cover image The Hiking Viking

The Hiking Viking

Laura Gehl, illus. by Timothy Banks. Capstone, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-68446-427-2

Young Leif the Viking is a classic outlier: “The other Vikings liked to battle and brawl,” writes Gehl (Except When They Don’t), “Leif didn’t.” Leif particularly loves wandering the fjords with his hiking stick (“It was beautiful. It was quiet. It was peaceful”), climbing to where pointy pines seem to touch the sky, water glistens below, and majestic stone hills turn magical shades of purple in the fading light. True to form, Leif turns in a tepid warrior-skills performance at the rambunctious Viking Games, even with the family honor at stake. But when it’s announced that the champion will be “the clan that can show us the greatest treasure by sunset,” Leif leads the light-skinned horde to his beloved fjords as the sun drops, winning the day as “the stone cliffs gleamed like polished silver./ The water below glittered with gold.” Banks (A Valentine for Frankenstein) strikes a lovely balance between awe-inspiring landscapes, conveyed with light and texture, and Tex Avery–style figures whose comic angularity echoes the craggy beauty of the world they inhabit. It’s a sweet-natured plea to get the heck outside—and appreciate the treasure at hand. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)