Sunday, August 15, 2021

Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War

Greenberg, Imogen and Isabel. Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War
August 9th 2018 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

This graphic novel showcases several stories about the ancient Greek goddess Athena. Beginning sketches introduce us to a variety of characters who appear later, and give details about their backgrounds. We learn the story of Athena's birth from the head of Zeus, her battle with Poseidon for the sponsorship of Athens, and a story about Erichthonius, son of Hephaestus, for whom she cared for many years. The latter was a story with which I was unfamiliar, so that was an interesting inclusion. The famous story of Arachne is conveyed, as is the Medusa saga, and several chapters cover the various aspects of the Trojan war and its aftermath. 

The illustrations throughout are in an orange and black palette, reminiscent of black figure pottery, with touches of yellow and gray. The cover has some lovely shiny gold embossing, which makes it really pop. There is copious use of the Greek key design for borders around text and illustrations, which is a nice touch. The text is on the small side, done in all capital letters, which eyes younger than mine will find easier to read than I did. 

The stories are retold in a fairly straightforward interpretation, although there are touches of humor that lighten the stories a bit. These bits are often delivered in speech bubbles next to characters; we have a headless Medusa asking where her head has gone and Athena musing that Medusa's head "looks fearsome on my shield".

There are plenty of compilations of Greek myths, from the 1855 Bulfinch's Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable to Hamilton's 1942 Mythology to  D'Aulaires 1962 Greek Myths, but that's the beauty of these stories. They were meant to be retold and adapted, and new and improved versions are always becoming available. Donna Jo Napoli's 2011 Treasury of Greek Mythology is a great choice for more text-heavy tales, but I would love to see the Greenbergs collaborate on collections of stories about other members of the Pantheon. 

Ms. Yingling

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