A literal bird’s-eye recounting of the Greek tragedy Antigone in the current era of kids and teens, such as Naomi Wadler and the Parkland High School shooting survivor-activists, leading the movements to speak truth to power.
Scottish author Smith (Winter, 2018, etc.) relates the classic play through the admittedly clever viewpoint of a carrion crow. The nameless bird, gendered as “she,” watches 12-year-old Antigone and her “maybe a little older,” though not age-specified, sister, Ismene, as the former defies the new king—and their uncle—Creon, who forbids anyone to administer funeral rites to Polynices, whom the king declares a traitor and who is Antigone and Ismene’s brother, on point of death. Of course, anyone familiar with Sophocles’ legendary drama knows Antigone’s deadly decision to honor her brother and the unheeded counsel Creon receives about punishing her choice that leads to the tragedy’s devastating conclusion. This beat-for-beat update does not change that plot. Though the illustrations’ muted pink and gray tones give a somberly ethereal quality, the author’s use of the bird as a narrative device distances readers from the characters’ very human decisions and their heartbreaking consequences—the very antithesis of tragedy’s purpose. This is one of three revisited classics released simultaneously; the others are The Story of Captain Nemo, by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Fabian Negrin, and The Story of Gulliver, by Jonathan Cho and illustrated by Sarah Oddi.
Readers are better off with the original because, as the British would say, this rendition is too clever by half. (Fiction. 10-12)