One for slightly older children
(me) this time – an amazing collaboration between two of my favourite booky people, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell.
Odd and the Frost Giants is a coming-of-age story about a viking boy called Odd. His leg is injured during an accident and in a society of warrior-men, he’s very much an outcast. When his father dies and his mother remarries, Odd leaves his family home and makes his way to his father’s hut in the forest where he comes across three peculiar animals – a bear, an eagle and a fox (Thor, Odin and Loki) who have the power of speech.
Using his wits and a great deal of courage, Odd is able to help the trio of gods return to their home in time to save it. Then he returns to his, self-assured enough to deal with his step-father.
I don’t know where to start in praising this book. The pictures are wonderfully detailed without being fussy, atmospheric without being sinister and so, so stylish in black and white. Gaiman and Riddell have worked on many projects together and though I’m sure the writing could hold up on its own, as could the art work, I feel like author and illustrator compliment each other to the point where both are improved in combination.
Truth be told, I bought this book for me and it was an accident that Daughter came to read it. I had it in the back of the car having finished it in the school car-park and on the way home, she pilfered it. Whilst the story itself isn’t an actual Norse myth, it triggered a great interest in the Aesir which we continued by reading Gaiman’s own retellings. Whilst the stories do have some darker sections, they’re not told in a graphic way and Daughter – a precocious reader and overly sensitive six year old – didn’t find them upsetting.
I think that’s what I love most about Gaiman’s work for younger readers – they strike the perfect balance between being suitable for the intended audience and interesting for adults (to the point where I buy them for myself).
Though I suppose that ultimately, that’s what marks a good story – everyone can enjoy it.
Which are your favourite books that have been written with children in mind?