Recommended for ages 8-12
Neil Gaiman takes on Norse mythology with his tale of a lame young Norse boy named Odd, who encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle in the frozen woods one day, only to discover that they are Thor, Loki, and Odin, on the run after Asgard is overrun by Frost Giants. They need Odd’s help to regain the kingdom and end the forever winter that the Frost Giants have spread throughout Midgard (and possibly, all of the realms). Is Odd smart enough to outwit the Frost Giants?
Gaiman adapts his storytelling voice for this story (as opposed to his dark fantasy voice that you can read in works like Coraline and Graveyard Book). The book is filled with his wry humor, especially in the interactions between Thor, Loki, and Odin – he gives Loki a particularly amusing voice, being the God of Mischief in the guise of a wily fox. Gaiman also excels at writing quiet, mild characters that achieve greatness through intelligence – Odd is yet another quiet Gaiman hero. Quiet kids will love how Odd uses his wits to save the day, rather than charging around Asgard swinging a war hammer and screaming for blood.
Brett Helquist’s art enhances Gaiman’s story with beautiful black and white sketches. The artwork lends a real authenticity to the Norse tale; the work could hail from a hoary, old tome, found in an old castle, it has such a wise old sense of timeliness about it.
I love Gaiman’s storytelling, and Odd is right there with his other work. This could enhance a unit on storytelling as easily as it could a unit on Norse mythology, and there are many activities to get kids writing that this book could inspire, including a Write Your Own Myth workshop, or asking the kids to put themselves in Odd’s place – how would they save Asgard? What would they do if they discovered three gods in the woods? Do you identify with Odd? What makes a hero heroic? There are many discussion topics that work for this book.