East by Edith Pattou.
Harcourt, 2003.



A deft and delightful weaving of East of the Sun and West of the Moon and Beauty and the Beast, told from the viewpoint of various characters. The story travels in the direction of East, South, West, North and takes place in the icy realms of Norway.


Rose's family hasn't been poor forever, but when she is child, lack is all she knows — scrimping in the larder, poor health, worn-out clothes. Adventurous as she is, when a huge white bear appears before her and offers her family health and prosperity if she will go with away with him, she accepts his offer. She travels with him, on his back, to a seemingly empty castle where every night she is joined by a mysterious stranger. She loses her heart to him and soon discovers a purpose and love she cannot deny.


Rose — youngest of eight children; with purple eyes and chestnut coloured hair; talented weaver
White Bear — speaks in poetry
Neddy — Rose's older brother by four years, second to last born
Troll Queen — hard as ice, took a soft-skin boy for her own and was cursed by her father
Father — Rose and Neddy's father, less superstitious than their mother


Directions of the compass factor heavily in the story — they determine characters, depict direction of travel, and are also section headings in the book.
East: "Once upon a time there was a poor farmer with many children"
South: "They journeyed far and the white bear said, 'Are you afraid?' "No,' she replied. 'I am not afraid.'"
West: "She would search for him. In the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon. But there was no way there."
North: "She traveled on the back of the North Wind to the very end of the world."


Birth-direction — superstition that the direction of the child's birth determines their personality

  • Northeast-born — frugal, organized, roamer
  • East-born — tidy, sound sleeper, superstitious, practical, obedient
  • Southeast-born — kind, comfortable
  • South-born — passionate, strong-willed
  • Southwest-born — good with animals, farseeing, foreknowing
  • West-born — capable, decisive, good with animals
  • Northwest-born —
  • North-born — wandering, wild, ill-behaved


Wow. This book was fantastic! I was a bit concerned about the constant voice-change chapter-to-chapter, but the transitions were smooth and easy to follow. Meanwhile, the writing was fabulous and kept me riveted to the story, which is essentially a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but not exactly (Trolls and Norsk lands shift the story a bit). Don't be deterred by the size of the book, for it truly is a reader's gem. I highly recommend it for those who love fantasy adventures mingled with foreign cultures and sprinkled with romance and superstition. It's a wonderful read! — esme

Awards & Honors

ALA Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Notable Children’s Book
Book Sense 76 Pick
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
Ohioana Book Award [Ohio]
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, A

LC Cataloging Info

Summary: A young woman journeys to a distant castle on the back of a great white bear who is the victim of a cruel enchantment.

{1. Fairy tales. 2. Bears — Fiction}


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