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D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths Hardcover – May 31, 2005

152 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"…a mythological tour de force."
The New York Times

"Out of print for many years, Norse Gods and Giants has been very handsomely reissued by the The New York Review Children’s Collection and retitled D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths. Featuring a sturdy sewn binding, the book arguably represents the pinnacle of the d’Aulaires’ achievement as storytellers and artists….the prose seems livelier and more robust in the Norse myths than in the Greek…Their retelling of the Greek myths for children had to pull its punches somewhat….but since sex doesn't feature as prominently in Norse mythology, this book is able to stay scrupulously faithful to the Edda and still maintain its PG rating. But not to worry: there’s still a lot of drinking, fighting and bad behavior, particularly on the part of fiery Thor, who is forever whacking frost giants on the head with his hammer, and the highly entertaining Loki, who is one of the most complicated and devious characters in anybody’s mythology, anywhere. Loki is the Bart Simpson of Norse mythology, forever pulling pranks, forever getting caught and forever talking his way out of the consequences…"
The New York Times Book Review

"[These] works, especially the books of Norse and Greek myths, were and remain crucial to me, and now to my own children. The interest in mythology that was kindled by those two books has endured throughout my life, and has directly influenced my own writing in countless ways…The Norse book was always my favorite, though. I must have read it a dozen times at least by the time I was nine or ten."
— Michael Chabon

About the Author

Ingri Mortenson and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire met at art school in Munich in 1921. Edgar’s father was a noted Italian portrait painter, his mother a Parisian. Ingri, the youngest of five children, traced her lineage back to the Viking kings.

The couple married in Norway, then moved to Paris. As Bohemian artists, they often talked about emigrating to America. “The enormous continent with all its possibilities and grandeur caught our imagination,” Edgar later recalled.

A small payment from a bus accident provided the means. Edgar sailed alone to New York where he earned enough by illustrating books to buy passage for his wife. Once there, Ingri painted portraits and hosted modest dinner parties. The head librarian of the New York Public Library’s juvenile department attended one of those. Why, she asked, didn’t they create picture books for children?

The d’Aulaires published their first children’s book in 1931. Next came three books steeped in the Scandinavian folklore of Ingri’s childhood. Then the couple turned their talents to the history of their new country. The result was a series of beautifully illustrated books about American heroes, one of which, Abraham Lincoln, won the d’Aulaires the American Library Association’s Caldecott Medal. Finally they turned to the realm of myths.

The d’Aulaires worked as a team on both art and text throughout their joint career. Originally, they used stone lithography for their illustrations. A single four-color illustration required four slabs of Bavarian limestone that weighed up to two hundred pounds apiece. The technique gave their illustrations an uncanny hand-drawn vibrancy. When, in the early 1960s, this process became too expensive, the d’Aulaires switched to acetate sheets which closely approximated the texture of lithographic stone.

In their nearly five-decade career, the d’Aulaires received high critical acclaim for their distinguished contributions to children’s literature. They were working on a new book when Ingri died in 1980 at the age of seventy-five. Edgar continued working until he died in 1985 at the age of eighty-six.

Michael Chabon is the author of several books, including The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son and, most recently, Telegraph Avenue.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 4
  • Series: New York Review Children's Collection
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: NYR Children's Collection (July 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159017125X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171257
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.7 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 85 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I remember having this book read to me when I was a child. It was only when I saw a photograph of some of the illustrations in a book review of the NYRB reprint that I ordered a copy for myself and devoured it. All through my childhood, I knew of Odin the One-Eyed, duplicitous Loki, and the willowy Freya -- but I had not recalled where it was that I learned about them.

One of the things that most struck me about the wooing and fighting gods of Asgard was that they were mortal. The world tree, Yggdrasil, was threatened by a dragon in Niflheim that gnawed at its roots; and the giant wolf Fenris was hogtied by a magic cord. Around the same time, both of them cut loose and attacked. What ensued was Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods.

Why the old Norse peoples should have killed off their gods was always a question in my mind. Did it happen before or after Olaf Tryggvason, the Kind of Norway, was converted to Christianity around the year A.D. 1000? It does make some sense to establish the new religion by dusting off the old.

This book has stayed with me for the better part of a lifetime. As a parent, I think you can certainly do worse than sharing this memorable book and its glowing illustrations with your children.

One little footnote: Last Christmas, I sponsored a wolf at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah, NM whose name is Fenris. Look out, world!
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It is impossible to over-recommend this book. It fired my young daughter with a love of literature that has lasted her through grad school and beyond. This book is my standard present for every newborn among my family and friends. "Start reading it to him at two years," I tell them. "You'll think he's too young, but he won't be." The illustrations are perfect for little children, their apparent roughness disguising their artistry, and the stories are kid-fun. A great book, and a great start to a life of loving books.
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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Lynn C on September 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Several years ago my husband and I were disappointed to find that the d'Aulaire's book had gone out of print. (We wanted to be able to read it to our children.) We found a very used copy and bought it because, despite this copy's poor condition, the book was very hard to find. Now we will be able to replace it with a copy that is in one piece.

The stories are well researched and well told. The illustrations are great--if you are familiar with other works by the d'Aulaires you will know what I mean. This is a great Norse mythology for children.
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65 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Katrina Grimhild on October 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The tales are well written and beautifully, lovingly illustrated. However, the volume itself is printed on cheap paper--experience tells me that in a few years this kind of paper begins to yellow, especially around the edges, and some years later, to fall apart. I was hoping this would be a more permanent addition to my collection. I would rather have paid more and had better quality; I feel as if the publisher has short-changed me and didn't do justice to this wonderful work.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By grandma julie on June 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When I was a kid I was put off by Norse mythology after Loki killed Balder, so I never introduced it to my own children. Now that my oldest grandchild is heavily into myths, someone suggested that I send her this, as a companion to the D'Aulaire book of Greek mythology.

Almost-eight-year-old Alex found it, read it in one sitting, and then sighed "I'm so sorry I finished- it's like saying goodbye to a dear friend."

Like all the D'Aulaire stuff it's beautiful, engaging, and totally bearable to adults to read, even as it is appealing to kids. Unlike the others though, it is usually totally unfamiliar to them. Everyone knows the Greek stories, but these are far less well known, and therefore all the more worth discovering.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. Straley on September 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths is one of the best books of Norse mythology that I've ever read. While it is intended for young readers, adults will be equally charmed with its clear, concise writing and unsophisticated (yet memorable) illustrations. My kids hung on every word as I read this too them, and loved looking at the illustrations. The only flaw this book contains is a rather tacked on ending that trys to reconcile Norse mythology and Christianity. A great companion to this book is D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By C. Spessard on February 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I haven't bought this edition of the book yet, but soon will. I just wanted to express my true love for this book, and gratitude that it's finally back in print. When I was ten or eleven years old, my mum borrowed the original edition of this book from the library for me. I had always enjoyed Greek mythology, but this...I just fell in love with. (Particularly, I fell in love with Loki.) Ever since then, I've been collecting Norse mythology books, but this one remains the one that I love the most of all. I have always thought back to it, always wanted to own my own copy.

If you enjoy reading folktales and mythology to your children, please buy this book for them. Or, if you're an adult who enjoys mythology, buy it for yourself. The tales are retold charmingly, and the artwork is astounding. I love all of the books by the D'Aulaires, but this one is, without a doubt my favourite. I can promise with 99% certainty that you'll really enjoy this book.
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