Review also includes:
Orpheus and Eurydice, 978-1846867835
These two titles are part of a new series from the fascinating Barefoot Book range, in which world-renowned oral storytellers Lupton and Morden bring the Greek myths to the page. The stories have of course been extensively anthologized before, but the approach taken here is fresh and vivid. The writers use the direct style of the oral performance, combining brief, almost staccato utterances with patterned repetitions and the judicious use of more elaborate descriptive language. The writers’ familiarity with their sources also enables them to weave in peripheral episodes that are frequently absent from more usual versions. For example, Persephone’s companion nymph changing into a pool of tears after her abduction; Demeter’s attempt to immortalize a baby by bathing him in fire; the transfiguration of Orpheus and his lyre after his dismemberment by lovelorn women. In both of these stories, bereavement and grieving are conveyed with an intensity which humanizes the mythical dimension; Demeter’s anger at Zeus and Orpheus’s poetic plea to Hades and Persephone share a heart-rending immediacy.
The gouache illustrations by Carole Henaff also radiate this sense of timeless presence. Her depictions of layered worlds, seasonal changes and human passions have the simplicity and power of ancient murals and vase paintings from a world which is both distant and familiar. Each book is a tightly packed 40 pages, including a map of the Greek world and the genealogy of its gods. Highly recommended for reading aloud and for helping young reader to embark upon an exploration of this world.