Neil Gaiman wrote Odd and the Frost Giants for World Book Day 2008. The cover on the left is the original cover. The book has since been reissued twice, illustrated by different people, one of which is Odd and the Frost Giants illustrated by Chris Riddell. That’s the cover on the right. The one in the middle was illustrated by someone called Adam. My version is the World Book Day version. It’s also illustrated but the illustrations are not very typical for a Neil Gaiman book as they aren’t anything special.
Odd and the Frost Giants is inspired by Norse Mythology and because I want to read Gaiman’s book on Norse Myths, I thought it would be fun to read this first. Besides, I haven’t read any of Gaiman’s children’s books so far, with the exception of Coraline, and The Graveyard Book, which appeal to kids and grown-ups alike.
Odd, a half-Viking, half Scottish boy with a disability from an accident, leaves his home. After his dad’s death, his mother married again, and the stepdad doesn’t like Odd. Because Odd is a little odd. He has the habit of smiling an infuriating smile.
Odd doesn’t only leave because he’s mistreated by his stepdad but because, for the first time, this year, spring isn’t coming. On his way to his dad’s old hut, he meets a bear, a fox, and an eagle who accompany him. Together they sleep in his dad’s hut. At night, Odd finds out that the three animals can talk. They are not really animals but the Gods Odin, Thor, and Loki. Usually they live in Asgard, not in Midgard, where they meet Odd. But because of a mistake, they were booted out by the Frost Giants. And this is why winter won’t stop.
Odd, who may be strange and disabled, is also courageous and so they travel to Asgard together to defeat the Frost Giants.
What can I say about this book? It’s OK. The beginning is very nice, typical Gaiman, but then it sort of fizzles out. Neil Gaiman writes a lot of stories for events and anthologies and I’ve often noticed in the past that they aren’t as good as the other stories. I might be one of the only ones to think like this about Odd and the Frost Giants. Many, especially adult readers seem to love it. That said, I’m not the only one who noticed discrepancies. I came across an interesting website called Disability in KidLit and there was a blog post about the disability in Odd. You can find it here. The author noticed that while Odd’s disability is described as making it hard for him to walk, it’s never mentioned that he’s in pain. But suddenly, towards the end, the pain is important. I noticed this too but thought I’d been inattentive while reading. Seems like I wasn’t. Maybe you’ll think that’s no big deal and, in a way, for the story, it isn’t, but it just shows that it was possibly written quite quickly and not thoroughly edited. If however, you look at disability in kid’s lit, then it becomes a big deal as the portrayal is sloppy.
If you want to read everything he’s ever written, you’ll have to read this. If not, well, it’s a quick read but don’t expect anything too spectacular. I tried to find out what children think of it but didn’t find anything. Possibly, this tale of a boy who – against all odds – (Gaiman likes to play with words it seems) – defeats the big Frost Giants, is a winner with kids.