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Book Review

The Giant Under the Snow by John Gordon has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

On a school field trip to the woods outside of the city, Jonquil (Jonk) Winters strays off the path. She finds herself on a strange-looking mound of dirt shaped like a giant green hand and an ornate gold buckle in the dirt. Then suddenly the earth starts moving.

A vicious black dog appears and begins to chase her through the woods. She ends up at the remote home of a woman named Elizabeth Goodenough, who helps her get back to her class. Jonk tells her friends Bill and Arthur (Arf) about her experience. The black dog follows their bus, and they continue to see him watching them in the days ahead.

Arf is skeptical about Jonk’s story, but Bill develops a theory: He’s read a legend about a figure cut into a hillside called the Green Man. Long ago, the earthen creature supposedly awoke during a storm and began to walk around the countryside. It crushed people under its weight until it was driven away by magic. The kids visit a local museum, theorizing that some other being might want to use the Green Man’s power to wage a battle or cause mayhem. In the museum, the kids find a belt on which Jonk’s buckle fits.

The kids visit Elizabeth and learn that she has magical powers. She is locked in a struggle against the Green Man, whose body has been inhabited by an ancient warlord. The warlord’s minions, creatures they call leather men, pursue Elizabeth and the kids.

Elizabeth gives the kids special backpacks that empower them to fly. Their flying ability allows them to get past the city walls and back to Elizabeth. It also permits Jonk to battle the Green Man. While Elizabeth wields her magical powers from below, Jonk ensures the belt and buckle are in position. This causes the warlord to be extracted from the Green Man’s body. He emerges, lifeless, and the Green Man swallows him. The Green Man sinks into the earth again and becomes part of the landscape.

The children later return to the area where they saw the Green Man in an effort to convince themselves they didn’t imagine it all. They find a golden bowl there, which they take to the museum.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Magical powers are used in the story.

Authority Roles

Elizabeth enlists the children’s help and tries to keep them safe. The children’s parents are unaware that the kids are frequently sneaking out at night to solve their mystery.


Having the belt and buckle in position causes the warlord to be extracted from the Green Man’s body. He emerges, lifeless, and the Green Man swallows him.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12


John Gordon






Record Label



A Harper Trophy Book, Harper & Row Publishers


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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