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.
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