Twists on Myth

By Hal Patnott and Alena Rivers

This week we decided to take a look at two books that share a tie-in with Greek Mythology. Check out our advanced reading copies of Bull by David Elliott and The Icarus Show by Sally Christie at the Butler Center.

Bull by David Elliott (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)

Most stories remember Asterion the Minotaur as a monster, the terror of the labyrinth. They never tell us that he was a boy, half-human and half-bull, rejected by his family, unable to fit in anywhere. Bull, in verse, reimagines the famous Greek myth of the minotaur as a tragedy about a lonely boy struggling with his identity. While the structure of the myth remains in tact, Elliott fleshes out Asterion’s youth and explores his relationship with his half-sister Ariadne. In the backmatter Elliott explains how he altered the myth and the choices he made for poetic form. Poseidon, Minos, Pasiphae, Asterion, Daedalus, and Ariadne share control of the narrative. Each character speaks with their own poetic style. Playful use of modern slang and swearing bring the story into the present and defy the notion that myth should be highfalutin. As Poseidon says, “You think a god should be more refined…[Never bawdy, raunchy, racy, rude]? News Flash: You don’t want a god. You want a prude.” Elliott’s retelling of the myth of the minotaur is part tragedy, part dark comedy, and entirely engaging.

The Icarus Show by Sally Christie (Scholastic, 2017)

Do you believe a boy can fly? Students in Alex Meadow’s Year 7 class at Lambourn Secondary School are suspicious but no less curious when they start receiving mysterious messages in their school bags leading to an invitation to see the Icarus show. While the other students speculate about who is behind the messages, Alex discovers that the showman orchestrating all of this is closer than he would have imagined. Despite the distraction of the upcoming show, Alex must continually work hard to steer clear of the taunting and bullying doled out by Alan Tydman and his “Battalion” of boys who lord over his classmates. Alex has developed rules to help him survive his secondary school years; stay in control, “Don’t React”, “Trust No One.”

Over the course of the weeks leading up to the Icarus show, Alex cautiously befriends a classmate, David “Bogsy” Marsh who, since the start of secondary school, has been a target of Alan Tydman and his Battalion. Together Alex and Bogsy share a secret that eventually allows them to trust one another.

Christie identifies how trust and patience are required to overcome loneliness and how courage is required to confront that which makes us feel different. Issues of bullying and suicide are handled in a subtle manner that allows youth to reflect on these issues while challenging them to explore the big and small ways they can have a positive impact on others.

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