Friday, 24 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 8

The plasticity and power of myth is taken to imaginative and brilliant levels in Alan Gibbons' Shadow of the Minotaur, in which a young boy starts playing a computer game in which he is Theseus battling the minotaur, then Perseus battling the Gorgon. The only problem is - he's not in a computer game, but in a different layer of reality. Gripping and clever. (And also I have a fondness for the minotaur, as the myth provided the basis for my own The Double Axe.)

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 7

From the mother and daughter team that brought you Lionboy comes Halo, an enormously involving story in which a young girl is castaway on an island full of centaurs. She must dress as a boy to survive, and ends up in the centre of Athenian politics. It's a wonderfully original take on ancient myth, and Halo is a lively and intelligent heroine battling to find out about herself within the context of greater turmoil.

(The cover, by the way, shouldn't have been in Greek letters - the title reads EDLTH. Confusing for a book that has the Greek alphabet in the back.)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 6

Rosemary Sutcliff is perhaps best known for her novels set in Roman times. She did, however cover a wide range of other subjects - coming, towards the end of her life, to the Greek myths. She did write a version of The Iliad, called Black Ships before Troy; but I'm going to mention her version of the Odyssey, The Wanderings of Odysseus. Dramatic and beautifully written, and full of lovely phrases: ("The Greeks were woolly-witted with so much eating and drinking"), it makes a fine introduction to the travails of myth's cleverest hero.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 5

One of the other great dynasties of Greek myth is that of Oedipus and his family at Thebes. Sophocles' play Antigone is part of this cycle, and Ali Smith, in her version The Story of Antigone (written for Pushkin Press as part of their "Save the Story" cycle) is imaginative and wise. A crow forms the framing device, and all the great themes of love, honour and duty are dealt with sensitively and sympathetically, and also faithfully. A must for anyone building a library of classics for the young.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Alma: Discount on THE DOUBLE AXE

Alma are giving a 25 % discount on THE DOUBLE AXE for a short time only. Simply email with your order and the code AXE25JULY.

Greek Myth in Children's Books Part 4

Whenever you delve into Greek myth, you come up against the tale of Troy. As much as anything it is about consequences and causes. If Peleus hadn't fallen in love with Thetis, they would not have had a wedding; Eris would not have been ignored, and she would not have thrown down the golden apple; the mighty goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite would never have quarreled, and Paris would have been simply a glamorous, dancing prince, not the slayer of Achilles. The tendrils of the cycle reach from the beginnings of myth right down to the end, with Iphigenia being found alive at Tauris. 

Adèle Geras's Troy sees the story from the point of view of two sisters, living inside the besieged city, who fall in love with the same man. One can see gods; one can't. It's rich, detailed and imaginative, and proves just how vital those mythic battles are.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Books: Part 3 of 10

About 9 years ago a book came onto my desk which stood out for its wit and original take on Greek mythology: Snakehead by Ann Halam. It now appears to be out of print, sadly. It is brilliantly fresh  - the mythic landscape hums with gods; yet gap year kids haunt the tavernas. Mystical and full of humour, it deserved more attention than it got. When Perseus eventually sees Medusa, he thinks:

‘Oh Great All, it was Athini herself – It was Athini herself, looking out from inside of me – I was Athini. I was the monster. I had to kill the monster, so I could be Athini.’