I took a “sick” day yesterday, so I didn’t get the Tip of the Week posted. However, it was less than stellar. I occasionally lack inspiration, and this tip was a great example of that. It was “Don’t limit yourself to Greco-Roman Mythology.” So, instead of talking about that, I’m just going to go ahead and skip to my Review of the Week. (Insert dramatic trumpet intro here.)

The Night Tourist
By Katherine Marsh

This book is one of my favorite books to handsell. I give it to the older kids who have finished the Percy books and still want to read books based on Greek mythology. Still, I’m still surprised by the number of people who are unfamiliar with the book.

The book is an inventive retelling of the Orpheus myth set in modern New York City. Most of the Greek characters aren’t mentioned by name, but the astute child reader (and pretty much every adult) picks up on them. And that’s what I like about this work. All the books that I’ve mentioned previously this week blatantly use the mythology. In this book, it’s generally more subtle. (Although one of the characters does call herself Eury – which is an abbreviation of the female in the Orpheus myth. However, the average child is not so familiar with the Orpheus myth that they can name every character. It doesn’t give away as much as it does to an adult reader.)

I think writers should read both types of works – those that use the mythological characters and those that hint at mythology or use a theme or story arc without screaming, “Mythology!” Supposedly there are no new story ideas, and if that really is true, then learning to rework traditional literature, whether it’s a myth or a fairy tale or a classic work of public domain literature, is one of the greatest skills an author can master.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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