Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pandora, step away from the box

The authors of three out of the last four books I've featured here don't have websites! And here comes number four. What is wrong with these women? Too busy writing? Don't they know that bloggers need links? Don't they care? I don't think Cynthia Rylant does. Or perhaps she is too busy writing (there are almost 300 entries when you do an author search for her in my library's catalog). The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths, Retold is only her fourth book for 2009. I guess perhaps she is too busy to pony up a website, but here's one with some information about her.

(It looks like I've commented on two other books by Ms. Rylant, one where I linked to another website about her and one where I didn't even mention her name!)

In The Beautiful Stories, Rylant retells the stories of Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus and Psyche. Each version is a brief one, and -- since they are for youngish children -- some of the peskier adult details are not included. What makes these stories beautiful, the stories' omniscient narrator tells us, is that each is about the power of love. I particularly enjoyed Psyche's story (as did the author, I think, since it is by far the longest of them), which took me back to Julius Lester's Cupid, which I listened to and while it doesn't appear to be a favorite ... I can still hear the narrator.

Alyssa Bresnahan reads these stories. She's such an experienced narrator, and she reads them utterly right. Bresnahan is an authoritative instructor here, her husky voice imparting the stories in measured, unemotional tones. She's never dull, however, since she knows how to create interest in listeners and the stories are all fairly brief.

Ultimately, though, this volume felt very curricular to me. How nice for teachers working on the mythology unit to have an alternative way of sharing these stories. Some learners might benefit from reading along. I can also see this holding some interest on an all-ages car trip. Faint praise indeed!

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