Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

East by Edith Pattou

Title: East
Author: Edith Pattou
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Date: September 2003
ISBN-13: 9780152045630

Plot Summary: On a farmstead in medieval Scandinavia, a girl named Rose lives with her six siblings, her loving father, and her very superstitious mother.  Rose’s mother is obsessed with the notion that the direction of a child’s birth will determine their traits and destiny, and has intentionally birthed each of her seven children for a different point on the compass – all the directions except North.  Rose tries hard to be a gentle and obedient East, but feels more natural wandering the surrounding countryside than doing domestic tasks at home (with the exception of weaving, one of her favorite activities).

The family sinks deeper into poverty, and Rose’s sister Sara (South born) falls extremely ill, when a white bear appears at the farm and says that he will return in a week.  If Rose will leave with him, Sara’s good health will return and the family will become prosperous.  During the next week, Rose accidentally discovers that her true birth direction was North – and her parents had lied to her.  Confused and hurt, Rose decides to leave with the white bear.

She stays with him for months in a castle built into a mountain.  A mysterious visitor comes into Rose’s room and sleeps on the other side of her bed every night, but she cannot speak to him, touch him or even light a candle because of an enchantment.  When she finally discovers who it is, an evil Troll Queen takes him away intending to force him into marriage.  Feeling guilty for breaking the spell that allowed the queen to capture him, Rose determines that she will find where he has been taken and rescue him.

Critical Evaluation: This creative retelling of the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” is given realistic depth because it is set in medieval Europe.  Rose does the most traveling in the book, and refers to the countries Fransk, Iseland, Gronland, Anglia and Njord – recognizable as France, Iceland, Greenland, England, and Norway, her home.  The land of the trolls, enigmatically referred to as east of the sun and west of the moon, is located in the farthest reaches of the north, presumably the North Pole.

East is told from an alternating first-person point of view, shifting between Rose, her father, her brother Neddy, the Troll Queen, and the White Bear.  This technique is useful for keeping the reader aware of the developing plot in different regions (for instance, we know what events are happening at the farmstead while Rose is away in the mountain castle).  It is also useful to track developments and changes in the characters – the White Bear, who thinks in short phrases while an animal, narrates in complete sentences when back in his human form, and speaks adoringly of the Troll Queen who has him under a spell.  The defeat of the Troll Queen is not the climactic battle that the reader may expect, but the sweet love story that develops between Rose and the human White Bear makes up for it.

Reader’s Annotation: In this retelling of the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” Rose feels responsible for breaking a spell, allowing the evil Troll Queen to capture a human man to force him into marriage.  Rose determines that she will do whatever she can to rescue him.

Author Information: Edith Pattou has written three fantasy novels for young adults (East and the Songs of Eirren books – Hero’s Song and Fire Arrow), as well as a picture book called Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden.  Pattou received a Masters in English from Claremont Graduate School and a Masters in Library and Information Science from UCLA.  She lives in Ohio with her husband, a college professor, and her daughter.

Pattou claims that she was inspired to become a writer after reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child.  When asked to give advice to aspiring authors, she said, “The main advice I have for someone who wants to be a writer is to read.  Turn off the TV and read everything you can get your hands on.  Also, I highly recommend keeping a notebook.” (Source)

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

Curriculum Ties: None

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Discuss and contrast the journeys that Rose takes in the novel.
2) Do you think the fortune of Rose’s family turns around because of the white bear, or because of Harald Soren?
3) Was Rose’s mother right to be superstitious?  Is Rose really influenced by being a North born?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: alcohol consumption by a minor character

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I first became aware of East when I read a review of another retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.”  This was one of my favorite fairy tales as a child, because it casts the woman as the rescuer, so I was interested to see how it would be expanded into a young adult novel.


February 27, 2010 - Posted by | Books | ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Evaluation: Like the fantasy novel East, Robin Benway’s upcoming novel about three paranormal sisters has an alternating first-person […]

    Pingback by The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June « Caroline the Future Librarian | March 17, 2010 | Reply

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