cover image Persephone


Warwick Hutton. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-50600-0

Hutton's lyrical watercolors are an ideal vehicle for the story of the maiden whose ancient abduction to the underworld set in motion the changing seasons: having eaten six pomegranate seeds in Hades's domain, Persephone is consigned to spend half of each year there, during which months the earth darkens and withers as the earth goddess, Persephone's mother, grieves. The potent qualities of sorrow and loss take on special poignancy in Hutton's hand, for the delicacy of his lines and washes itself suggests the transience of earthly beauty and fecundity. Yet his paintings are forceful enough to capture the terrible majesty of the underworld, a cavernous place where only a sinuous underground river and a few forlorn pomegranate trees relieve the harsh austerity: it is no wonder that Persephone pines for the earth. Hutton's compositions expertly play off light against shadow (in the initial view of Hades's world, for example, a lone shaft of light penetrates a deep, gray chasm and, through its contrast, emphasizes the gloom). Forms change with consummate subtlety, as when the heads of the river's spirits emerge as little more than suggestions in the crest of a wave. An exquisitely wrought work of striking beauty and lingering depth. Ages 7-up. (Mar.)