The myth of the power of music and love is retold for middle-graders with nuanced beauty but marred by a happy epilogue.
The veteran storytellers who reworked this story have made a creditable and even beautiful version, using language that is clear and stately. Orpheus is a musician who can make even the trees dance. A bad omen at his wedding is fulfilled when, the next day, his bride, Eurydice, goes for a walk at dawn and is felled by a snake bite. Orpheus follows her down into the underworld, and his music so moves Persephone and her husband, Hades, that the god of the underworld allows Eurydice to return to life. Orpheus must not look back until they reach the world of the living. Alas, she trips, he turns to help her, and she is gone. Orpheus pours out his grief in music until the jealous god Dionysius inflames a group of women to hack Orpheus to pieces, although his head and his lyre continue to play and sing. In this version, Persephone restores memory to both Orpheus and Eurydice so they can spend the afterlife together—an interpolation that provides emotional relief but guts the story of its power. The rich, matte illustrations are done in a pleasing, patterned style that complements the vivid, never sensational telling.
For readers who need their endings safe. (pronunciation guide, bibliography, family tree of the Greek gods, Olympians) (Mythology. 8-12)