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Island of the Minotaur: Greek Myths of Ancient Crete Hardcover – December 1, 2003
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-8–Crete offers an effective site to stage the Greek myths, although a few figures assume unusual importance here. An informative introduction connects the myths with the political struggles between Minoans and Greeks, and a few details about Cretan history and ritual are worked into the stories. In 13 tales, Oberman covers the high spots, whether indirectly (creation, Jason and Medea) or as a main event: Cronos, Zeus, Europa, Minos, Theseus, Daedalus, and Icarus. Chapters are linked for narrative impetus, but background is repeated when necessary so that each tale is self-contained. The author adds fairy-tale touches and soft-pedals the brutality. There are some omissions (Persephone, Psyche, Atalanta, Artemis, Orpheus, and Eurydice are among the missing). The myths end with the destruction of Thera (Atlantis), followed by an account of Arthur Evans's discovery of Knossos. The glossary is good, but gives no pronunciation help. Colorful illustrations punctuate the large pages of text, but are not in the mode of the narrative. The nonhuman figures are modern and gripping, with a Picasso-esque bull and a mazelike background to the Minotaur, for instance. Human figures are cartoonishly distorted, with little effort to use Minoan motifs, dress, artifacts, etc. While the author takes the stories seriously, the illustrator somewhat undercuts them. Nevertheless, the discordant pages are relatively few. This volume should compete successfully with the many myth retellings available.–Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI
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About the Author
Sheldon Oberman started writing in the mid-seventies, inspired by bedtime stories he told his children. He acted and directed in both film and stage plays, and toured North America as a professional storyteller.
Blair Drawson is one of Canada's best-known illustrators. His work has appeared in Esquire, The New Yorker, and many other publications. He lives in Toronto.
Top customer reviews
The story of the Minotaur has always excited my son, and this story just added fuel to the fire. We both enjoyed learning the background to who the Minotaur was. The writing style was exciting and informative. The final chapter was very helpful in showing what we really know about Crete and what was myth.
The illustrations are a little strange, but intriguing.
I must warn you, this is not for the faint of heart. Some of the stories are violent and gruesome. It is not meant for young children. My 7 year old does not mind this kind of stuff, but I know many kids this age or even older where parts would not sit well. If this is a problem, I would suggest reading it first and figuring out what to leave out (if using it as a read aloud as we did). Not all the stories are problematic in this way. (Although with Greek Myths there is going to be a certain amount of death involved anyway.)
I do not have any real knowledge about Greek Mythology, so I cannot comment on how true to the myths these are or are not. But being as they are myths anyway, they make for a good explanation to Crete history.
The stories are written clearly and plainly, suitable for young readers without being dumbed down so much to insult them. Illustrations by Blair Drawson are colorful, exaggerated and humorous. Island of the Minotaur is a fun and informative reinterpretation of these ancient myths for a new generation of readers.