Review of I Am Hermes!: Mischief-Making Messenger of the Gods

I Am Hermes!: Mischief-Making Messenger of the Gods
by Mordicai Gerstein; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Holiday    72 pp.    g
4/19    978-0-8234-3942-3    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-4203-4    $11.99

Following I Am Pan! (rev. 5/16), here comes Pan’s father, Hermes, the messenger god, eager to tell his own story. This Hermes is handsome, insouciant, impulsive, and bursting with self-esteem (his first word: “Gimme!”). His adventures and exploits are decorated with contemporary touches (for example, on the day he steals Apollo’s cows, he also invents country-and-western music). These are bright, noisy, fast-moving stories, and here (as elsewhere) Gerstein proves himself a genius of the comics form, especially of the speech balloon, as he creates layered conversations, rich with interior monologue, gossip, and prevarication. The gem of the collection is a little-known tale, mentioned in The Iliad, of “Otus and Ephialtes, the Nasty Twin Giants.” Gerstein’s version is witty, tricky, and deliciously satisfying in both words and pictures; creepy thugs hoist with their own petards. What does it all add up to? Myths leave lots of room for interpretation, and Gerstein here suggests that Hermes was the force behind the internet. There’s another cheekily implicit possibility: Gerstein’s Hermes is the god of deceit, thievery, and business. He invents “the art of the deal.” He’s very orange. Some readers, even young ones, may make a connection.

From the May/June 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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