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Corydon & the Island of Monsters: The Corydon Trilogy, Book 1
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is sometimes gory, and the many deaths include that of a major character. There's also implied sex and a fairly graphic childbirth scene. Kids will be exposed to the names of characters from several famous myths, and the book includes a witty glossary with pronunciations.
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What's the story?
We've all heard that history is told by the winners. What if Greek myths were too?
Corydon, a young shepherd boy with a goat-leg, is cast out of his village, then kidnapped by pirates gathering monsters for a freak show: Medusa, the Sphinx, the Minotaur, the Nemean Lion, a Harpy, a Hydra, and a snake-girl. Corydon helps them all to escape, and they scatter across the island, while Corydon and Medusa go to live with two other gorgons in a cave.
Corydon finds in Medusa a mother figure, and a brother in her infant son. But Perseus has heard about the island from one of the pirates, and he gathers an army of heroes to wipe them out. So Corydon must travel into the Underworld to find the power to protect his new friends.
Is it any good?
This is a good introduction to some famous stories, and it can be a treat for parents, too. Written by a British mother-son writing team (the mother is an Oxford professor, the son, was 8 when they began), this is the first of a planned trilogy. The main attraction is the twisted point of view, in which the traditional heroes -- Perseus, Jason, and the like -- are cowardly, venal, and lunk-headed, while the monsters are not only noble, kind, and usually intelligent, but also are the most fleshed-out characters in the book.
The book suffers from some rookie flaws: The pacing is erratic, as is the tone, which veers wildly from wide-eyed high myth to snarky anachronisms. Even more annoying are references to events that haven't happened yet. But the story is surprisingly moving, especially a mother-son relationship.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the unusual point of view. Why do the authors depict the monsters as heroes? How does this differ from the original myths? Also, it might be fun to read the original myths upon which this book is based, and compare them to this book. Readers may be inspired to check out titles in the bibliography, which includes books, films, and video games.
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