Life's been tough for twelve-year-old Odd ever since his father died during a sea voyage while trying to save a horse who'd fallen into the sea. After his father's death, Odd severely crushed his foot while trying to use his father's heavy axe to cut down a tree and can only walk with the help of a crutch. Now his mother is married to Fat Eldred, who has little time for Odd and sees him as useless because of his disability. But worse is to come as the winter has not ended as it should have done and Odd is trapped in the village great hall with all the other villagers and Fat Eldred, who becomes nasty after drinking.
Keen to escape, Odd decides to escape to his father's cabin in the woods. There he comes across a fox and an eagle who lead him to a trapped bear and from there his life becomes really strange as they tell him a story about how the Ice Giants have taken over Asgard. Now Odd must embark on a journey to save the Gods, a journey that will require all his initiative and courage ...
Neil Gaiman's novella, produced for World Book Day 2008, is a charming and timeless tale of personal courage and initiative against great adversity. Odd is a delightful character - uncomplaining, cheerful and clever, he doesn't let anything get in his way and the way he tackles the Frost Giants in the story is quirky and clever. The depiction of the Norse Gods doesn't break new ground but is still done with Gaiman's usual deft touch and I've always had a soft spot for the trickster, Loki, who is shown here as having a wry sense of humour.
Mention should also be made of Mark Buckingham's illustrations, which help to bring the scenes to life.
All in all, it's a delight from beginning to end - by turns touching and funny and true - it's a story that will charm young and old alike.