The mind of Newbery Award-winning writer Neil Gaiman must be a very animated, busy and slightly offbeat place—and thankfully so. Otherwise, adults and children alike would be missing out on some of the most inventive characters and stories of our time.
In this fantastical romp, laden with the echoes of Norse mythology, readers meet Odd, a 12-year-old Norwegian boy who is down on his luck. He recently lost his father, a master carver who dove overboard on a Viking ship to rescue a pony. Then, Odd crushes his leg in a tree-felling accident and is left to hobble about with one good leg, one bad leg and one wooden crutch.
Despite his moniker, Odd’s name doesn’t really fit him. He is, perhaps, the most normal character in this short, yet extremely compelling, novel. There are far more odd fellows the boy will encounter when he ventures out of his village—fed up with grumpy villagers and a drunken stepfather, and eager for adventure. It isn’t long before befriends a fox, a bear and an eagle—at least that’s what he initially believes them to be. Odd is soon enraptured and entwined in their spectacular tales of powerful gods, teasing goddesses, intimidating Frost Giants and a magical place known as Asgard.
Nothing is as it seems, Odd will soon learn. The woods are full of surprises, minds can play tricks and animals can transmogrify. The world of what is real and what is imagined soon melds together—with Odd smack in the middle.
In this magical novel, dry humor is woven into the concise text. Anthropomorphic animals, vivid imagery and fantastical happenings provide an extremely quick-paced and accessible introduction to mythology.
Readers, especially young boys, will easily be drawn into Odd’s excellent adventure, which is ultimately a satisfying coming-of-age story wrapped in magic and mythical overtones.
Sharon Verbeten is a freelance writer and former children’s librarian in De Pere, Wisconsin.