Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Review - Hera: The Goddess And Her Glory

Author/Illustrator: George O'Connor
Publisher: First Second (July 19, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: Copy for Review
Graphic Novel * Mythology * Upper Middle Grade * YA

Description from GoodReads:

The story of Hera, Queen of the Gods, and the heroes who won her favor. 

Volume 3 of Olympians, Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory, introduces readers to the Queen of the Gods and Goddesses in the Pantheon. This volume tells the tales of the many heroes who sought and won Hera’s patronage, most notably Hercules.


In Olympians, O’Connor draws from primary documents to reconstruct and retell classic Greek myths. But these stories aren’t sedate, scholarly works. They’re action-packed, fast-paced, high-drama adventures with monsters, romance, and not a few huge explosions.


O’Connor’s vibrant, kinetic art brings ancient tales to undeniable life, in a perfect fusion of super-hero aesthetics and ancient Greek mythology.

Today I was talking with the Director of a local art center.  We got on the topic of graphic novels and he looked at me and bluntly said "You don't seem like someone who reads graphic novels".  I smiled.  I wasn't insulted by his comment.  There was a point when it would have been true.  I had little interest in something that seemed like glorified comics.  However, as an educator who desperately wants students to read and enjoy reading, I learned to stretch myself and to explore the world of graphic novels and manga.  And guess what?  I fell in love with graphic novels.  I have learned to appreciate both the art and the form of storytelling that comes within the pages of a good graphic novel.  Additionally, it has helped me to hook readers that might not otherwise be interested in a book.

In my journey to discover quality graphic novels to share with students, I discovered the Olympians Series by George O'Connor.  The series begins with Zeus which I felt was good.  However, personally, I thought the second release -  Athena was even better.  This may have had something to do with my personal preference (Athena vs. Zeus), but I also think it may be that O'Connor is growing as an artist and storyteller with each installment.

This brings me to Hera: The Goddess And Her Glory.  I have never been much of a personal fan of Hera.  She just seemed cruel and revengeful on some level.  However, O'Connor has managed to win me over.  Well, I still personally like Athena but with this installment, he has won me over enough to actually feel like this installment is the best in the series. 

O'Connor packs a lot into the 80 pages of this graphic novel.  In addition to the story, he provides an Olympian Family Tree, author notes, facts about key characters, recommendations, and my favorite - The Geek (Greek with the r crossed out) Notes.  Don't miss the Geek Notes.  I can't wait to get back to school and pull out my copies of Zeus and Athena and look up some of the things that O'Connor ties together between the three books.  Hmmmm...I can already imagine how I can turn this into a fun activity to do with kids.

So, sure all these little things are fun, but what is so special about the story you might be asking?  With Hera, O'Connor masterfully chose to focus on two critical parts of Hera's life.  He juxtaposed her life to both Zeus and Heracles (Hercules).  I never really thought of how Hera was in many ways the perfect partner for Zeus (who was no prize of a husband).  She was his equal.  Also, mostly I would have said that she just had it out for Heracles, but O'Connor chose to pull together lesser known stories that when woven together seem to emphasize more the ways that Hera's challenge prepared Heracles to ascend to Olympus.

This is part of O'Connor's brilliance as a storyteller.  The selection of facts/tales that when melded together challenge the reader to see with new eyes.  Will children or teens appreciate it?  Maybe not.  They will likely enjoy O'Connor's humor and wit much more.  However, adult readers will certainly "get it".

Teachers and librarians - Hera: The Goddess And Her Glory is a must have if you loved the previous books.  For those new to the Olympians, you are in for a pleasant surprise.  Also the Olympians are a perfect tie in for fans of Riordan's Percy Jackson Series

The Official Olympians Website: http://olympiansrule.com/
Note: Teachers - there are lots of good resources on this      site.

The Official Website for George O'Connor: http://geooco.blogspot.com/

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