Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman, for MMGM
Before I get to my spotlight, I want to give a huge shout-out to all the great dads out there! Sure, Father’s Day is over…but I think we can spot them one more day. 😉 And to that end, I’m going to share a snippet of a story I read on Neil Gaiman’s blog a billion years ago. I read it back in the day when there were about two blog/journals online, and one of them was his. And I’m pulling this from memory, so if Neil is reading my post (haha) he’ll have to step in and correct any details I get wrong.
So, at the time his youngest daughter was older elementary school aged, or maybe heading into middle school. And on the wall in the halls of her school, there was a picture of Neil Gaimon–her dad. And one day perhaps feeling under the magnifying glass or maybe embarrassed, she took a marker and colored a mustache on her dad’s poster face, or maybe drew glasses. I don’t remember which. The school contacted him kind of embarrassed and looking for direction, and Neil instantly smoothed things over and stood by his daughter being a kid whose dad has a poster on her wall at school, rather than a student defacing the image of a famous author on school property. Then he shared the story (which I’ve probably butchered) on his blog, because he was highly amused by the incident and just chuckling about it. I remember thinking how much this represented why Neil Gaiman is so likable–that even though he’s wildly talented and decently famous and could put on airs if he wanted to, no way would he ever do that. Especially where his child was concerned!
So, here’s to all the dads out there, whether they be famous or not, who roll with the nonsense their kids dish out and live to tell the tale. You’re awesome!
And that makes a decent intro to this week’s spotlight because:
a) it’s one of Neil Gaiman’s books! Wild coincindence, that! lol
b) on the surface this story is about gods and heroes and legends, but underneath…it’s also about family, and a kid living true to his father’s legacy. And I simply loved it!
Here’s the cover for Odd and the Frost Giants, which is pretty gorgeous in its own right:
And you see there Odd, riding on Thor’s back, with Odin kind of behind them, and Loki beside them. Of course, they’re not looking quite like themselves, and that’s Loki’s fault and a driving plot point in the story. You see, the Frost Giants have gotten hold of Thor’s hammer, taken over Asgard, and banished the gods into these animal forms down on Midgard. In order to help them, Odd must show courage, ingenuity, and tenacity, as he overcomes the challenges his crippled leg presents in the frozen world he lives in, and pushes past the limitations others would place on him because he’s only a boy, with a bad leg, and an annoying one at that.
It’s not a super long, twisty story, so I won’t say much about the plot. Just that I loved how the story elements were mined and reused, so the solution flowed organically from the character’s original problems. You’ve probably heard me talk about that before…and I hope you won’t tire of it. I simply love a well plotted book, that grows like a beautiful tree, from the strength of its own roots! It makes my content-editor heart sit up and sing. 🙂
I also really appreciated that though Odd’s circumstances have evolved by the end, who he is fundamentally has grown but not been abandoned. The problem of his leg being crushed, which happens at the beginning of the story (almost as pre-story), is a situation which shows you what kind of person Odd is, and the things which make him who he is are not entirely ‘fixed’ at the end. I love that, as too often heroes are seen as becoming less themselves instead of more truly who they are in the process of overcoming their problems. And, in a story which has as its focus a boy who requires a crutch to get around, I think acknowledging the strength which he has within his circumstances is especially important.
So, that’s cool. And of course, Neil’s writing is as fluid as ever. One of the things I love about his books which I love–admitting that he’s written a couple which didn’t work for me–is that you always have the feeling that each word was placed just so, because it was the right word to go there. He doesn’t do any of this toss-it-together-and-see-what-shakes-out stuff that so many writers do! Since I write super fast and suspect I fall in the later category of shake and bake writing, I appreciate the precision he uses and find joy in reading not only his stories, but the words within those stories.
Now, let’s see what Apricot-kitty thought of it:
Mmm, salmon. You know, I think that may be what’s for dinner! As for the gods, I kind of got the feeling they were letting Odd handle this one, but the story reasons that could be the case held together for me. It may have been just a stretch that all Asgard came to a grinding halt, and that only Odd could fix it…but not much of one. In truth, when this story is set beside the rest the Norse myths, it’s even more believable, because most those tales are pretty far-fetched. And in the end, it’s the word pictures and deeper resonance of this story that stays with you, not the probability of the plot.
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, spotlights, interviews and giveaways, stop by the blog of our host, Shannon Messenger. And happy reading!