Earlier this year Usborne announced it was publishing North Child by Edith Pattou. This was met with intense interest, it was the release of a title that had proven popular when originally published in 2006. In 2006 the book was published under the title East. Please read on for a description of the book, a short bio of, and Q & A with, Edith Pattou.
“A beautiful, epic story of destiny, magic and love… Reborn for a new generation of readers."
Rose is an unusual child, a North Child. For Rose was born facing north, and the old stories say she is destined to travel far from home on a dangerous journey. Making a pact with an enormous white bear, Rose travels on his back to a mysterious castle that holds a dark enchantment, a darker temptation, and the key to her true destiny…
A spellbinding adventure to curl up with on long winter nights.”
“Edith Pattou has been writing since the age of seven. While writing North Child, Edith became an expert in mapmaking, seamanship, Scandinavian languages, Norse mythology and the Arctic, journeying by ship through the fjords of Norway”.
I was incredibly lucky to receive a copy of North Child from Usborne. I also asked whether there could be an opportunity to interview Edith for Armadillo Children’s Book Review Magazine. Amazingly, the answer was yes. So I owe a huge thank you to Louise Ellis-Barrett, Armadillo Magazine Editor, to Jacob Dow for liaising between myself and Edith and to Edith herself for taking the time to respond so wonderfully.
This epic adventure is rooted in folk tale magic and has an incredibly brave female lead in Rose. The story is told via the different characters in the book with some chapters dedicated to Rose’s voice, others to Neddy and the White Bear himself. It is a fascinating read and one which I encourage you to pick up! Jacob and I drafted some questions for Edith and she was so lovely in her responses.
Over the summer in Canada I actually found and read East, which is titled North Child in the UK. It is a wonderful adventure full of heart-warming but also heart-breaking moments. I’m sure this new edition will be a huge hit in the UK with a new generation of readers. How do you feel about the book and its UK title and new cover?
I am thrilled with this new UK edition of North Child and I think the new cover is brilliant! As to the title North Child, I have to confess that when I first heard about the change I was a little unsure, being so used to thinking of it as East. But if I’m being honest I actually believe North Child is a better title (please don’t tell my American publisher I said this!) because it is truer to the story and to its heroine, Rose.
There has been a surge in brilliant children’s fiction this year, many are willing to call it a golden age and your book will certainly be a part of this. Do you feel that children’s fiction goes from strength to strength? The US market is very different and I wonder if the same is being felt in the US?
Well, I am very honored for North Child to potentially be included in this new golden age of children’s literature! I do agree that children’s fiction is flourishing, with so many excellent writers on both sides of the pond. In the US there has definitely been a boom, especially when it comes to the ever-increasing diversity of voices and cultures being represented, with many authors pushing the boundaries of form and content. As a lover of fantasy I have been delighted by the immense talent and range of today’s fantasy writers. And of course the presence of so many fierce and independent female protagonists is especially exciting.
Can I ask about the inspiration for the book and your characters? Originally I know it came from the Norwegian tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. What about this tale sparked North Child?
It is a lesser known tale for the children today. I discovered the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon when I was a child. My mother worked in a bookshop and one day she brought home a book of fairy tales edited by Andrew Lang. It was a compilation of tales from all different cultures and while it included standards like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, I was immediately drawn to this Norwegian tale with its poetic title and a unique and amazing unnamed heroine. Unlike Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella this girl had guts and a persistence that defied the odds. She actually rescued the prince, rather than the other way around. Plus, she got to ride on the backs of the North, South, East and West winds! This unnamed heroine and her enchanted white bear stayed with me over the years until finally I realized that I needed to give her a name and tell her story.
The superstitions are an interesting part of the family and wondered if you had heard of these before or if they came from you?
Writing the character of Eugenia was a treat and I did do a fair amount of research into superstitions, those from Scandinavian countries as well as other cultures. But the main one, the one that partly drives the plot—the birth direction superstition held by Eugenia’s family—is one I came up with myself. And it has been so fun talking to readers over the years, many of whom are convinced it must be a real thing!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rose’s adventures, but it was not only hers. It was wonderful to know what other characters were thinking and feeling and I finished the book with a greater understanding of each one. Was this a planned part of your writing process?
Yes, it was in the very early stages of writing the tale that I decided it should be told from multiple points of view. As I was starting to map out Rose’s story I had just finished reading a book called The Poisonwood Bible, which is a novel written for adults by the US author Barbara Kingsolver. I loved how she told the story from the viewpoints of five women in a family and how she captured each voice so perfectly. And I decided I wanted to try that with my East of the Sun, West of the Moon story. It was a challenge but I loved how it enabled readers to get to know the other characters in the story, especially dear Neddy, who I have had readers tell me is the heart of the story.
Many children are inspired by powerful stories. What would you like to say to readers delving into North Child or East for the first time?
As a young girl I journeyed with an unnamed heroine to the land that lies east of the sun and west of the moon and it left an indelible handprint on my heart. I hope you will enjoy your own journey to this world of enchantment I created, inspired by the world in the fairy tale. It is filled with icy landscapes, ruthless trolls, swirling northern lights, a moon dress, a story knife, and a rainbow bridge, among many other things. But most of all it features an indomitable heroine named Rose who I hope touches your own heart the way that unnamed heroine touched mine many years ago.
Interview by Erin Hamilton