale. It would make an excellent read-aloud for 3rd or 4th graders and yet will be enjoyed by older readers, too. There is something endearing about Odd, a boy with a big heart willing to take risks out of sheer kindness. With the holidays approaching, it's the type of story one can read in an evening after a day spent with the crowds at the mall or after one too many sports practices. Savor the goodness of Odd.

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