cover image The Odyssey

The Odyssey

Gillian Cross, illus. by Neil Packer. Candlewick, $19.99 (178p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4791-9

In this stunning, heavily illustrated retelling, Cross (Where I Belong) gives shivery life to Homer’s saga, keeping the suspense taut and recounting the story’s most disturbing events without flinching. When giant, loutish Laestrygonians slaughter boatloads of Odysseus’s men, the survivors are horrorstruck (“Sobbing with grief and shock, the sailors pulled away from that hateful shore”).When Odysseus travels to the Land of the Dead, ghosts crowd around the visitors: “Old men with gray hair brushed against newly married brides.” Not until the final pages do the gods allow Odysseus a measure of triumph. While Cross’s prose makes Odysseus’s journey not just accessible but thrilling, the book really belongs to Packer. Some of his images look like the friezes on the sides of Greek kraters; others are full-color portraits of gaunt warriors with haunted gazes or caricatures of their Bosch-like adversaries. Humor and horror coexist; sirens like patrician socialites lounge disdainfully above the buried skeletons of those they’ve lured to their deaths. Every image seems to have been created with unhurried care; it’s a quiet but monumental piece of work. Ages 8–up. (Sept.)