I enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s latest book for juvenile readers, and I think it’s going to be well received there. It’s a short, compact read with some nice ideas and the whole Norse mythology foundation that a lot of young readers will like. Odd is a fantastic protagonist, wounded and frail, but somehow smarter than gods – in a simple way.
I liked the inventiveness of the narrative, especially how the rainbow was created so the four of them could get back to Asgard. I liked the way that Odd had to solve the problem of Thor being stuck in the honey tree as a bear. I thought the road trip was entertaining, but I really wanted more. The book was over more quickly than I was willing to cope with.
The suggested reader level is 9 – 12, but I have a 12 year old, and my wife teaches fourth grade. I think the imaginative aspects of the story would engage my son and her students, but they might not be totally satisfied with the ending and the lack of more definitive action. I wanted to see Thor, Odin, and Loki using their powers and something more of a confrontation take place. I rather suspect those kids would, too.
However, I believe this would be a wonderful book to read aloud to younger readers. It’s short, has a lot of description, and there are great pictures.
I wish more of the Norse mythology had been touched on, but it is there in dribs and drabs. Most of it, however, will be over the heads of the target audience — such as Loki turning himself into a mare at one point and foaling Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse. Imagine having to explain that one to your kids at bedtime!
And I wanted to see more of Asgard. I was disappointed in how little we actually got to see.
I really hope this is going to be the first of Odd’s adventures. I’d like to see more of him and more of his interactions with the gods. The potential is there. I also loved Brett Helquist’s illustration in the book. They brought a lot of the characters and the action to life.
Gaiman has kids of his own, and I’m willing this is one of the stories he made up to tell them at night. It’s crafted with love and gentleness.