Published: April 1, 2014
Genre: Children's Fiction (Middle Grades)
Highly Recommended for and reader of Middle Grade Fiction
After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.
I first heard about this book from a publication at our library and I thought it might be a good read aloud book for my 5 year old daughter. To be sure, I decided to read it myself first--which is a good thing, because it is definitely in the "middle grades" and up age range and not a book my daughter is ready for! However, in reading it for myself, I was completely enchanted.
Think of it as magic realism, Scandinavian style (if they can have a princess who can shoot winter out of her hands, they can have magic realism). Preus tells the story of Astri and her sister Greta by relaying it back to Norwegian folktales. Most of these stories were ones I had never heard, so that was an added treat.
Astri quickly became one of my favorite characters in fiction aimed at girls. She's scrappy and feisty, but still vulnerable. From the first page--which is about when she gets the first blow--you root for her. Many of the other characters are little more one-dimensional, but that really doesn't matter as this book is squarely about Astri.
I will admit that I went into the book already interested in the topic--as an American of Norwegian descent, I read whatever I can on the immigrant experience. However, this is probably one of the most unique books I've read in a long time and I'm sure my daughter will enjoy it as much as I did when she reads it in a few years.
I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.