There are certain things in life that make perfect matches; apple pie and custard, strawberries and cream. In the literary world, a perfect match is Neil Gaiman and Norse mythology. Norse mythology has influenced a lot of Gaiman’s novels. Odd and the Frost Giants is a children’s book which introduces children to the fantastic world of Norse mythology in a fresh and creative way. Another perfect match is Chris Riddell’s illustrations accompanying the works of Neil Gaiman. The version of the book that I read was the one beautifully illustrated by Chris Riddell.
Odd and the Frost Giants tells the heroic story of a young Norseman, Odd, who has a badly damaged leg and has to walk with a crutch. He lives with his widowed mother and his stepfather. When Odd goes to the forest, he encounters a fox, a one-eyed eagle and a bear. The bear has its paw trapped in a tree and Odd bravely frees the bear. Odd hears the animals talking and discovers that they are not normal animals but are Norse Gods turned into animals by the Frost Giant who now rules Asgard. Odd endeavours to help the fox (Loki), the one-eyed eagle (Odin) and the bear (Thor) to return to Asgard and become their true forms once more and reclaim Asgard from the Frost Giants. While the Frost Giant rules Asgard, all the worlds are stuck in a perpetual winter.
Odd and the Frost Giants is a great way of introducing children to Norse mythology and Gaiman’s story makes for compelling reading for children and adults alike. Gaiman explains the deep, complex elements of Norse mythology; e.g. Mimir’s Well, in a relatable and entertaining format for children. Even the long, complex names; e.g. Jotunheim, the land of the Frost Giants, are explained in an understandable fashion and don’t bog down the book. By injecting his own brand of humour into the book, Gaiman makes learning about these new places and characters highly entertaining. There are subtle hints throughout of other Norse stories which will appeal to readers who are already familiar with Norse mythology. This is most noticeable when Loki is constantly taunted about when he turned himself into a mare as a trick.
Making his protagonist have a disability is a master-stroke by Neil Gaiman. Odd is an endearing character, who never lets his crippled leg defeat him. It is refreshing to see a character with an affliction in children’s literature, where most of the novels are dominated by strong, powerful heroes and heroines who are physically fit and agile. Odd and the Frost Giants has a hero whose bravery shines through and whose mental strength and strong will makes him a perfect role model. It teaches children that inner strength and resolve is important when faced with difficult situations. It is Odd’s cunning, wit and charm which win over his friends and foes.
As I mentioned earlier, Odd and the Frost Giants is a gorgeous book, with beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. Riddell is a veteran illustrator of Gaiman’s stories and his illustrations match Gaiman’s visions perfectly. This book, like The Sleeper and the Spindle, is full of stunning artwork, thoroughly detailed and gorgeous to marvel at. It is a perfect addition to any bookcase.
Short enough to be read aloud to children or devoured by readers in a single sitting, adults and children will love this book. Parents will love reading this aloud to children. It gives ample opportunity to test out your full repertoire of voices. This book is a must buy for any Neil Gaiman fan, like myself. It is a delight from start to finish.
RATING = ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐