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The Race of the Birkebeiners

by Lise Lunge-Larsen
Illustrated by Mary Azarian

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2001
32 pages
ISBN: 0-618-10313-9

Ages 6 - 9

Cross-country skiers gather in Hayward, Wisconsin, each winter to test their skill in the annual American Birkebeiner ski race. But centuries ago, the Nordic warriors from whom that event takes its name took part in a cross-country "race" with life-and-death consequences. It is this dramatic story and its aftermath that unfold here. In the early 13th century, the Birkebeiners, so-called for the birch leggings they wore as their only armor, were the loyal warriors of Norway's king. It was on Christmas Eve in 1206 that the Birkebeiners were called upon to save the life of the king's baby son, Prince Håkon. The baby and his mother, Inga of Varteig, had been in hiding since the child's birth three month's after the king's death. Now the Baglers, the would-be usurpers of the throne, were closing in. On that Christmas Eve, Inga, Prince Håkon, and eight Birkebeiners began the journey by skis across the mountains that were "the tallest and stormiest in all of Norway" to reach the safety of the northern districts. Lise Lunge-Larsen tells of that journey and the astounding courage of Inga of Varteig to save her son and Norway's future in this breathtaking story illustrated with handsome woodcuts by Mary Azarian. CCBC categories: Folklore, Mythology, and Traditional Literature; New Editions of Old Favorites; Picture Books for Older Children; Historical People, Places, and Events; Seasons and Celebrations.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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