ARACHNE SPEAKS by Kate Hovey

ARACHNE SPEAKS

by & illustrated by
Age Range: 11 & up
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Both principals narrate this tempestuous, erratically rhymed version of the classic story of the battle between Arachne (in black text) and Athena (in red). When Arachne refuses to share credit for her astonishing woven art with Athena, goddess of weavers, dubbing all of the gods “parasites,” she finds herself face to face with the eight-foot-tall goddess herself. Defiantly, Arachne creates a series of tapestries depicting the gods as malicious, ridiculous figures. Recognizing a kindred spirit (“I threw down my disguise, / staring deep into her eyes, / and wondered, drawing nearer, / was I gazing in a mirror?”), Athena hastily has the North Wind destroy Arachne’s work, and strikes her with a shuttle, perhaps to forestall more drastic punishment from on high. Arachne “too proud, too strong, too clever,” proceeds to hang herself, forcing Athena to transform her into a spider to save her life. Beginning with the blood-spattered cover illustration, and climaxing with a downright eerie close-up of a spider with an eight-eyed, but otherwise human, face and delicate hands and feet on the ends of long, long limbs, Drawson’s stylized paintings strongly reflect the story’s melodrama. Athena and the gods are presented in strong, firm lines, Arachne and other mortals in slightly softer ones, perhaps as an indication of their stature. It is only when they are face to face, that both are drawn in the same grain. In the end Arachne, still unbowed, crows that Athena is forgotten while her own descendants “thrive / weaving our story again and again, / to the planet’s end— / even then, we will survive.” The tale’s Freudian overtones may give even adult readers a new perspective on classical mythology; younger ones of a certain temperament will respond to Arachne’s furious rejection of authority, however self-destructive that rebellion turns out to be. A powerful, disturbing debut for Hovey. (Picture book/folktale. 11+)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-82901-9
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: McElderry
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2000




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