Sirens may be the new vampires. In the spring 2012 Guide issue, there are no fewer than five books about sirens (and another four about mermaids). In any event, Greek mythology seems to be having its own resurgence, hot on the wingéd heels of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. The following titles, all recommended by The Horn Book Guide, feature Greek myths retold or re-tooled.
Managing Editor, The Horn Book Guide
Barrett, Tracy Dark of the Moon
310 pp. Harcourt 2011. ISBN 978-0-547-58132-3
YA Reimagining the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Barrett gives new life to Ariadne as a lonely priestess with a disfigured and disabled brother: a wholly human Minotaur. Using a rich historical framework, the story alters events and characters enough to build fiction from mythology. Complex characters and relationships guide the plot to the preordained but still satisfying conclusion.
Childs, Tera Lynn Sweet Venom
345 pp. HarperCollins/Tegen 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-200181-8
YA A descendant of Medusa living in San Francisco, Gretchen Sharpe fights mythical monsters and vaporizes them with a single bite from her venomous fangs. Her newly discovered sisters, Grace and Greer, share Gretchen’s monster-fighting fate, but the characters’ acceptance of their heritage — and their new family structure — isn’t easy. Percy Jackson fans will appreciate the sardonic commentary as myth mixes with modern life in this well-voiced novel.
Dolamore, Jaclyn Between the Sea and Sky
232 pp. Bloomsbury 2011. ISBN 978-1-59990-434-4
YA Mermaid Esmerine wants to become a siren just like her sister Dosinia. When Dosinia goes to the mainland, Esmerine must find her and bring her home. Along the way, Esmerine crosses paths with an old friend, Alandare, and before long infatuation takes hold. The pair’s differences (he’s one of a winged species) can’t keep them apart in this fantasy love story.
Freeman, Philip Heroes of Olympus
336 pp. Simon 2012. ISBN 978-1-4424-4468-3
Gr. 4–6 Adapted by Laurie Calkhoven. Illustrated by Drew Willis. This adaptation of Freeman’s adult book Oh My Gods! covers “Gods,” “Goddesses,” “Heroes,” and “Lovers.” Longer chapters — “Hercules,” “Oedipus,” and “Odysseus,” for example — retell those myths in greater depth. Language is accessible (Aphrodite to Anchises: “Calm down”); story variants are mentioned. A useful “Directory of Gods, Goddesses, Monsters, and Mortals” is appended. No sources are given. Glos.
Haskell, Merrie The Princess Curse
325 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-200813-8
Gr. 4–6 Thirteen-year-old Reveka, assistant herbalist of Castle Sylvian, is determined to break the curse that leaves the twelve princesses’ shoes in tatters and causes other people to fall unconscious. Unfortunately, the key lies with a terrifying underworld zmeu (dragon). Haskell’s “Twelve Dancing Princesses” reimagining tantalizingly incorporates classical mythology (most notably Persephone and Hades), historical references, and plant lore within its fictional Romanian context.
Landmann, Bimba The Fate of Achilles
32 pp. Getty 2011. ISBN 978-1-60606-085-8
Gr. 4–6 The text of this illustrated volume is “inspired by Homer’s Iliad and other stories of ancient Greece.” The writing, in free verse (and in very small type), is complex and poetic. Angular, imaginative illustrations are visually striking and lend themselves well to emphasizing the theme of the doomed warrior.
McMullan, Kate Get to Work, Hercules!
199 pp. Capstone/Stone Arch 2011. LE ISBN 978-1-4342-3196-3
PE ISBN 978-1-4342-3440-7
McMullan, Kate Nice Shot, Cupid!
199 pp. Capstone/Stone Arch 2011. LE ISBN 978-1-4342-1985-5
PE ISBN 987-1-4342-3435-3
Gr. 4–6 Myth-O-Mania series. Using Hades as an observer and holder of the narrative thread, McMullan has rewritten famous Greek myths in a modern style. Plentiful humorous dialogue, including jokes, puns, and pop-culture references, ups the appeal. The author does take artistic license with the source material, but the core of the myths remains.
Nadol, Jen The Vision
232 pp. Bloomsbury 2011. ISBN 978-1-59990-597-6
YA In this sequel to The Mark, Cassie starts anew outside Chicago, hoping the city’s large Greek community can provide answers about her role as a Fate. Meanwhile, brooding love interest Zander reveals how his interactions with death intertwine with hers. Cassie’s job at a funeral home allows for musings about her talent (while upping the creepiness factor). A cliffhanger ending increases suspense.
O’Connor, George Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory
79 pp. Roaring Brook/First Second/Porter 2011. ISBN 978-1-59643-724-1
PE ISBN 978-1-59643-433-2
YA O’Connor’s author’s note states, “Hera is my favorite goddess…I really like her style.” This series entry focuses on the queen of the Greek gods, Zeus’s wife, who usually plays a supporting role in the myths. In this graphic novel version, Hera’s sassy ’tude and no-nonsense sensibility bring a modern flair to the ancient tales.
Porter, Sarah Lost Voices
291 pp. Harcourt 2011. ISBN 978-0-547-48250-7
YA After Luce’s transformation from human to mermaid, she learns all mermaids were once abused girls who are now seeking revenge for humans’ innate cruelty. By singing a beautifully sad death song, Luce and her tribe cause shipwreck after shipwreck, a practice that never feels right to Luce. The gratifying story charts one girl’s physical and emotional journey toward finding her own strength and voice.
From the May/June 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.