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ORPHEUS by Charles Mikolaycak


Charles Mikolaycak

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-15-258804-3
Publisher: Harcourt

 A full retelling of the Greek myth about the gifted young musician who seeks to reclaim the bride snatched from him by a tragically early death. Moved by his enchanting songs, the Underworld's king and queen allow him to take Eurydice, but only if he doesn't look back to see whether she's following. Mikolaycak has it that it's an error, not impatience, that causes Orpheus to look back too soon; and he depicts the frenzied mob that kills him as angered by his refusal to play for them--not, as some versions have it, as Thracian women in the throes of a Dionysian rite. The narrative here is workmanlike, concluded by a fine note on sources, variants, themes, and the myth's portrayal by musicians, poets, and other artists; but it's Mikolaycak's stunning illustrations that take pride of place. Heroic nudes, classic in their conformation but rendered in warm flesh tones, dominate his dramatic compositions, their gracefully tousled black hair echoed by the stark framing ground on which the text appears in white. The blood attending the hero's death and dismemberment is shocking but not sensational, effectively conveying the myth's emotional power. An outstandingly handsome piece of bookmaking; not, obviously, for little children. Bibliography; discography. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 12+)