Iris Greenwold wants nothing more than to feel special as she suffers through eighth grade at Erebus Middle School. The daughter of divorced parents, Iris lives with her single mom, who works as a soybean-tologist at Tofu-licous, a natural foods company. On her thirteenth birthday, Iris receives a mysterious gift of Bulfinch’s Mythology that turns out not to be, as she initially assumes, from her father. Upon her first reading, Iris encounters notes scribbled in the margins that ask, “Didn’t you ever wonder, Iris, what happens to the gods when people stop worshipping them? Where do they go? What do they do?” The rest of the novel answers this question. As Iris uses her second gift--a rainbow shawl--to travel to different parts of the city, she spends time with Poseidon, who owns an oyster shack on the beach; Apollo, a jazz musician; Amphitrite, a beauty salon owner; Artemis and Athena, private investigators; and many others. In full chapters, printed in italics, the gods tell her their stories of love and loss, jealousy and vengeance, war and peace. But Iris is not just an uninvolved listener; she also gets to help make life better for some of these gods, who acknowledge that their heyday is long past. Sarah Deming’s nuggets of humor will keep readers entertained. When Iris upbraids Hades--who turns out to be the Principal at Erebus--for torturing students, he pouts and says, “But we can’t stop, Iris! Punishment is what we’re best at. Middle school is the closest thing we’ve found to hell.” And when Iris praises Artemis and Athena for being virgin goddesses, Artemis quips, “Yep, that’s us . . . not to say we haven’t slipped from time to time. There was once a hunter namedOrion . . . He was very handsome. But I shot him. Accidentally. That was the last time I was tempted.” In the end, Iris is rewarded for her inquisitiveness: she finally finds out whose daughter she really is. Young readers who love mythology and those who enjoy the stories but are not ready to tackle Bulfinch’s, D’Aulaire’s, or Edith Hamilton’s books might find this a good place to start. As is true of the myths, the abundance of characters in this novel sometimes makes the story hard to follow, but to help, Deming has included a family tree of the gods and a note listing Roman names for the Greek gods in the back. Reviewer: Michelle H. Martin, Ph.D.
Iris Greenwold is a dreamer; it's how she escapes her miserable existence. Her mother researches soybeans for an uncaring employer and her wacky father lives far away and pays almost no attention to her. Erebus Middle School is awful, with classmates who torment her and teachers who don't understand why she doesn't pay attention. And then, for her 12th birthday, Iris receives an incredible gift: Bulfinch's Mythology . Reading about the exploits of the Greek gods is right up her alley, but she is puzzled when mysterious messages start popping up in the book's pages and downright startled to discover that the gods are all living nearby at the New Jersey shore and in the Philadelphia area. Moreover, they desperately need her help. As she meets such figures as Poseidon (who runs a seaside oyster shack), Apollo (owner of a cool jazz club), and Aphrodite (stylist extraordinaire), she's also treated to firsthand accounts of Greek myths. This engaging story of an unhappy girl whose dreaming pays off in wonderful ways will be a hit with adolescents dealing with those difficult middle school years. Give it to readers who gobble up Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series (Hyperion/Miramax) and other novels where teens interact with the Greek pantheon.
Sharon GroverCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Iris's discovery that the Greek gods have moved to the Philadelphia area sparks an adventure even more marvelous than the best of her many daydreams. Thanks to clues written in the margins of a 12th-birthday gift copy of Bulfinch's Mythology, Iris finds Poseidon running an oyster shack down on the Jersey Shore, Apollo playing jazz in a small club, Ares working as a lawyer and other deities, none of them what they once were, similarly keeping low profiles. Most are friendly sorts though, who offer her personal, chapter-length versions of familiar myths (including the story of Phaethon as a bluesy ballad) and send her on to the next encounter in what becomes a journey of self-discovery. Iris, it seems, is a member of the Family, and by the end, not only has she learned that her father isn't who she thought he was, but the sinking fortunes of her and her mother-an out-of-work soybean scientist-have undergone a literally miraculous reversal. Deming isn't the first to use the "American gods" premise, but she develops it with uncommon verve, and her characters, mortal or otherwise, positively sparkle. (Fantasy. 11-13)