Sunday, September 24, 2023
The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple and Dorothy
September 19, 2023 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Dorothy lives with her mother and father on The Hill, where Earthbound gods, descendents of the Olympian gods, live. Once a year, they must climb a ladder into the heavens and eat a bite of apple in order to stay immortal. Once year, Dorothy's mother Penny decides not to make the climb, and within the year, she has passed away. She was a descendant of Pandora, so there is already some prejudice against her. On the anniversary of her birth, Dorothy and her Dad aren't quite sure what to do, since the gods don't have much experience with death. Heather, Penny's best friend and the single mother of young Apple, comes over to celebrate with homemade bread and other things that Penny liked, which helps a bit. The relief from grieving is short lived when a screed from the gods arrive: the residents of The Hill need to decide within a short amount of time whether they will choose to live on Olympus and remain immortal, or stay on The Hill and live out a mortal life. The Hill is an interesting place, where the Earthbound gods are able to choose their favorite age to be, and live a largely human life in order to understand the creatures over whom they have some sway. They wear blue clothing to honor the heavens, and have some magical powers, which not all of them choose to use. Since they are descended from a variety of mythical beings, the families retain some of the characteristics. After the birthday, Apple has taken a keen interest in Dorothy, and wants to shield her from the unkind comments of classmates, and the two end up spending a lot of time together. Apple is vey invested in Dorothy's life, and Dorothy is so subsumed with grief over her mother that she doesn't object to this extra attention. When the gods' pronouncement it made, however, the two girls see things differently. Apple and her mother plan to go to Olympus, and Heather is very enthusiastic about the changes this will bring to their lifestyle. Dorothy and her father have different views, and Dorothy in particular finds it hard to go about her daily life, so she plans to stay on The Hill, where her grief will at least be over within the span of a human life. Apple becomes incensed that her new best friend won't be with her, and asks her friends if there is a way she can impel Dorothy to go to Olympus. They hatch a plan where Dorothy's shadow will be attached to Apple, but this does not work out the way that either girl envisions. Not only does Apple lose most of what is important to the friendship, but Dorothy's grief does not abate, and there are larger ramifications for the entire community. Will the two be able to figure out a way to reverse their disastrous decision, and, if they do, what new decision will they make?
Strengths: While there have been adventure books with mythological elements, like Yolen's Young Heroes series, Cook's Oh, My Gods, VanEekhout's Fenris and Mott, or Rick Riordan's many books of his own and those published by his imprint for multicultural, mythology based fantasy novels, I can't think of any that put traditional mythological characters in a modern setting and put them through their paces of dealing with the intricacies of navigating the world as gods. This was definitely philosophical, and reminded me of the writing assignment so prevalent in middle school: take elements of myths and construct your own. Apple and Dorothy have many characteristics of demigods, and it's interesting to see how they navigate their world and its changes. Readers might be encouraged to pick up D'Aulaire's Greek Myths or Donna Jo Napoli's 2011 Treasury of Greek Mythology to refresh the various characters in their minds.
Weaknesses: Dorothy and Apple's friendship didn't always ring true. Dorothy's feelings of disconnectedness seemed on target, but Apple's obsession with staying with Dorothy, whom she had previously largely ignored, was odd. Also, Haydu and I have a very different views about grief. Hers are more on trend with current philosophy, so we'll just leave it at that.
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like Haydu's work like Eventown and One Jar of Magic, or books that combine magic with serious emotional topics like Redman's Quintessence or Staniszewski's The Wonder of Wildflowers.