cover image Hercules: The Man, the Myth, the Hero

Hercules: The Man, the Myth, the Hero

Kathryn Lasky, Mark Hess. Hyperion Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0329-3

The pumped-up mythical figure cursed by his superhuman strength narrates his glorious story in this rock 'em, sock 'em picture book. The son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Hercules suffers the wrath of Zeus's jealous wife, Hera. From wrestling serpents in his crib to slaying a lion with his sword, Hercules bravely fends off any evil challenges that Hera sends his way. But victory does not come without tragedy, and Hercules also faces a number of emotional battles as he struggles with his god-mortal identity. Lasky (The Librarian Who Measured the Earth; She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!) rises to the formidable task of presenting the intricate twists and turns of Greek mythology in a manner accommodating to children. Her first-person text imagines Hercules's feelings and, although she does not avoid the tale's violence and death, she paints him as a more accessible character than in many other adaptations. In his picture book debut, Hess's kinetic acrylics have an aggressive, you-are-there perspective that draws readers into the classical period action. His toga-clad, muscle-bound human figures and graphic attacking beasts--fangs bared and claws drawn--infuse the proceedings with the scent of high adventure. This title will also serve as one of many alternatives to the anticipated rush of tie-ins to the Disney animated film Hercules, set for summer release. Ages 5-9. (June)