Thirteen-year-old Astri is a goat girl, but she’s no Heidi; she’s a sharp, stone-hard girl who hasn’t yet found the goodness inside herself.
In fact, her life is as wretched as the darkest Norwegian fairy tale. Instead of being taken by White Bear King Valemon to his castle, Astri has been sold by her own aunt and uncle for “two silver coins and a haunch of goat” to a nasty old hunchbacked goatman named Svaalberd who lives in squalor. Folk tales from “The Twelve Wild Ducks” to “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” weave through Astri’s often dryly humorous, suspenseful first-person account until one feels like the other…including her riotous escape from the violent man-troll and the rescue of her beloved little sister. The girls’ odyssey over hill and dale, aided by a kind milkmaid and lonely widow, takes them all the way to an America-bound ship—the Columbus. Whether or not their father is still alive in America, the country beckons like the castle in the bear story that “lies east of the sun and west of the moon.” Preus, who won a Newbery Honor for Heart of a Samurai (2010), was inspired by her Norwegian great-great-grandmother, who immigrated to America in 1851, as she explains in an author’s note, even providing reproductions of some of her great-great-grandmother’s papers.
Norwegian history, fiction and folklore intertwine seamlessly in this lively, fantastical adventure and moving coming-of-age story. (glossary, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 11-14)