Accessible and entertaining, these stories provide a thoughtful, fresh take on a classic subject.


The Song of Orpheus


Seventeen lesser-known Greek myths get energetic retellings in this collection for readers 12 and up.

Many YA readers are familiar with the immortals of Olympus from works like D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, but the same tales tend to get repeated, leaving out variations, contradictions, or plots with less appeal to modern audiences. Barrett (On Etruscan Time, 2015, etc.), a prolific writer of YA fiction, returns to the classical setting she employed in books like King of Ithaka (2014) to explore these less-told tales. Her framing story, which she uses to good effect, is that Orpheus has been turned into a rock after failing to bring his wife, Eurydice, back from the land of the dead, having broken the proscription to turn and look at her. He can see her again, and apologize for his stupidity, only if he can tell 300 stories (that the listener has never heard) within 3,000 years. And right now, he explains, there are just 17 more to go. These are grouped in four main categories: “Where Things Come From”; “Life’s Big Moments: Birth, Love, Death”; “Gods and Humans”; and “Creatures You Never Knew About.” Two appendices and a glossary supply helpful background information. Orpheus’ narration adds a welcome contemporary note to these 17 wide-ranging tales. They include (for example) the stories of two mischievous brothers who tease Hercules for his sunburned bottom and are transformed into the world’s first monkeys; a handsome farmer who tricks a beautiful girl into marriage through a message on an apple; a giant bronze robot; and a goddess who grants her idea of immortality to a mother by killing the woman’s sons while they’re still “young and beautiful and admired by all.” Orpheus sometimes deftly reflects on these tales for today’s audience, as with the last: “Did Kydippe thank the goddess? Or did she curse her and refuse to worship her again? Herodotus…doesn’t say.” Barrett, too, adds comments after some of the engaging tales that provide further information, food for thought, or acknowledge modern viewpoints.

Accessible and entertaining, these stories provide a thoughtful, fresh take on a classic subject.

Pub Date: July 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5351-4450-6

Page Count: 140

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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Brought together in what novelist Hansen (Which Way Freedom?, 1986) calls a ``great experiment,'' black troops in the Civil War faced not only enemy armies but their own side's vicious racism while proving their ability. They had already fought in every previous American war, but never in permanent units; faced with a manpower shortage, Lincoln overcame his reluctance and allowed black companies to form—though some had to assemble and march in secret to avoid civilian riots. Quoting frequently from contemporary sources, Hansen describes their recruitment, their struggle for proper pay, supplies, and training, and their heroic performance in dozens of actions. She contends that, for them, the war had no complex causes: first, last and always, it was a crusade against slavery. Her methodical, well-documented study is ranges wider than Cox's Undying Glory (about the Massachusetts 54th Regiment). Murky b&w photos and reproductions; notes; substantial bibliography; index. (Nonfiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-531-11151-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity.



A low-wattage collection of original stories and poems, as unmemorable as it is unappealingly titled.

The collection was inspired by a perceived paucity of short science fiction for teen readers, and its production costs were covered by a Kickstarter campaign. The editors gather a dozen poems and 21 stories from a stable of contributors who, after headliners Jack McDevitt and Nancy Holder, will be largely unknown even to widely read fans of the genre. The tales place their characters aboard spacecraft or space stations, on other worlds or in future dystopias, but only rarely do the writers capture a credibly adolescent voice or sensibility. Standouts in this department are the Heinlein-esque “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” by Stephen D. Covey & Sandra McDonald, about a first date/joyride in space gone wrong, and Camille Alexa’s portrait of a teen traumatized by a cyberspace assault (“Over It”). Along with a few attempts to craft futuristic slang, only Lavie Tidhar’s fragmentary tale of Tel Aviv invaded by successive waves of aliens, doppelgangers, zombies and carnivorous plants (“The Myriad Dangers”) effectively lightens the overall earnest tone. Aside from fictional aliens and modified humans, occasional references to dark skin (“Out of the Silent Sea,” Dale Lucas) are the only signs of ethnic diversity. Most of the free-verse poetry makes only oblique, at best, references to science-fictional themes.

A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity. (author bios) (Science fiction/short stories. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9847824-0-8

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Underwords

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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