Norse Mythology Never Looked So Good: Odd and the Frost Giants Illustrated Edition…

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odd-and-the-frost-giants

Odd and the Frost Giants by literary all-star Neil Gaiman was originally published in 2008 and made it onto my ever-growing TBR list round about the time I started blogging – so roughly four years ago.  In all that time though, I have never made any effort to actually get my hands on a copy and read it.

That is, until this stunning illustrated edition came along, courtesy of Bloomsbury Australia.

Perhaps it was the “come read me” expression on the giant eyeballs visible through the beautifully tactile cut-out cover, but Odd suddenly jumped straight to the head of my reading queue.  Before I get too caught up in the visual treat that this book provides,  here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Odd, a young Viking boy, is left fatherless following a raid and in his icy, ancient world there is no mercy for an unlucky soul with a crushed foot and no one to protect him. Fleeing to the woods, Odd stumbles upon and releases a trapped bear . and then Odd’s destiny begins to change. The eagle, bear and fox Odd encounters are Norse gods, trapped in animal form by the evil frost giants who have conquered Asgard, the city of the gods. Now our hero must reclaim Thor’s hammer, outwit the frost giants and release the gods .

This rich and layered tale of courage is told with humour and in breathtaking style by two creators at the height of their powers: from the author of modern classics such as American Gods, Coraline and The Sleeper and the Spindle, Odd and the Frost Giants will leave you spellbound. Lavishly produced and packed with Chris Riddell’s glorious illustration enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.

I’m not going to lie to you.  I probably would never have bothered to hunt this book down and read it had it not been released in this gorgeous illustrated format.  I put so many books on my wishlist that unless there is something particularly special about a book (or unless I find it on special – ha ha ha), there are too many new books rushing into my consciousness to bother hunting down one I had a passing interest in a number of years back.

Having said that, there was absolutely no reason for me to be putting off picking this one up because it is a super-quick read, coming in at between 100 and 120 pages, depending on which edition you choose. The narrative style is that of the all-seeing narrator, with Gaiman’s signature quirky wit and there is no filler at all in the plot.  From the moment we meet Odd, all words are directed toward the adventure upon which he is about to embark.  The story itself isn’t anything earth-shattering, being a re-imagining of some aspects of Norse mythology, but it is fast and different and engaging enough to keep younger readers interested throughout.

The illustrations though, are something else.  It seems like Chris Riddell’s work is on every second book cover at the moment – deservedly so, because his style is so distinct – but I did feel a bit as though I was reading The Graveyard Book over again once I opened this one.  Odd and Bod are similar in name and looks, and I kept expecting Silas or some gravestones to pop up here or there!

In terms of presentation, this is a high quality offering.  I’ve already mentioned the cutout front cover design, which, apart from being delightfully chunky, makes for a great game of peekaboo for those of you who are into Instagram and the like:

bruce-and-odd

I think I look quite regal there…

The text is set out on plenty of white space and the glossy page finish makes the book feel a bit luxurious.  Every second page (or thereabouts) is adorned with a full-page illustration, like this:

odd-page-spread-1

Every so often we are also treated to a double-page spread illustration like this:

odd-page-spread-2

…so in terms of this being an “illustrated edition”, you are certainly getting plenty of bang for your hard-earned buck.  The large size of the book means that this is a perfect choice for gifting (for when you want to really impress and show a youngster of your acquaintance that books are cool presents after all), or for family read-alouds, where everyone can crowd around and appreciate the illustrations.

I would highly recommend this edition of Odd and the Frost Giants to readers who like having an experience, rather than just scanning words on a page.  The fable-like quality of the story and the calm, stoic nature of Odd are perfectly complimented by the bizarre characters of Bear, Fox and Eagle, who need the help of a human if they are to escape from the pickle in which they find themselves.  Apart from all that though, this is a book that you can absorb in just a few short sittings, so if, like me, you have had this one languishing on your TBR list for a while, bag yourself this gorgeous edition and jump right in.  You won’t be disappointed!

Thanks again to Bloomsbury Australia for providing us with a copy of the book.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Reading Challenge Re-booted: Smoke and Mirrors…

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Obstacle number 4 in the What’s In A Name Reading Challenge: Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman…

Taken from: the Non-Christie Listie

Category: Four – a book with fire or the equivalent in the title

Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of more than 20 of Gaiman’s collected short stories.  I always knew I wanted to include some Neil Gaiman in this challenge, and on opening this one up with great anticipation…..I realised I had already read it. Undaunted however, I decided to dive in again, and as the memories came flooding back with the stories, I recalled what is so great about Neil Gaiman generally, and this book specifically.

smoke and mirrors

This book’s Point of Difference:

This collection spans a really wide range of content and style, meaning there’s something here for everyone. 

Pros:

– There are so many stories here that if you find the one you’re reading doesn’t take your fancy, there are plenty of others to try.

– There’s a nice mix of humour and creepiness here, reflecting Gaiman’s usual approach.  From the charmingly quirky “Chivalry”, featuring a hen-pecked Galahad on his quest for the Grail, to the utterly bizzare and bawdy “Eaten”, you will find every oddity imaginable discussed in these pages.

– Gaiman’s introduction is a novelette in itself, and contains its very own impromptu short story.

Cons:

– This is definitely a book for adults, which may disappoint some of Gaiman’s younger fans.

– Some of the subject matter is really quite weird and creepy, which, if you aren’t expecting it can be a bit off-putting.

Teaser Text:

Mrs Whitaker found the Holy Grail;

it was under a fur coat.

If you’re a Gaiman fan, this will be an extra little nugget of goodness to digest at your leisure.  If you’ve not read any of Gaiman’s work before (for shame!), you may find it more satisfying to start with one of his excellent novels, such as The Graveyard Book, or for a briefer introduction, one of his picture books, such as Instructions (pictured below).

  graveyard book 2

instructions

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Some All Hallow’s Eve Reading Suggestions: From Teeny Halloweenies to Great Big Scaredy-Cats…

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Right then. The Eve of All Hallow’s is nearly upon us, sso Mad Martha and I have donned our festive witches hats and combined our knowledge to bring you some appropriately ominous reading suggestions for the whole family.

For the little monsters (0-6yrs):

These picture books all promise spine-tingling, knee-knocking terrors at a level that is age-appropriate for the littlest ghoul or ghostie.

Our favourites for this age group are the classic tale of witch and cat, Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski; and the terrifying cuteness that is The Scariest Thing in the Castle by Kevin Sherry.  We also recommend the gentle plots and warm fuzzy illustrations of Spooky Spooky Spooky by Cathy MacLennan and Boo, Bunny! by Kathryn O Galbraith.

Our PICK OF THE BUNCH for this age group however is

Fragoline and the Midnight Dream by Clemency Pearce

We defy you not to be caught up in the wild rumpus created by this fiery-haired little minx’s nocturnal adventure!

For Bigger Beasties (7-10yrs):

We are in agreeance for this age group that two stories stand out above the crowd.  The first is the cheeky tale of a grandfather with a penchant for carnivorous plants and feeding his family…to the carnivorous plants: The Bodigulpa by Jenny Nimmo.  Secondly, we could not go past the perennial favourite and highly relevant cautionary tale, The Witches by Roald Dahl.

For Teen Terrors (10yrs +):

Take a meander through the macabre with these suggestions for older readers.  First in this garden of ghostliness is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which follows the story of Bod, the child of murdered parents who is taken in and raised by the folk of the local graveyard.  Next, Kirsty McKay’s first offering Undead will scratch your itch for simple, gore-filled mayhem with her humourous take on teenagers holding out against the zombie apocalypse.  Finally, for a wander through territory that echoes with the howls of the damned, Neal Shusterman’s short story collection Darkness Creeping: 20 Twisted Tales cannot be left on the shelf.

Our PICK OF THE BUNCH for this age group however, is

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Christ Priestley.

This, the first in a terrifyingly terrific series, is a collection of short stories with fantastic twists and quirky characters that will linger with you long after the initial fright has faded.

For grown-up gore-fiends:

For an informative historical foray into death in the UK capital, Catharine Arnold’s Necropolis: London and its Dead, is just the ticket.  This non-fiction title escorts the reader through the fascinating world of London’s major burial sites, from plague pits and charnel houses to the spectacle of a royal funeral.  For a lighter factual read, Mary Roach’s Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife charts the bizarre and highly questionable  attempts that have been made to scientifically prove the existence or otherwise of life after death.

Our PICK OF THE BUNCH for this group is

The Small Hand by Susan Hill.

This short tale maintains a delicious atmosphere of creepiness as, during an unscheduled visit to an overgrown manor house garden, Adam Snow feels pursued and ultimately pressured by a ghostly small hand in his.

We hope that these selections provide some options for those craving seasonal spookiness.  Please feel welcome to add any more to this list if they occur to you.

Until next time,

Bruce and Mad Martha

Ode to an Author: Neil Gaiman

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Mad Martha again! Today’s Ode is to that extraordinary, quirky, kooky, master of the slightly left-of-centre, Neil Gaiman.  Author of the Sandman series of graphic novels, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, Stardust, Neverwhere and many others, his writing never fails to hit an attention-grabbing note.  If you have never indulged in one of his books before, you should put it on your to-do list today!

Neil Gaiman is a vision’ry; a dream (or nightmare!) guide,

to nooks of wild imagining where haunts and shades reside.

From Bod and Agnes Nutter, down to plucky Coraline,

his daydreams and delusions foil attempts to be confined.

So should you wish to risk your boat on Gaiman’s oddball tide,

Sailor, best you gird your loins before you start the ride!