I think we can all agree that the most pressing question at hand this morning is how have I made it a little over a month without reading, rereading, reviewing, or at least mentioning a book by Neil Gaiman? How?! He was my first foray into a brave new literary world back in the sixth grade when my best friend recommended I read Good Omens (Gaiman and Terry Pratchett). It’s still on my top ten list, and I’ve read it at least twelve times since then. I don’t even have the original copy I owned (a mass market paperback that was easy to hold and had my favorite cover of all the releases) because I’ve lent it out so many times (I think I might be on copy four actually). It’s a small price to pay to introduce others to an author who just keeps surprising me, and who brings a joy to storytelling that’s not just rare, it’s magical.
How many people do you know who write everything from picture books to YA and Middle Grade to adult fiction, and do it well (I mean, award-winningly well)? Oh, did I mention he’s also one of the foremost graphic novelists of our time (and I say that as someone who doesn’t enjoy reading graphic novels because the combination of text and pictures hurts my eyes)? Some of his books have even been made into wonderful films and musicals. I am not overstating his talents in the least when I say he has written something for everyone and if you’ve never had the pleasure, find someone who knows your taste and have them recommend something. Seriously. Because if you don’t, or haven’t, or think he has nothing to say to you, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say you’re wrong. Not that I have strong opinions about this…I’m just saying, brilliant storytellers come along so infrequently, it would be terrible for you to miss out.
Now, Odd is not my favorite, or even close to my favorite of his books, and I still love it. Also, it’s short, and between the visit from my mother and my desperate desire to finally finish watching The West Wing this weekend, I admittedly did not leave a lot of time for reading. I certainly didn’t leave enough time to give a new book the proper consideration it would deserve, so I took Odd out and spent a happy hour with him.
(I’ll warn you right now that I’ll be doing this from time to time – as much as I love to discover new authors and/or new books by already beloved authors, I also have a small collection of books that I love to reread. I can’t just abandon them, these dear friends of mine, so some weeks, you will have to endure my slightly wonky loving on a book that you might never have thought twice about.)
Odd and the Frost Giants is written as a Norwegian folktale, and truly, the quarter Norwegian in me can’t get enough of this sort of book (I recently read another, similarly styled excellent Norwegian tale called Icefall, by Matthew J Kirby, in case you’re into that sort of thing). It works well as a children’s story – simple, straightforward yet elegant language, and a protagonist who is both honorable and, well, odd – but it’s not a childish book. It reads like the best kind of fable, a story that will transport the reader to the icy fields of Norway, if only for a hundred or so pages.
So go ahead and get that cozy blanket out, stoke the fire against these last cold, dark days of January, and venture into a world where winter has settled deeply and seemingly without end…
There was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place. Odd meant “tip of the blade,” and it was a lucky name.
He was odd, though. At least, the other villagers thought so. But if there was one thing he wasn’t, it was lucky…(pg 1)
Neil Gaiman can be found on twitter @neilhimself or at www.neilgaiman.com