cover image Arachne Speaks

Arachne Speaks

Kate Hovey. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82901-7

This oversize volume addresses a narrow audienceDsophisticated and skilled adolescent readers who remain open to picture booksDbut it offers those readers profound satisfaction. Debut author Hovey reworks the myth of Arachne in elegant rhymed verse, writing mostly in Arachne's voice but also in the voice of Athena. Relegating explanatory information to an appendix, the poet presumes a certain familiarity with the myth: Athena, the patron goddess of weaving, punishes Arachne for her hubristic pride in her weaving skills by turning her into a spider. Arachne speaks to her spider descendants in consistently dramatic, imagistic verse. She commands them: ""Cast to the four winds/ my story's threadD/ let truth spread/ like gossamer from your abdomens/ across the fields of time!"" Distinctly modern in its sympathy for Arachne's pride in her self-taught achievements and for her lack of respect for the gods and goddesses, this version will likely resonate with adolescents. Drawson's (Flying Dimitri) art, not particularly well-represented in the off-putting cover illustration, reconciles Hovey's contemporary interpretation of a classical subject with a visual approach that quotes classical motifs but uses stylish perspectives and emphasizesDif not exaggeratesDthe figures' emotions. The result is a bit eerie and, sometimes, surreal, as in a view of Arachne as a spider, with eight human limbs attached to a face that appears human but for its eight eyes. Together, art and text successfully challenge the boundaries of myth, stimulating readers to explore anew its proven terrains. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)