Kate Hovey, Author, Murray Kimber, Illustrator , illus. by Murray Kimber. S&S/McElderry $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-689-83342-7

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.)

Reviewed on: 03/08/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
Paperback - 40 pages - 978-1-4169-6818-4
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