Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury, 2013. ISBN 9781619631847.
(Age 10+) Recommended. Based on the legend East of the sun, west of the moon, the Lass, who doesn't have a name, agrees to go away with a great white bear to his castle when he promises her family treasure to make them rich. But of course the bear is not what he appears to be and his castle is made of ice. She is determined to find out what is happening when servants begin to disappear and sets out on a gruelling journey to rescue the bear when he disappears.
Jessica Day George has chosen to expand the fairy story, keeping faithfully to its origins, but giving it a very likeable heroine who grabs the reader's attention right from the beginning. Any reader could easily identify with the young girl whose mother has refused to name her and whose sad older brother, returned from mysterious adventures at sea, seems to be her only friend. When she frees a white reindeer trapped in the woods, it rewards her with a name and the ability to hear what animals are saying. The Lass cares deeply for her family and cannot refuse the large white bear's request to stay with him for a year in his castle. She is an intrepid girl whose naive curiosity leads to dire consequences, but also gives her the inspiration to find a solution to the spell that has been cast on the bear.
The bitter cold and the isolation of their home in woods, often deep in snow, is beautifully described. The grim poverty of her family and the desperate straits that they find themselves in provide a fitting background to the story. The addition of the heart broken brother Hans Peter and his link to the ice castle is a fascinating one and gives an extra dimension to the story.
This is a well written, timeless tale that is sure to please readers who enjoy retellings of fairy tales.