Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass has always felt estranged from her family, who struggle to make a living in the windswept north. So when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out and promises that her family will be provided for if she accompanies him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But the great white bear is not what he seems, nor is his castle. Slowly the Lass unravels the mystery of the bear’s enchantment and the spell connecting him with the strange symbols carved in the castle’s icy walls. But on a journey to a place where the four winds fear to travel, the true horror of the bear’s spell is revealed, and the Lass’s courage-and love-will be tested.
Based on the Nordic legend East of the Sun, West of the Moon, this richly reimagined tale is perfect for fans of Shannon Hale and Donna Jo Napoli.
Why I Wrote It
Long years ago, when I was a wee lass, I developed a bizarre passion for Norway. My family is actually of Danish descent, but for me it was Norway or nothing. The breathtaking landscape, the thought of Viking ships cresting icy waves, polar bears and reindeer, it all seemed so romantic and fascinating to me. I devoured anything about Norway I could find: I wore itchy wool sweaters if they had a Norwegian pattern on them. I ate cold salmon (which I do like). I read any book that even mentioned Norway, or was written by someone Norwegian, no matter what the topic. So I was naturally drawn to the fairy tale East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon, which is still my favorite all-time story. The young girl, taken from her poverty-stricken family by an enchanted polar bear . . . it thrills me! For my sixteenth birthday I got a copy of P.J. Lynch’s wonderfully illustrated version of the story, and pored over every line of the pictures, imagining what it would be like to live in that palace, to feel the bear’s thick fur. I knew that one day I would write my own version of the story, I just didn’t know when. Finally, several years after graduating with a minor in Scandinavian Studies, after reading other picture books and reinterpreted novels based on the story, I sat down at the computer one day to work on something completely different (as usual), and the story of the nameless woodcutter’s daughter poured forth.
I hope that I always pour a lot of passion and a lot of love into all my books. But this one is closer to my heart than the others, I think. I paced the floor in between scenes, urgently thinking of how to make it just right.
And in the end, I hope, it is. Just right.
The names Hans Peter and Jorunn are taken from the names of the kids in my first Norwegian textbook. We followed the adventures of Jorunn and her boyfriend JENS Peter from their first crush through their marriage, learning our Norwegian vocab and grammar along the way. Einar is named in honor of Ray Bradbury’s Uncle Einar, who appears in several of his stories. Skarp-Hedin is the name of one my favorite people from the Old Norse sagas, the son of Njal in Njal’s Saga, and one of the most dynamic characters you will ever encounter. I nearly named my son after him, but my husband begged me to reconsider.
The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, carries signed copies of Jessica's books. You can also have them personalized by Jessica and shipped directly to you. Contact The King's English for details.