Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
The heroes and heroines of ancient Greece--and their evil counterparts--come to life in this excellent introduction to mythology. The stories that examine human foibles and were originally designed to explain the mysteries of life and the course of nature have formidably weathered the test of time. Readers meet the curious Pandora, ultra-strong Heracles and the lovesick musician Apollo, among others, in these 16 exciting and mystical tales. McCaughrean's retellings feature modern language and simplified plot lines and genealogical information, while retaining much of the drama of the more classical adult versions. Chichester Clark's playful watercolors are a constant reminder that myths were meant to be shared as entertainment as well as instruction. Her wide-eyed portrayal of life in Greece amuses and informs and may encourage interested fans to visit a museum or check out nonfiction on the topic. This collaboration is solid preparation for the more intricate tellings, as well as a segue into interpretation and analytical skills. Ages 9-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Gr. 4-6. "There was once a king called Midas who was almost as stupid as he was greedy." Direct, robust, and gleeful, 16 epic stories of heroes and monsters, gods and warriors, are retold here in a style that's as great for reading aloud and storytelling as it is for introducing middle grade readers to the myths. Just as the narrative does, the simple watercolors on every page express the ordinariness of the characters, their silliness as well as their heroism. The monsters are appropriately gruesome (the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece "had no eyelids, it had no name, it had no pity"); the heroes (from Hercules and Perseus to Jason and Atalanta) are game to take on any dare; the journeys (whether home from Troy or down to Hades) are perilous adventures. There are no 1990s ambiguities and transformations--Penelope is waiting patiently at home for Odysseus; the Cyclops is monster, not victim--but the stories do show that Theseus is an ungrateful hero who ditches Ariadne, and that the gods themselves can be "vain, jealous, spiteful, bad-tempered--even lonely." McCaughrean, who has won several awards in Britain, lures you with the dramatic immediacy of the oral tradition: "Long ago, when fortune-tellers told the truth, there lived a very frightened man." How can you not read on? ~--Hazel Rochman
Horn Book Review
'Pandora's Box,' 'Daedalus and Icarus,' 'The Twelve Labors of Heracles,' and many others are included in a collection of adaptations. The oversized pages are filled with lively color illustrations, which perfectly complement the well-written text. From HORN BOOK 1993, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
The much-honored McCaughrean (A Pack of Lies, 1989, Carnegie Medal) slyly telegraphs the philosophy behind these grand renditions in describing how Athene turns Arachne into a spider to punish the matchless weaver for her arrogance--yet Arachne's gloriously beautiful fabric depicts the gods doing ``silly things...squabbling, lazing about, and bragging. In fact she made them look just as foolish as ordinary folk.'' McCaughrean is as irreverent, and as delightfully artful, in these 17 stories and epics retold in a contemporary style enlivened with snappy dialogue, whimsical descriptions, dramatic vignettes, and ingenious embroideries and explanations (Heracles gets Atlas to take the sky back because ``These stars do prickle''; Polyphemus gobbled two of Odysseus's men, then ``spat out their belts and sandals''). Beginning with Prometheus's creation of man and concluding with his release, McCaughrean provides enough links to give a sense of complicated community. Important particulars are intact and given in some detail (King Midas's problem with donkey's ears as well as his tactile troubles), though without the more horrendous aftermaths (Jason and Medea simply ``lived together as man and wife''). A deliciously witty reminder that, as McCaughrean says, these myths ``are just too good to forget.'' Clark's lovely, lighthearted watercolors, depicting most of the characters as foolish but appealing innocents, are generously supplied on every page. A splendid offering. (Mythology. 8+)