Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Medusa Jones by Ross Collins

This story is a stunningly perfect example of bad parenting, wish-fulfillment, cliches, and unanswered questions. Medusa Jones, a descendent of the Gorgon ("Gran is insane and lives in a cave") and her friends, Mino the minotaur and Chiron the centuar, are constantly bullied and mocked by the Champions, Perseus, Theseus, and Cassandra. Medusa's mother's advice is "You have to work out other ways [besides turning them to stone which Medusa isn't sure she can do anyways] of dealing with people who get on your nerves." Her father's response to Medusa's complaint, "They're so mean to me," is "You have to rise above it."

Way to go parents! Of course if your child (and her friends) are being bullied and tormented you should give them useless platitudes! What a wonderful idea!

Then Medusa and her friends get stuck going on a camping trip to Mt. Olympus with the Champions. The Champions get stuck, the "freaks" save the day, and become the new champions. Oh, and Medusa turns the Champions to stone at the end.

Hmmm. Wish fulfillment, no? Would a bull calf (which is essentially what the minotaur is) actually be able to knock over a tree to form a bridge? Why didn't it hit the Champions? Could a centaur foal actually carry three people across a tree trunk? Even if it's turned to stone half-way?

Plus, there's the whole problem that the myths are completely out of context. Presumably Medusa's gran is the official Gorgon - how is Perseus going to grow up to kill her if he's been turned to stone by Medusa? Ditto Theseus and the minotaur? And Cassandra wasn't a hero, or even very popular. So why's she a "Champion"?

The mix of mythic and contemporary is jarring. Soooo, Medusa's gran has turned all these postmen to stone. And Medusa's mom has to go to the post office. To do what? Apologize? Pay for the postmen? It's never specified. Medusa's head snakes are apparently sentient. Annnd, it's no big deal when the hairdresser cuts one off? And how come her dad has head snakes? Weren't all the gorgons women?

Anyhow, apart from the mythic-contemporary disconnect, the be nice and put up with horrible bullies because one day you will be able to save them and if they're not sufficiently grateful you can always turn them into stone afterwards message is just....mythical.

Verdict: I'd like to find a beginning chapter book with myth themes for kids who aren't able to read Rick Riordan yet, but this title has so many issues, it's not worth it. I'll keep waiting for something better - or at least tolerable - to come along.


ISBN: 978-0439901000; Published January 2008 by Arthur Levine, thankfully out of print; Borrowed from the library

1 comment:

KATE COOMBS said...

Okay, I finally noticed you'd left me the address and read your review! Heehee--I love your last line. Yes, I pulled my punches a bit. I have to say, though, these days I'm unimpressed by so many books I sometimes worry I'm overanalyzing them! Then I come across a really good batch and feel much better.