This review originally appeared in SequentialTart.
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Illustrator: Margaret Evans Price
Once upon a time … Proserpina was taken away to become the bride of dour Pluto. Once upon a time … a God served a mortal king as his loyal shepherd. Once upon a time … a band of heroes sailed to the end of the world to find the Golden Fleece. Once upon a time ….
This volume collects the retellings of ancient Greek and Roman myths originally published as A Child’s Book of Myths and Enchantment Tales For Children in 1924 and 1926, respectively. It includes Margaret Evans Price’s original color illustrations, as well. Though the majority of the tales are Greek in origin, the Roman names for the Gods and Goddesses are used.
Okay, the stories are fun. As Katherine Lee Bates wrote in 1924, “Do not say these stories are too beautiful to be true. They are too beautiful not to be true.” They are definitely geared towards a younger audience raised in a more puritanical age. These stories are fairly gentle and morally unambiguous; the heroes are always heroes and any violence is described in as spare language as possible. These stories are safe.
What I really love about this book, though, is Price’s artwork. I really really like her illustrations. Price’s style is very similar to that of one of my favorite illustrators from the early twentieth century, Willy Pogany (you can find his work in Padraic Colum’s The Golden Fleece and The Children’s Homer). It’s light, whimsical; an Art Deco homage to the idea of classical Greece and Rome, rather than the reality.
If you are a fan of Greek and Roman mythology, or pioneers in illustration, find this book.