on 26 March 2008
Neil Gaiman really, really likes writing about gods, and that's okay. If American Gods is the solid, upstanding one that works hard and takes its job seriously and Anansi Boys is its younger brother that pops by in the middle of the night with some beer and a couple of friends, Odd and the Frost Giants is the youngest brother of all, the third child who goes around climbing into magical wardrobes when the others aren't looking (it wouldn't shut the doors properly, mind, because Odd is the type to know that it's very foolish to shut oneself inside a wardrobe).
In a Viking settlement in Norway, long ago, winter seems to be stretching on forever. Odd, a boy with a crushed foot who doesn't fit in with his stepfamily, runs away from home when he can no longer stand to be in close quarters with them. He ends up following after an unusually insistent fox, starting on an adventure that will throw him in with the gods in a fight to defeat the frost giants (well, giant, anyway) and save his village from endless winter.
Odd and the Frost Giants is a novella written for World Book Day as part of a promotion to get kids reading (schoolchildren in the UK and Ireland are each given a token that can be redeemed for one of the novellas specially written for the occasion). If this book doesn't work, I don't know what will; it's everything a children's book should be - high adventure, mythology, magic, talking animals, a good sense of humor, and a sensible, sympathetic protagonist. I really enjoy Gaiman's work, but sometimes it feels like his way with words is a sort of glamour, and with some of his books I wonder whether I'd like the plot quite as much if I weren't constantly distracted by his lovely language - which is a bit of an odd complaint, certainly, but it does bother me once in a while. At any rate, Odd is blessedly free of this issue; the story is extremely engaging, and at roughly a hundred pages, it moves along at a smart clip without ever feeling rushed. It's utterly charming and satisfying in the way only the best fairy tales are. Highly recommended.
on 26 March 2008
A review by Hank Wagner, co-author (with Christopher Golden and Stephen R. Bissette) of the upcoming Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman, due out from St. Martins in October 2008:
Gaiman wrote Odd and the Frost Giants as his personal contribution to World Book Day in the United Kingdom, which exists purely to inspire children to read. It's an annual event where a group of authors write books for nothing and publishers publish them for nothing. These books are then sold for £1 each to children who have been given £1 Book Tokens. On its website, the World Book Day organization ([...]) describes it as "the biggest annual event promoting the enjoyment of books and reading."
Regrettably, at least for US residents (I count myself among that group), there are no current plans to publish this charming, 14,500 word novelette in America. Happily, the book is available through Amazon.uk and it's only 1 pound, a bargain even with current exchange rates. Be warned, however, the shipping charge will make the final cost seem relatively steep.
The good news is that it's worth the cost: the story, enhanced by several illustrations from frequent Gaiman collaborator Mark Buckingham, is delightful.
As you may have guessed from the title, the novelette deals with characters from Norse myth, a subject Gaiman became entranced with at a very young age. It tells the story of the crippled Viking boy Odd, who, running away from home, is befriended by a group of forest animals--a fox, a bear, and an eagle--who are far more than they seem. In truth, they are the Norse gods Loki, Thor, and Odin, respectively. Hoodwinked by a crafty and vengeful Frost Giant, they have been transformed into animals and exiled from Asgard. Odd offers his help, and travels with the gods from Midgard to their homeland of Asgard, where the plucky lad plans to bargain with the Frost Giant in attempt to save the day.
No more about the story, you'll have to discover its significant pleasures on your own. Be assured though that this is vintage Gaiman, a lively, memorable tale that, although modern in its sensibilities, treats its source material in a respectful, affectionate, and humorous manner, making that material more accessible for modern readers, many of whom are likely encountering these characters and settings for the first time.
on 4 July 2011
Neil Gaiman is not one for description and that works well in this entertaining little read for children. A good smattering of Norse mythology and an appealing hero, peril and adventure and a satisfactory (and not saccharine) ending.
Highly recommended. I would say ages 7 - 11 depending on reading ability.
If you like your books about Norse myths, gods and a kid who's smarter than the average bear, this is the book for you. Originally published for World Reading Day, it doesn't feel as if it were a chore for him to write, but a pleasure. At least, it was a pleasure for me to read. It's the tale about Odd, a child who's crippled with a lame leg. Winter's here, and it shows no signs of going away, and Odd finds out that it's due to Asgardian gods (Loki, Odin the All Father and Thor) who are transformed into animals due to happenings. Odd goes with the gods to help them turn the winter back, and to make things right. The story is one of those lovely, charming things you read as a child: talking animals, lovely illustrations and a cracking plot.
on 5 May 2014
To anyone unfamiliar with Neil Gaimans work, his stories are often enchanting, invariably enthralling and quite often off the wall. From the marvellous American Gods through Stardust and on to Anansie Boys, you are never sure quite where he is going, but you can be certain the trip is well worth it. He has a sly humour and whether he is writing a children's book as he is here, or one of his dark graphic novels, he demands to be read.
Neil Gaiman has co-written in the past with Terry Pratchett and both authors are equally adept at writing for the family market or for adult audiences. Odd's trip to Asgaard is an enchanting tale which can appeal to both child or adult: if I had to criticise it I would say it was a little short. He tells the story and you do not once feel "this is a child's book, so I should not be reading it" Mostly you feel "Is there a sequel?
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.
on 13 August 2015
I have been so excited to pass along my favorite authors to my girls. When my eldest fell in love with “Fortunately the Milk”, I was eager to supply her with even more age-appropriate Neil Gaiman to read.
Having studied Vikings and a smattering of Norse Mythology in school, she was very excited to begin. Unfortunately, the ending didn’t fully satisfy her expectation. She had yearned for more frost giants, and probably more pages in general! My little one was fast becoming a discerning bibliophile, and I was quick to assure her that her opinions were always her own, and completely valid.
I quickly read through the short novel for myself to discover the source of my daughter’s disappointment. She had been really hung up on the fact that the title referred to “frost giants” in the plural, while Odd actually only deals with a single giant in the book. I was able to point out the portion of the text where Thor says to Odd that his own retelling of the story, there will be at least a dozen giants present. We spoke of legends and the tendency to exaggerate when passing on a story. I believe that this explanation satisfied my daughter, but she still felt the book was only just beginning when it quickly came to an end. I, on the other hand, was able to appreciate this literary tidbit for what it was. Sometimes a concept is best left as a short-story. We do not always have to expound upon something in order to make it great. Plus, the shorter length makes it that much more accessible to young readers.
Odd is a phenomenal hero; truly worthy of role model status. He was able to solve a problem that the gods themselves could not. He is unfailingly confident and astute, despite his physical limitations. Three cheers for Odd and whatever inspired Gaiman to bring him to life!
on 23 October 2013
Odd and the Frost Giants began life as one of those slim World Book Day volumes (available for £1 or free with a voucher given out at school) designed to encourage children to read and if ever there was a mythical adventure sure to fire the imaginations of reluctant young readers it is this. In fact, the tales of Odd proved so popular that Neil Gaiman has expanded slightly the original story (from 112 to 144 pages) and re-released Odd and the Frost Giants as this smart little illustrated hardback.
Odd is a lonely, introverted young Viking struggling to fit in with his boisterous stepfamily (his mother having married Fat Elfred after Odd's father was killed during a raiding expedition) and to cope with his crippled leg. Not long after his father's death, Odd had attempted to fell a tree with his newly inherited axe only for the tree to fall awkwardly and crush his foot. In a Viking society obsessed with bravery, tall-tales and physical perfection, Odd's personality and disability have marked him out as an oddity (although, interestingly, the name Odd actually means `the tip of a blade').
As the harsh Norwegian winter stretches on and on, Odd decides that he can no longer cope with living in the oppressive environment of the village and so he runs away. Hiding out in an isolated, snow-bound cabin, Odd befriends a bear, a fox and an eagle. Each of these creatures is more than they seem and each has a story to tell. Rather than being regular forest animals, Odd's new friends are actually the mighty Norse gods Thor, Odin and Loki. Loki was tricked into handing over Thor's magical Hammer to one of the Frost Giants and all three gods were then exiled from Asgard and trapped in animal form. It is up to Odd to overthrow the Frost Giants and restore the gods to Asgard before the Viking world is changed forever.
Neil Gaiman's love of mythology is obvious to those who are familiar with his adult novels such as American Gods and Anansi Boys and, although Odd and the Frost Giants is an original story, it is built on a foundation of popular Norse myths (for example, the tale of Mimir's Well). This use of mythology helps to ensure that Gaiman's story has a rich historical underpinning and a fabulous cast of already well-developed characters. The three main gods a delight and it is both fun and funny to witness their traditional attributes being embodied in their animal personas. Odd himself is a very sympathetic hero; despite the mammoth setbacks that he has experienced and his confirmed outsider status, he remains pleasant, friendly and caring. And, in the best Viking tradition, he is also brave and daring when it is really important to be so. Despite existing in a time and place very different from our Odd, the hardships that Odd endures and the way he determines to overcome them make him a very relatable character. Odd turns out to be a fun and dependable hero of similar style to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Anthony Horowitz's Alex Ryder.
The adventures that Odd must undergo in order to defeat the Frost Giants are exciting and suspenseful and Gaiman does an excellent job of maintain the fast pace and thrilling tone throughout the book. This hardback edition would make a lovely gift as Gaiman's wonderful story is beautifully complemented by Adam Stower's delightful illustrations. Odd and the Frost Giants is a fantastical adventure among Vikings, gods and giants that is sure to both thrill and amaze young readers.
on 6 January 2013
Odd and the Frost Giants was published for World Book Day in 2008, but it has the feel of the sort of classic, timeless fairy tale that's been around forever, whilst remaining fresh and fun at the same time.
Odd is a young Viking boy who remains cheerful and level-headed despite the fact that his life has been rather unlucky. His father died at sea (not even "in the heat of battle as a Viking should"; then Odd managed to cripple his leg when trying to cut down a tree; and his mother remarried Fat Elfred, who doesn't much care for Odd at the best of times, let alone now when the village seems to be trapped in a winter which isn't ending.
Odd therefore, in best fairy-tale tradition, sets off to make his own way in the world. And in the best fairy-tale tradition, he soon meets up with a fox, a bear and an eagle, who aren't quite all they appear, and ends up on a journey to save the home of the Norse Gods from the invading Frost Giants.
This brief tale manages to weave Norse mythology with a refreshingly un-sugarcoated account of Viking life. Odd is a likeable hero who never feels sorry for himself, and whose common-sense approach solves problems that the Gods can't figure out. The Gods themselves are brilliantly written, with some great banter between Loki and Thor.
This book really is one suitable for all ages, and would make a great introduction to Norse mythology for younger readers.
on 2 December 2011
What a delightful book to read even as a grown up. Odd runs away after his father dies and his mum remarries. He encounters a fox, bear and eagle. With his three new found friends he embarks on a journey that takes him on adventures that result in him meeting the frost giant. I don't what to say much more about the story as it will spoil it. I recommend it for adults as well as young children either to free read or as a bed time story. Great little book for all ages worth five stars.