I first read ‘The giant under the snow’ (which was published in 1968) when I was a child of about 7 and I loved it. I still have the battered paperback copy from my childhood (along with my copies of Snow Cloud, Stallion and Shane, which is the best Western ever).
Some 40 years later, over Christmas (the wintry theme makes it perfect for those dark days), I took a few hours to re-read it; and I came away thinking it must still be one of the best children’s books ever written. It’s almost a short story, tightly plotted, fast paced, deliciously scary, and with neatly crafted characters, particularly the wonderful Elizabeth Goodenough.
I know it is not a hugely complex plot and there’s very little back story (except for the giant) – but it is just so well woven that the writing itself seems magical, conjuring up dark swirling images in the mind with the barest of descriptions.
Mr Gordon, who worked as an editor for the Eastern Evening News and has a reporter’s eye for telling detail, is particularly good at recreating the bleakness of (what I imagine to be) 1960s Norwich and the Brecklands in winter. Having grown up in Norwich during the 70s, I find myself matching the city Mr Gordon describes with the one I knew, from the old City walls, the Cathedral, the Castle and the market, to King Street with the then derelict warehouses lying between it and the black River Wensum.
If you haven’t read this book, do yourself a favour and read it – if you have read it, treat yourself and re-read it. After that, lend it to your children.
Thank you Mr Gordon, wherever you may be.