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Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire Hardcover – January 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Lester (Time's Memory) retells the tale of Cupid and Psyche, with appearances by some highly appealing lesser Greek and Roman characters, such as Oizys, goddess of pain, and the highly likeable Favonius, the West Wind, along with his other wind counterparts. Psyche comes across as especially sympathetic; her kindness is just as striking as her beauty. And even those familiar with the tale may be surprised at just how vindictive Psyche's jealous sisters can be, as they prompt Psyche to break her promise to Cupid (Cupid, who comes to Psyche only under cover of darkness, asks her to vow never to gaze upon his face or risk losing him forever). Unfortunately, the vague persona of the omniscient narrator here detracts from the pace and poetic details of the tale. The narrator reveals only tidbits of information about himself; for instance as he watches Psyche's wedding procession, he notes, "This reminds me of my weddings. At all six of them, the bride cried." He also conjures a rather contentious relationship with "the story," as when he raises the question of how it is that Psyche never detected Cupid's wings in all their nights of lovemaking: "I asked the story about it. The story scratched its head and looked very confused." Still, for fans of romance and mythology, this is highly entertaining. Lester casts the two protagonists as adolescents coming of age through the trials and ultimate triumph of their love. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up—Psyche is a princess who is so lovely that people come to worship her instead of Venus, the goddess of love. When Venus hears that she has been usurped, she sends her son, Cupid, to shoot Psyche with one of his love-tipped arrows. However, once Cupid sees Psyche, he falls hopelessly in love. Not long after their clandestine marriage, Psyche's jealous sisters come to visit and plant a seed of doubt about her husband's identity, and the new bride's actions drive Cupid away. Her chance to redeem herself comes when Venus gives her a series of impossible tasks that she must complete to prove her love. As this tale begins, the style is humorous and promises a new and clever version of the myth, but the comedy peters out about halfway through. Although Lester explores the motivations and personalities of the players and introduces a few new gods and goddesses, the characters fall flat, and the final product is unimaginative. This retelling is interspersed with a self-conscious contemporary narrative that would work better as part of an orally told story. The novel does not hold up to Lester's masterful standard. It might be a good introduction for someone unfamiliar with the traditional myth and could be useful in a classroom, but those looking for an innovative retelling should look at Francesca Lia Block's Psyche in a Dress (HarperCollins, 2006) instead.—Heather M. Campbell, Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books; 1 edition (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015202056X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152020569
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,605,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1939, Julius Lester spent his youth in the Midwest and the South and received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.Since 1968 he has published 25 books of fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and poetry. Among the awards these books have received are the Newbery Honor Medal, American Library Association Notable Book, National Jewish Book Award Finalist, The New York Times Outstanding Book, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Caldecott Honor Book, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a National Book Award Finalist. His books have been translated into eight languages.He has published more than one hundred essays and reviews in such publications The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Op-Ed Page, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, The New Republic, Katallagete, Moment, Forward, and Dissent.He has recorded two albums of original songs, hosted and produced a radio show on WBAI-FM in New York City for eight years, and hosted a live television show on WNET in New York for two years. A veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, his photographs of that movement are included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and are part of the permanent photographic collection at Howard University.After teaching at the New School for Social Research for two years, Mr. Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in 1971 where he is presently a full professor in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department, and adjunct professor in the English and History departments. He also serves as lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.He has been awarded all four of the university's most prestigious faculty awards: The Distinguished Teacher's Award; the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship; Distinguished Faculty Lecturer; and recipient of the Chancellor's Medal, the University's highest honor. In 1986 the Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected him as the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year.Mr. Lester's biography has appeared in Who's Who In America since 1970. He has given lectures and papers at more than 100 colleges and universities.His most recent books are John Henry, And All Our Wounds Forgiven, a novel about the civil rights movement, and Othello, a novel based on the Shakespeare play.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on December 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Everybody knows who Cupid is, right? He's the chubby little guy in diapers, who shoots people with arrows and makes them fall in love. Or at least that's how we picture him. I assume he probably wore diapers at some point, but this isn't that story. If you've ever read or studied any mythology, you know that gods were believed to be a lot like people. They made mistakes, broke the rules, did stupid things, and weren't always nice. This IS that story.

Though he is the title character, this story doesn't start with him. It all begins with a beautiful girl named Psyche. Actually, she's more than beautiful. Words don't exist to describe her beauty. Ask the letters, because they tried. Psyche is so amazing to behold that all of the people in the kingdom stop what they're doing to catch a glimpse of her on her afternoon walk. Her father, the king, fearing the economic failure of his country, limits her walks. As with most of the best laid plans, this one backfires. People quit working entirely to hang out by the castle waiting for the next time Psyche leaves. Then people from other kingdoms start to relocate, all to see this incredible creature.

Now normally the affairs of humans don't interest the gods. However, Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, gets a little feisty when her temples are being neglected. When she finds out that there is a human who is possibly more beautiful than she is and is stealing her attention... Let's just say the goddess of love is not immune to jealousy. And, being a goddess, she is in a position to cause some trouble. Enter Cupid, son of Venus, sent down to stir up some trouble.

Cupid has never been in love.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By kbaccellia on November 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Cupid is the God of love and one who's always up to mischief. When his mother, Venus, asks him to use one of his arrows to make a woman fall in love with something hideous, he's up to the task. That's until he sees Psyche, a princess who is rumored to be more beautiful than Venus. Now Cupid finds out how hard it is to love someone. Someone his mother not only doesn't care for but wants to be destroyed. Cupid is torn on whether he should obey his mother or stay with the woman he loves.

This is a different twist to the Cupid story. I found it revealing to look inside the mind of Cupid, especially when he falls under the spell of a beautiful mortal. The only thing taking away from this otherwise interesting tale was the narrator's comments. I wanted less of the interruptions and more of the tale. Otherwise I found the whole twist of Cupid falling in love refreshing from the usual tales of the God of love.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ariel Cummins on July 5, 2011
Format: Audio CD
This is a cheeky little book that tells the story of Cupid, Psyche, and the gods and mortals who work to keep them apart (and, ultimately, bring them together). I listened to this one on audiobook, which was pretty great -- the narrator's performance was right on and fit in perfectly with the book's storytelling vibe.

At one point, the narrator describes this book as a "philosophical novel", which is, frankly, spot on. There are lots of meandering paths through the meanings of love, lust, relationships, and bravery. At times, these asides pulled me out of the story, but overall, they were charming and thought-provoking.

I'd definitely recommend this book to teens who were interested in mythology when they were younger, and may not realize that there's a really racy, bizarre, fun side of Greek and Roman myths that little kids aren't privy to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bethany Paterno on June 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a story we've all heard before. Its all about greek Gods and how Cupid plays into that. But the author of this book is so good! He writes it like he is telling the story. It was a nice change from any other book I have read. I just loved it. I will read more books by him in the furture.
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By Jane Lois Lane on September 19, 2011
Format: Audible Audio Edition Verified Purchase
I've had a black and white illustration of Psyche and Cupid framed in my room for a long time. This book gave me the background story, and I love the vernacular method of story-telling. Lester is a genius and I laughed out loud many a time, which is all I can ask for in a writer - and it also revealed my own foibles to me, which also made me laugh. Thanks, Julius and please write some more...quickly! We need more writers like you.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on April 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Every day around the time people's shadows snuck beneath their feet to get out of the sun, the tall wooden doors to the palace grounds swung open, and Psyche came out to take her daily walk. Men, women, children, and all the creatures stopped what they were doing to look at her. Birds flying by would see Psyche, stop flapping their wings, and fall to the ground. Ants would be toting crumbs which, to them, were as big as China. They could not see anything of Psyche except a sixteenth of an inch of her big toenail, but that was enough for them to be so overcome by her beauty that they dropped their crumbs and just stared."

"Had it been another day

I might have looked the other way

And I'd have never been aware

But as it is I'll dream of her tonight"

-- Lennon and McCartney, I've Just Seen a Face

Julius Lester's irreverent, storyteller's version of the tale of Cupid and Psyche for adolescents is a telling that is in equal parts thoroughly entertaining and exceptionally meaningful to readers young and old. As he states in his author note:

"The experience of love is the most central and profound of our lives. Yet we are given no instruction in the ways of love. Popular music and movies are our primary sources for what we think love is and should be, and as entertaining as these media are, the views of love they present are more often expressions of sentimentality instead of representations of the very hard realities of what it means to be human and what the act of loving presents us with.
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