“I’ll see you on the other side,” Hades leers—“sooner or later.” At least the terra won’t be completely incognita.

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HADES SPEAKS!

A GUIDE TO THE UNDERWORLD BY THE GREEK GOD OF THE DEAD

From the Secrets of the Ancient Gods series

A tour of the ancient Greek (and Roman) underworld, squired by Hades and his lovely wife, Persephone.

Enthusiastically embracing his assigned role, Hades invites young visitors to pick an entrance to his shadowy realm (“There’s one right outside your bedroom.” Bwa ha ha) and to mind the monsters. The tour proceeds past Acheron and other rivers to the “fire pits of Tartaros” and the Fields of Asphodel and Elysium. Besides complaining continually that he gets no respect and fulminating about “brute-brat-boy” Herakles, the chatty chaperon delivers background on the origins of his mythological clan. He also introduces his fiendish staff and discourses on a range of need-to-know topics from Roman curse tablets to the mysterious significance of beans in ancient writings. Midway through, Persephone commandeers the narrative to tell some favorite myths—notably the one about how Theseus left part of his butt attached to the Hadean Chair of Forgetfulness. Hades ultimately leaves readers to find their own ways back to the land of the living with a generous bibliography as well as a glossary and a guide to the gods as mementos of their junket. Larson’s mannered, Aubrey Beardsley–style pen-and-ink scenes of angular figures shrouded in long cloaks or gowns add more chills than chuckles, but the map is helpful.

“I’ll see you on the other side,” Hades leers—“sooner or later.” At least the terra won’t be completely incognita. (index) (Mythology. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62091-598-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener.

MARY BOWSER AND THE CIVIL WAR SPY RING

From the Spy on History series , Vol. 1

Using a provided packet of helpful tools, readers can search for clues along with a historical spy in the house of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Fans of ciphers and hidden clues will find both in abundance, beginning on the copyright page and continuing to a final, sealed-off section of explanations and solutions. Fictionalized but spun around actual figures and events, the tale centers on Bowser, a free African-American who worked undercover as a maid in Davis’ house and passed information to a ring of white Richmond spies. Here she looks for the key phrase that will unlock a Vigenère cipher—an alphabetic substitution code—while struggling to hide her intelligence and ability to read. As an extra challenge, she leaves the diary in which she records some of her experiences concealed for readers to discover, using allusive and sometimes-misleading clues that are hidden in Cliff’s monochrome illustrations and in cryptic marginal notations. A Caesar cipher wheel, a sheet of red acetate, and several other items in a front pocket supply an espionage starter kit that readers can use along the way; it is supplemented by quick introductions in the narrative to ciphers and codes, including Morse dashes and dots and the language of flowers.

Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener. (answers, historical notes, biographies, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8739-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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More-systematic treatments abound, but the airy tone and quick-facts presentation give this some potential as a...

MYTHOLOGY

OH MY! GODS AND GODDESSES

From the Basher History series

In Basher’s latest set of breezy “self”-portraits, 58 gods, demigods and mythological creations of diverse sort step up in turn to the microphone.

The entrants are limited to the ancient Egyptian, Norse and Greco-Roman pantheons and arranged in no particular order within their respective chapters. They range from the usual celebrities like Poseidon (“rhymes with ‘Joe Biden’ ”), Odin and Osiris to some who have gotten less press, such as Hebe—“Waitress to the Olympians”—and Gefjon, Aesir goddess of plowing. Along with mixing in such non-Olympians as Odysseus, Budzik swells the ranks by lending voices to Bifrost, Yggdrasil and even the battle of Ragnarok. The author’s introductory claim that the gods gave mortals “something to believe in and ideals to aspire to when life was looking bleak” is massively disingenuous considering the speakers’ own accounts of their exploits (Hel complains, “It’s really grim here. I get the dreariest dead”). Nevertheless, the sex and violence are toned down to, for instance, Hera’s tart reference to “my hubby’s mortal girlfriends” and Isis’ allusion to “complicated family vibes” (following her brother/husband Osiris’ dismemberment by their brother, Seth). In a radical departure for Basher, some of his dolllike cartoon figures bear grimaces rather than cutesy smiles.

More-systematic treatments abound, but the airy tone and quick-facts presentation give this some potential as a lighter-than-air refresher. (chart and foldout poster of Greek/Roman equivalents) (Mythology. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7534-7171-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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