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David Pike, Greek Mythology Stories for Kids (Series, Book 2): Mythical Creatures of the Greek Myths, MythStreet self-publishing, 2018, 50 pp.
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Ayelet Peer, Bar Ilan University, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Lisa Maurice, Bar Ilan University, email@example.com
Susan Deacy, Roehampton University, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Pike (Author)
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The book offers three stories that involve mythological animals: Pegasus and the disappearance of Calliope; The Griffin and the Athenian princess of Ilissus (Orithyia) and Chiron and Heracles' poisoned arrow. At the end of each story, there is a shorter explanation of the mythical creature (Pegasus, Griffin, Centaurs): their origin, way of life, related myth and some examples of reception (for example, it is noted that the Griffin is mentioned in Percy Jackson and Harry Potter series).
The first story narrates how Calliope was abducted by King Pierus and offered as a bride to Poseidon. The King wished to revenge the muses for turning his daughters into magpies. Calliope’s sisters search for her with the help of Pegasus. Later, the muse Erato agrees to marry Poseidon and live with him for twelve years in exchange for her sister.
The second story tells of the Athenian princess Orithyia who is kidnapped by Boreas who fell in love with her. He brings her to a cave in the mountains where she meets a female Griffin. The Griffin treats Orithyia well, as one of her own, and protects her. In order to rescue the princess, the Griffin blinds her so that Boreas would find her ugly and return her to her home. Upon returning home the blindness is magically cured.
The third story tells of the origin of Centaurs (by Ixion and Nephele) and how Chiron was shot by Heracles' poisoned arrow by mistake. Chiron suffers the pain in order to live with Chariclo, a servant girl at the house of the centaur Pholus. In the end, he is granted his death (after exchanging places with Prometheus on his punishment rock).
The language of the stories is clear, although pitched rather higher than is usual in a children's book.
In a brief introduction, the author notes regarding the book, that "each unique story covers the basics of the legends of these creatures from a child's point of view. Your little ones can imagine themselves as one of the divine and inspirational Muses, or even the determined Orithyia."
However, the stories may appear too violent for young children (Boreas' violent nature, the suffering of Chiron, the kidnapping of Calliope and Orithyia and her later blindness).
The stories are not a retelling or adapted Greek myth, but the author's own versions, following the ancient myths. For example, while Boreas is connected with Hyperborea and the Greek princess, in the ancient versions he kidnaps and rapes her; in some accounts, they are married. There is no mention of her later fate or any mention of a Griffin (see in Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 199; Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 19. 5 and more).
Erato is also not mentioned in the ancient myths as Poseidon's wife.
Regarding Chiron, the myths tell that, according to Prometheus' advice, Chiron gave his immortality to Herakles so he could finally die and end the suffering from his wound (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 119).
The authors refer to the stories as "the greatest collection of Greek mythology retellings for children to read and enjoy." Yet, the stories are not quite retelling of the myths, but more fiction using mythological characters and settings.
The author sums up his introduction by saying, “whoever said that history can’t be fun?” while history can (and should at times) be fun, myths are not history in the most part, especially after the 5th century B.C. when myth was starting to be separated from history.
The stories present the unfair or tragic fate of characters in Greek myth (the abducted Calliope and Orithyia; Chiron’s tragic injury). Hence it might be challenging for children to identify with the characters. Calliope and Orithyia are rather passive heroines who are terrorized by male figures and need someone else to rescue and protect them.