The Children’s Book Blog Christmas Countdown: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
For December I’ve decided to turn the children’s book blog into a sort of literary advent calendar. Every day of the month I’ll be posting a short recommendation of a wintry or Christmassy children’s book to warm your cockles or, in some cases, chill the blood. There’ll be something for readers of all ages, from picture books all the way up to YA. My choice for December 21st is Neil Gaiman’s ‘Odd and the Frost Giants’.
Regular readers of this blog may have spotted that I’m a bit of a Neil Gaiman fan. I’m always hard-pushed to choose between The Graveyard Book and American Gods as my favourite of his novels. I’ve already recommended The Graveyard Book and no-one under the age of 15 should even dream about reading American Gods – however, they can meet some of its characters in a rather more child-friendly format in Odd and the Frost Giants.
The characters in question are the Norse gods Odin, Loki and Thor, who have been cast out of Asgard, home of the gods, by an irritated frost giant. This is the moment when, in some olden-day version of the myth, a great Viking warrior would step forward, give the giant a serious walloping, and win the favour of the gods in the process. But this is Gaiman’s world, so instead our hero is a 12-year-old boy with a crippled foot and an infuriating, wonky smile. And instead of wielding a magical sword or invincible spear, he sets out to defeat his enemy by having a bit of a chat.
Gaiman’s genius lies in taking relatively ordinary characters, placing them in extraordinary situations, and then watching what happens when they try to cope using the same, everyday values they would apply to, say, deciding what colour socks to wear in the morning or avoiding an altercation with the weirdo on the bus. This is also often what makes his stories so funny – here, for example, Odd’s prevailing unbotheredness and the frost giant’s increasingly baffled reaction raise more than a few chuckles, as does the juvenile bickering between the three gods.
The book works equally well as a standalone story or as a gateway into Norse mythology – which is well worth delving into, not least because it will explain why Loki is so embarrassed about his brief stint as a female horse (though, again, probably best save that one until you’re at least 15).
Check back tomorrow to see which book is lurking behind the ‘calendar door’ for December 22nd and catch up on my previous recommendations here
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and children’s author. She is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel set in Hackney. You can follow her on Twitter as @TheStoryMonsterTagged in: children's literature, christmas books, Neil Gaiman, Odd and the Frost G
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