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Ancient Voices

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Gr 5-8-Similar in concept and tone to Hovey's Arachne Speaks (McElderry, 2001), this slim compendium follows an ambitious scheme. Ganymede, young cupbearer to Zeus, leads other voices in poetic accounts of their lives on Mount Olympus, under the sea, in the underworld, and in the forest. Each region is introduced with a brief quote from classical literature. Ganymede speaks three of the poems set on Olympus and then just once in each of the other settings, his melancholy comments lamenting his entrapment in immortality. Hovey uses variable rhyme patterns as different mythical characters reflect on their experience in the Olympian pantheon. She imagines well their points of view, but most readers will need to consult the helpful glossary to understand the identities and references of the speakers. Kimber's handsome, sometimes hard-edged mixed-media paintings have elements of cubism and surrealism and aptly suggest the larger-than-life and less-than-pleasant nature of the characters. Some of the artist's choices convey a modern, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, interpretation. The nine muses of Olympus are robed as an African-American gospel choir, Ares roars along on a mammoth motorcycle, Aphrodite is a mean-looking disco babe, and Hades is quite Dickensian. Elusive and evocative, this title will interest readers who have studied and enjoyed Greek mythology.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Young readers may need a brush-up course in Greek mythology to make sense of these lyrical narrative poems about the ancient gods and goddesses, which also make use of fairly complex literary structure and vocabulary. The topics Hovey (Arachne Speaks) explores are often emotionally sophisticated, too. In "Hera's Lament," Hera stares down menacingly at Zeus from the clouds ("why did I marry this/ braying fool?"), and her spiderweb-like jewelry and scathing gaze are both eerie and arresting. "Hephaestus's Fall" describes the enmity between Zeus and Hera ("bound by their bitterness, married to pain"), who are shown in a remarkable accompanying painting with their teeth bared, hurling cloud-like "bolts of thunder" from their screaming mouths. Kimber (The Wolf of Gubbio) erases time, freely interweaving modern and ancient imagery. The Muses appear in a flowery cloud as an African-American gospel choir; Ares rides a motorcycle. Nonetheless, the overall style is cohesive, powerful and striking. The book's four sections and 23 poems seem to reflect the author's specific interests rather than offering a comprehensive collection of major characters in Greek mythology. Three of the four poems in the section "The Underworld," for example, focus on Persephone. Detailed endnotes will satisfy readers' curiosity while pointing the way for further exploration. Kimber's stylish charcoal and acrylic paintings match the predominantly dark themes Hovey's accomplished poems explore, which may be most appreciated by a young adult audience. Ages 8-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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