cover image Ishtar and Tammuz: A Babylonian Myth of the Seasons

Ishtar and Tammuz: A Babylonian Myth of the Seasons

Christopher Moore, C. J. Moore. Larousse Kingfisher Chambers, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7534-5012-3

The figure of Ishtar, the Mesopotamian earth goddess, harks back to 5000 B.C., but her story of jealousy, murder and redemption can still pack a punch. In this Babylonian equivalent of the Persephone myth, Ishtar sends her son Tammuz to earth and ""wherever he walked, the earth brought forth fruit and crops and the green of the land."" He exerts comparable charm over people and animals. Ishtar, growing envious, orders him killed. Without Tammuz, the earth dries up and people go hungry until Ishtar descends into the underworld to humbly petition her forbidding sister, Allatu, for Tammuz's release. Allatu agrees, on the condition that he return to her for six months each year (autumn and winter). Balit's (Blodin the Beast) decorative, Egyptian-influenced paintings fill each spread with their kinetic patterns, evoking the desolation of winter, the dank splendor of the underworld and the teeming spring. The visual impact of these highly stylized illustrations underscores the dramatic nature of Moore's retelling. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)