Winter can’t last forever. At least I keep telling myself that while I’m walking around wrapped in wool from head to toe. Actually the temperature’s been up and down lately, but reading Neal Gaiman‘s young adult book Odd And The Frost Giants has been a nice way to enjoy winter. The story is a tribute to Norse mythology in which Odin, Thor, and Loki are driven out of Asgard. They’re saved by the unlikely hero, a young boy named Odd. And even though it’s written for young adults I realized it’s theme is one that cuts across the spectrum of Gaiman’s work, from The Wolves In The Walls and Coraline to American Gods. The true nature of the world, Gaiman seems to say, is completely the opposite of what we perceive. The most powerful beings–whether gods or parents–depend on what are normally thought of as the weakest, most ineffectual individuals, whether ex-cons or children. And I also had to mention American Gods specifically because, here, Odin isn’t the gentle, avuncular Mr. Wednesday he is in the other book. In Odd he’s a quiet, stand-offish eagle and it’s really Loki, my favorite Norse god, who gets most of the spotlight. Gaiman even playfully hints at how Loki produced Odin’s horse Sleipnir. He doesn’t actually tell the story directly, but enough details are provided that even Odd guesses how it happened.
I do have one serious problem with this book: it’s much too short. And, while Dave McKean has done some excellent illustrations for other Gaiman books, the illustrations for Odd done by Brett Helquist (who also illustrated Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events) are perfect for this story. The author’s biography at the end–written, by the way, by someone who claims they’re being held hostage and forced to write author bios all day long–says that there are other stories about Odd that Gaiman would like to tell. Maybe something for summer.