Excerpt from When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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When We Were Vikings

by Andrew David MacDonald

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald X
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2020, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
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Chapter One

The Viking my brother got me for my birthday was tall and had muscles. Even if you were not an expert on Vikings and had not read Kepple's Guide to the Vikings, you would say, that is a Viking. He looked like he could defeat hordes of villains and commit acts of bravery, like Beowulf, the most famous Viking, who defeated Grendel, who was not only a regular villain but also a monster.

But since I am an expert, I noticed many incorrect things. For example, the Viking's sword wasn't made of real metal, and his outfit was plastic instead of brynja, which is an armor made of rings to protect warriors from being cut with swords. His blond hair was not really blond. I could see that it had actually been colored.

After seeing the Viking, I chose a new Word of Today. The word ended up being gargantuan, a way of saying something, or someone, is amazingly large. It was a word that I had written on my list, with the help of my best friend, AK47, and since I remembered the definition, and since the Viking and the word went together, I decided I would put my other Word of Today (eloquent) away and make gargantuan the new Word of Today.

The Viking boomed through the door of our apartment, past Gert, and stood holding his sword. The first thing he said was: "WHERE IS ZELDA?"

He looked around the room, which was empty except for the couch, Gert's chair, the lamp in the corner, the coffee table, and Gert's TV, the most legendary thing we owned.

Gert pointed at me and made a sound with his throat.

"You," the Viking said, waving his plastic sword at me. "Are you Zelda?"

The Viking had already broken three of the rules that Gert and I have posted by the door to make sure our apartment stays clean and orderly and a good place for us both to live:

  • Take off shoes to stop outside dirt from going all over the apartment.
  • Do not stand in the doorway instead of closing the door and locking it as soon as possible, since people will try to rob us if they see the chance.
  • Do not drop bags and things by the door, instead of taking them to the right place in the apartment.

The rules are written in big block letters that say: RULES OF COMING IN AND OUT, and there's a picture of the door and a person walking in that Gert and I drew together using the box of crayons I borrowed from the Community Center.

The Viking didn't see the rules, but when Gert made a noise and pointed to his own shoes, the Viking said, "Oh, shit," and kicked them off. "Sorry," he said.

(Even though swearwords are allowed, one of the House Rules is that we should at least try not to use them, which Gert finds harder than me.)

"The door too," Gert said, smiling.

The smiling was not a rule that we wrote down, but something we did for each other to show that we were happy with what the other person was doing without actually having to say, THANK YOU FOR DOING SOMETHING SMALL THAT I LIKED. That way we could save our Big Thank-You's for more gargantuan things.

"I have come to wish you a happy birthday," the Viking said to me. When he came closer he smelled like oranges sitting on the counter too long.

"Góðan dag!" I said to the Viking.

"Excuse me?" the Viking said.

"Góðan dag!" I said, louder and making sure that every sound of the words was clear and enunciated (Word of Today, June 4).

Góðan dag is the traditional Viking greeting, according to Kepple's Guide to the Vikings. Kepple's website has a video guide to pronouncing Viking phrases and words. Góðan dag is pronounced "go-than-dag." When you say words in Old Norse, you should sound like you're spitting. One of the things I did when I started trying to speak Viking was hold my hand in front of my mouth, so that I could tell if I was saying things properly by how wet my hand got.

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Excerpted from When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald. Copyright © 2020 by Andrew David MacDonald. Excerpted by permission of Gallery/Scout Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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