The pumped-up mythical figure cursed by his superhuman strength narrates his glorious story in this rock 'em, sock 'em picture book. The son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Hercules suffers the wrath of Zeus's jealous wife, Hera. From wrestling serpents in his crib to slaying a lion with his sword, Hercules bravely fends off any evil challenges that Hera sends his way. But victory does not come without tragedy, and Hercules also faces a number of emotional battles as he struggles with his god-mortal identity. Lasky (The Librarian Who Measured the Earth; She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!) rises to the formidable task of presenting the intricate twists and turns of Greek mythology in a manner accommodating to children. Her first-person text imagines Hercules's feelings and, although she does not avoid the tale's violence and death, she paints him as a more accessible character than in many other adaptations. In his picture book debut, Hess's kinetic acrylics have an aggressive, you-are-there perspective that draws readers into the classical period action. His toga-clad, muscle-bound human figures and graphic attacking beastsfangs bared and claws drawninfuse the proceedings with the scent of high adventure. This title will also serve as one of many alternatives to the anticipated rush of tie-ins to the Disney animated film Hercules, set for summer release. Ages 5-9. (June)
- Marilyn Courtot
The myth of Hercules is a complex one. It is the story of a man who is almost a god, but who succumbs to the foibles of man. He must tame his anger and great strength, and when he does, he is no longer a man, but truly becomes a god. Kids will be drawn to his heroic deeds, but the dark side of Hercules is not whitewashed. It is a compelling story that can be read on several levels. The great strength of Hercules and the monsters he encounters and overcomes are depicted in colorful, bold acrylics. The paintings remind one of the great Greek statues found in many of the world's museums.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6In this ambitious retelling of an epic myth, Lasky uses the first-person voice of Hercules, giving the tale immediacy, but also creating some difficulties. There is so much to tell, and so much of it violent, that at times Hercules sounds matter of fact. For example, when the young hero mistakenly kills his music teacher: "Becoming impatient, I hit him with my lyre. The man crumpled. My teacher was dead!" And, when in madness, he kills his family: "Beasts did not lie at my feet but my own wife and children." There is little space to explain the complexities of the myth: Hera's jealous rage, Hercules's madness and blend of monster and man, the twelve labors, and the hero's final conquering of his passions and death. It is a huge storymythic, of courseand pushes at the confines of a picture-book length text. The tale's success is aided significantly by Hess's masterful, full-color, acrylic-on-canvas illustrations. The well-researched artwork is compelling and complements the story well. The art will fascinate children but the themes may be a better fit for older readers and adults.Lee Bock, Brown County Public Libraries, Green Bay, WI