79. Greek Myths by Ann Turnbull

Greek Myths by Ann Turnbull. Illustrated by Sarah Young (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 167
Ages: 9+
Finished: Mar. 26, 2011
First Published: Nov. 11, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, mythology
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

My father introduced me to the Greek myths when I was a child.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I love mythology and I couldn't pass up a handsome volume like this.

Ann Turnbull starts with a brief Introduction to her collection of Greek myths and one thing she mentions is that she has gone back to the ancient Greek versions of the myths for her adaptations thus bringing the reader as close as possible to the tales as the Greeks themselves told. This means some of the stories are a little different than the "usual" versions we read. I didn't notice much myself that was entirely out of place, but then I read a lot of Greek mythology. Most of the stories included were ones I had heard before with few exceptions, but these are not all just the most popular stories found in most children's collections. Yes we have the Minotaur, Medusa and King Midas. But there is also Orpheus and Eurydice, Phaethon, Bellerophon, Pan, Echo and Narcissus to name several. The tales are in-depth, without leaving out parts which again children's version's often do. For example Perseus's mission to collect Medusa's head includes the Graeae (Grey Sisters) having not just one eye but one tooth among them (why is the tooth left out of so many children's adaptations?) and on his return home it includes *both* his visit to Atlas holding up the world and his saving of Andromeda. The one story that was entirely new for me was King Midas. In this ancient version, there is no daughter and Midas simply changes his mind when he realizes he will starve to death and the god gives him a method to cure himself as he did intend to reward him not punish him. Then follows another story in which King Midas gives up his wealthy way of life and becomes a forest wandering follower of Pan (sort of a beatnik Midas) where he ends up being punished for offending a different god. This second story was entirely new to me!

The artwork is absolutely stunning. This is a large "coffee table" size book and Sarah Young has done her multimedia paintings taking from the style of the ancient Greeks found on their pottery. I thought her figures were very similar to that style but in a full colour scheme, the bodies are flowing and lythe and yet sometimes she has heads turned front with bodies going forward (Egyptian style) and other somehow impossible body contortions which only slightly suggest some unnaturalness to them. I enjoy this depiction of the human body. Her use of colour is fantastic as well, generally it is very imposing in dark shades of brown, black, grey and musky tones of other colours but then come whimsical scenes that lighten up with purples and there is the sparing use of metallic gold used for the gods.

The only problem I had with the book was that I was not completely taken with Ann Turnbull's voice. She does not seem to have a natural storyteller's voice and at times her paragraphs became a litany of names and telling without really engaging the reader's emotion into the story. I've read some better storytellers, Hugh Lupton, William F. Russell, Nathaniel Hawthorn, et.al., but I still otherwise give this volume credit for being a worthy addition to children's mythology collections.


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