Monday, October 13, 2014

Read Scary: Nonfiction Monday: Secrets of the Ancient Gods: Hades Speaks! by Vicky Alvear Shecter, illustrated by J. E. Larson

I was a huge fan of Anubis Speaks! and so was very excited when Ms. Shecter sent me a review copy of the next addition to the series.

The story of Greek beliefs about religion, the afterlife, and selected myths and bits of culture, is narrated in a darkly cynical fashion by Hades, who feels a bit neglected amongst his fellow gods.

Hades introduces himself and conducts the reader into his world: the underworld. There we meet monsters and ghosts, hear myths, and learn about strange rituals. You'll learn the story of Persephone and the creation of the gods, the functions of Cerberus the guard dog, and the different rules for the land of the dead and for Elysium. The reader will learn about how Greek culture evolved through their religious rites and beliefs and the reasons for some of those beliefs, all narrated by the grim humor of Hades.

This felt more mythic and less historical than Anubis Speaks! for some reason. Maybe because I was more familiar with the Greek myths and culture than Egyptian, maybe because it felt like it focused more on myths and less on the history and culture that the myths came from. That's not a criticism, by the way, just an observation. There were more reference to pop culture (Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, etc.) but most of them are things that should stay fairly current and not date the story.

The book is a manageable 104 pages, including the illustrations. Larson's stark black and white pictures are the perfect accompaniment to this grim but fascinating book. The book also includes a guide to Greek gods and heroes, glossary, a bibliography with both primary sources, secondary sources, articles and websites, and an index. At the back is a teaser for Anubis Speaks! which should draw in even the most hard-core Greek myth fan.

Verdict: Greek mythology is hugely popular right now, due to the Percy Jackson series, and this should check out briskly. Middle grade readers will be delighted by the familiar myths, new twists and monsters, and the bits of Greek culture and history may inspire them to go looking for the real history behind the myths. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781620915981; Published 2014 by Boyds Mills Press; Review copy provided by the author; Purchased for the library; Review copy saved as a prize

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