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Imagine the bravest, fiercest Norwegian warriors that ever lived, carrying a baby prince across blizzard-wracked mountains to save his life. Picture the babe's mother undergoing a cruel, brutal test to prove her son is indeed the bona fide prince of Norway. A fairy tale? No, this is a true story, based on the account written in 1264 by Sturla Tordsson, about the Middle Ages' most powerful king during what are known as Norway's Golden Years. Norwegian-born author Lise Lunge-Larsen tells the story of this king's miraculous adventure in infancy, while woodcut artist Mary Azarian stunningly depicts the heroism of the birch-bark armored peasant warriors, the Birkebeiners.
Mary Azarian was awarded the Caldecott Medal for her lovely woodcut illustrations in Snowflake Bentley. Lunge-Larsen is the award-winning author of The Troll with No Heart in His Body and The Legend of the Lady Slipper. (Ages 4 and older) --Emilie Coulter
Based on a 1264 account documenting a true incident in Norwegian history, this engaging narrative opens during a 1206 Christmas Eve gathering at the home of one of the Birkebeiners, a group of brave warriors. A priest knocks on the door, who has in his protection a baby, Prince Hakon, and his mother; a rival band aspires to kill the child (who is heir to the throne) and to declare one of their own king. Soon a handful of Birkebeiners escorts the trio, escaping on skis across tall, stormy mountains. Caldecott winner Azarian's (Snowflake Bentley) finely detailed woodcut illustrations, hand-tinted with watercolors, capture the serene snow-covered landscape as well as the driving snowstorm that impedes the travelers' progress. In direct and compelling prose, Lunge-Larsen recounts how the two Birkebeiners most renowned for their skiing ability forge ahead with the prince, fortuitously happen upon a barn buried under a snowdrift and manage to keep the baby alive by feeding him snow. In a concluding note, the author explains that Hakon became Norway's most powerful king during the Middle Ages and brought peace and prosperity to the country, making this rescue tale all the more gratifying. The stately art, which includes intricate borders framing blocks of text, neatly captures the historical and cultural aspects of this story. Ages 5-9.
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