The Hero and the Minotaur: The Fantastic Adventures of Theseus
Robert Byrd. Dutton Books, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-525-47391-6
Byrd (Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer) here retells an action-packed tale of the Greek hero Theseus: Theseus' childhood meeting with the strongman Heracles, his reunion with his father, King Aegeus, and his voyage to the castle of King Minos to defeat the Minotaur. Even the ill-fated flight of the inventor Daedalus and his son Icarus figures into the story. Although many of the monsters he meets threaten him with gory fates, Theseus' exuberance never falters, as when he sets out to confront the Minotaur: ""Many around him wept at the sad departure, but Theseus could think only of the thrilling adventure before him."" In Byrd's pen-and-ink-and-watercolor-wash spreads, the hero and his friends-like the figures on Greek amphorae-appear in profile, with wide eyes, slim necks and hands, and noses of regal proportions. Precipitous cliffs and raging seas add to the story's grandeur. Byrd's restrained third-person narrative keeps the action at arm's length, but also softens grimmer moments, as when Theseus forgets to signal his success to his father, and Aegeus commits suicide (""Without his son, all the old king's power and his beautiful city seemed meaningless to him. Overcome with despair, Aegeus threw himself off the cliffs""). Byrd's text brims with names and information; he attends as carefully to drapery, feathers and the decorations on ceramic vessels in the background as he does to the central figures of the story. An engaging and thoroughly researched version of this classic tale. Ages 5-10.
Reviewed on: 07/18/2005