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Top Ten Greek Legends.
Terry Deary.  Scholastic 1998. Pb £4.99.
Helping Hercules.
Francesca Simon. Orion 2003. Hb £6.99.

Terry Deary has written many books for schoolchildren, particularly the ďHorrible HistoryĒ series, and this is a related book. Itís full of jokes and cartoons. The story of Theseus is reported in the Athens Echo (somewhat like the Sun or other lurid tabloids), where, paralleling the nicknames of sporting heroes, he is referred to as Thezza. The Standard Attainment Tests for heroes are taken by Heracles, with a description of the twelve tests, student reports and teacher comments on each, there is the diary of a teen-ager named Perseus, and so on. Itís all very silly and great fun. The crucial point is that beneath all the jokes lies accurate and carefully researched information about the myths. I strongly recommend it for children at secondary school, but recommended also for adults.

Francesca Simonís is another original way of retelling Greek myths. The principal character is Susan, a young girl who is transported from her home and school to the world of Greek myths. Her intelligence and spirit helps the heroes to perform their tasks, though they are often not grateful. She advises Hercules how to clean the Augean stables (following the traditional story, which in my view is ecologically unsound), suggests that Paris should divide the apple three ways and tries to remind him that he is already married, and so on. Though not as readable for adults as Dearyís book, itís an enjoyable little book, well-suited to introducing the myths to children.

Wood and Water 83, Summer 2003
© Daniel Cohen                                

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