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About The Book

Jack was eleven when the berserkers loomed out of the fog and nabbed him. "It seems that things are stirring across the water," the Bard had warned. "Ships are being built, swords are being forged."
"Is that bad?" Jack had asked, for his Saxon village had never before seen berserkers.
"Of course. People don't make ships and swords unless they intend to use them."
The year is A.D. 793. In the next months, Jack and his little sister, Lucy, are enslaved by Olaf One-Brow and his fierce young shipmate, Thorgil. With a crow named Bold Heart for mysterious company, they are swept up into an adventure-quest that follows in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings.
Other threats include a willful mother Dragon, a giant spider, and a troll-boar with a surprising personality -- to say nothing of Ivar the Boneless and his wife, Queen Frith, a shape-shifting half-troll, and several eight foot tall, orange-haired, full-time trolls. But in stories by award-winner Nancy Farmer, appearances do deceive. She has never told a richer, funnier tale, nor offered more timeless encouragement to young seekers than "Just say no to pillaging."

Reading Group Guide

By Nancy Farmer
In A.D. 793, eleven-year-old Jack leaves his family farm to become an apprentice to the Bard, a druid from Ireland, who is assigned to his Saxon village. At first, he is unsure of his duties, and is puzzled when the Bard experiences a nightmare that Jack later learns foreshadows a rollicking and dangerous adventure-quest with the Northmen, led by Ivar the Boneless. Jack and his little sister, Lucy, are snatched by the berserkers and enslaved by Olaf One-Brow and his shipmate, Thorgil. Accompanied by a crow called Bold Heart, the two children encounter a sea of characters: humans and animals, trolls and half-trolls. There are surprises around every corner, and just when doom seems imminent, there is a bit of humor to lighten the suspense. Steeped in Norse mythology and Saxon history, The story brings Jack and Lucy full circle, but with a surprise ending.
Ask students to research the unique elements in Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology and share their findings in class. What are the significant differences? List the most common figures and distinctive characteristics of the Norse myths. Tell students to keep these in mind as they read The Sea of Trolls.
• Good vs. evil is a common theme in fantasy novels. Discuss the good and evil forces in The Sea of Trolls.
• Describe Jack's family. Contrast Jack's relationship with his mother to his relationship with his father. Lucy, Jack's younger sister, appears to be very spoiled. Why does Jack's father allow her to live in a fantasy world? How does her fantasy world protect her when she encounters Queen Frith?
• Giles Crookleg is very religious. How does he convey his religion to his children? Discuss how his religion is in conflict with his wife's practice of magic. Jack learns from his mother how to talk to bees and how to soothe frightened animals with song. What type of magic does he learn from the Bard? What does the Bard mean when he tells Jack "Real magic is dangerous"?
• The Bard, a druid from Ireland, is also known as Dragon Tongue. How does he acquire this name? What is the role of the Bard to the village people? Describe Jack's relationship with the Bard. Why does the Bard choose Jack to be his apprentice? Why doesn't Giles Crookleg want his son to go with the Bard? What is Jack's mother's opinion of the Bard? Discuss what Jack learns during his apprenticeship.
• The Bard advises Jack, "You should look intelligent even when you aren't." How does this advice serve Jack as he travels on his quest?
• Explain the Bard's nightmares. How do his nightmares foreshadow Jack's journey and encounter with the evil forces?
• How does the Bard protect the village people from the Jotuns? The Bard tells Jack, "Only a very special kind of warrior can overcome them." Describe the qualities of this kind of warrior. How does listening to the Bard's stories about the Jotuns help Jack see his father differently?
• Why does the Bard give Jack the rune of protection? How does the Bard's gift leave him vulnerable to the evil forces? At one point, Jack almost gives the rune to Lucy. Explain why he changes his mind. Why does Jack give the rune to Thorgil?
• The Bard tells Jack, "You see, lad, most people live like birds in a cage. It makes them feel safe. The world's a frightening place, full of glory and wonder and danger." Describe the "glory, wonder and danger" that Jack and Lucy face. What do they learn about the world by the end of the novel? How does the Bard's statement to Jack apply to the world we live in, and the way we live our lives?
• The Bard teaches Jack about fear, pain, power, magic, and anger. How does the Bard's warning of Ivar the Boneless and Queen Frith leave Jack "dizzy with fear"? At what point does Jack experience the most pain and anger? How does his magic make him feel powerful? What important lesson does he learn about power?
• Discuss the significance of Mimir's Well.
• Giles Crookleg can't read, but he has memorized stories from the monks of the Holy Isle. Write and illustrate a story that Giles might have told his children.
• When Olaf relates Thorgil's story, Jack thinks that it would make a good poem. Write the poem, and give it a happier ending to please Jack.
• Jack's mother fears that Lucy can't tell the difference between fact and fantasy. Research the Vikings. Write a factual and a fanciful story about the Vikings. Share the stories in class. Which type of story creates the most interest?
• There are good physical descriptions of the characters, both human and animal. Make an illustrated chart of the novel's characters.
• Identify the most humorous scenes in the book. In small groups, select a scene to perform as a one-act play. Create appropriate costumes.
• Four of the days of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) are named for Scandinavian gods. Research these days of the week and find out which gods the names represent. Pick one of these days and write or retell the myth that explains the name.
• The birth of Norse mythology was pre-Christianity. Research the story of the Norse creation and write a short paper that draws a parallel between this story and the creation story taught in your religion.
Nancy Farmer has written three Newbery Honor Books: The Eye, the Ear, and the Arm; A Girl Named Disaster; and The House of the Scorpion, which also won the 2002 National Book Award. Her other books include her most recent novel The Sea of Trolls, Do You Know Me, The Warm Place, and three picture books for young children. She lives with her family in Menlo Park, California.
This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, SC Governor¹s School for Arts and Humanities, Greenville.

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Nancy Farmer has written three Newbery Honor books: The Ear, the Eye and the ArmA Girl Named Disaster; and The House of the Scorpion, which also won the National Book Award and the Printz Honor. Other books include The Lord of OpiumThe Sea of TrollsThe Land of the Silver ApplesThe Islands of the BlessedDo You Know MeThe Warm Place, and three picture books for young children. She grew up on the Arizona-Mexico border and now lives with her family in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (September 1, 2004)
  • Length: 480 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780689867446
  • Grades: 5 - 8
  • Ages: 10 - 13
  • Lexile ® 670 The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

Richie Partington The Sea of Trolls nearly defies categorization, there are so many sides to it...the latest success in the career of one of the great storytellers of our time.

Scott Meyer Merritt Bookstore (Millbrook, NY) ...What Nancy Farmer does best -- show us that appearances do deceive. Or as the publishers say "She has never told a richer, funnier tale, nor offered more timeless encouragement to young seekers than 'Just say no to pillaging'."

Mary Brown Books, Bytes, and Beyond (Glen Rock, NJ) A new Nancy Farmer novel is always cause for celebrating because you know it will be something incredibly inventive and wholly absorbing. Nancy Farmer spins such complete stories that we don't need a sequel or even a prequel -- we just need another Nancy Farmer novel!

Rene Kirkpatrick All for Kids Books & Music (Seattle, WA) ...A fast-paced, very funny, adventure story, perfect for both boys and girls.

Susan Hirschman former longtime publisher of Greenwillow Books I think The Sea of Trolls is magnificent. Absolutely the best I've read. I read it in a gulp and was crushed when I had finished it. I wasn't ready to give up any of the characters. It is truly splendid.

Sarah Todd Hannah Schwartz's Children's Book World (Haverford, PA) Bringing her wit, high style, and flair for dramatic storytelling to The Sea of Trolls, Farmer makes Norse mythology and Saxon history both intriguing and enthralling. Dragons and trolls, wise women and bards, runes and lunatics...these are the makings of this great tale, and one deserving of fame.

Kathy Larkin Children In Paradise (Chicago, IL) The Norse stories are so full of buckle and swash, I am glad that the door to the land of the North has been opened again. Farmer's tale has dragons, swords, and brave hearts, what else does one need for a great read?

Zach (11 years old) Sea of Trolls is one of the best books ever. It's sorta like Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings and they both meet Eragon. It rocks. It's a puzzling mystery but at the same time a comedy with tons of pusle pounding, adrenilene racing, page flipping things going on. It's awesome that Nancy Farmer can get you so excited about what you think is going to happen next, and then bam she swerves and has something completely unexpected happen that's even better than what you even hoped would happen. When will the next one be ready?

Walker (8 years old) Every night I wanted my Mom or Dad to read more. It was really exciting. It had Vikings, dragons, spiders, a boy who has lots of adventures, a magical land, a Queen who has her hair fall off and a crow. It made me laugh too.

Jamie (9 years old) This is the next Harry Potter and I loved it. I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Awards and Honors

  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
  • ALA Notable Children's Books
  • Horn Book Fanfare
  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • Virginia Young Readers List
  • ALA Best Books For Young Adults
  • Iowa Teen Award Nominee
  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Junior Title
  • NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)
  • PSLA Fiction List
  • Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award Nominee
  • Publishers Weekly Best Books
  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List
  • Kirkus Editor's Choice
  • Nutmeg Book Award Nominee (CT)
  • NYPL Best Books for Teens
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee
  • Great Stone Face Book Award Nominee (NH)
  • Capital Choices Noteworthy Books for Children's and Teens (DC)
  • NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts
  • Pennsylvania School Librarian Association (PSLA) "Top Ten (Or So)" Young Adult Books
  • Texas Lone Star Reading List
  • Northern California Book Award Nominee
  • YALSA Teens Top Ten (TTT) Nominee
  • Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award Master List (IL)
  • Great Lakes Great Books Master List (MI)
  • Westchester's Choice
  • Child Magazine's Guide to Top Books, Videos and Software of the Year
  • Washington Post Best Books
  • Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Choice Award Master List
  • Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Finalist
  • Flicker Tale Award Nominee (ND)
  • Blue Hen Book Award Nominee (DE)
  • Judy Lopez Memorial Award Winner
  • PEN USA Literary Award Finalist
  • ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Nominee

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Nancy Farmer

More books in this series: The Sea of Trolls Trilogy