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 is a retelling of Greek myth. There are clear sexual references here -- hard to avoid in Greek mythology -- though not really described. There's also some violence (Atalanta kills two centaurs with a bow and arrows, shoots a boar, and forces those who lose races with her to die. A queen hangs herself). The book has a somewhat casual attitude toward death, also typical in myth.
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What's the story?
Atalanta is abandoned as an infant, and the goddess Artemis causes her to be raised by bears. She is then taken in by a village and becomes a great runner and huntress. She takes part in the Calydonian boar hunt, causing the death of several of the huntsmen who argue over her presence there. Upon her return she is summoned by her father, who turns out to be a king, and ordered to marry, even though she is an acolyte of Artemis, pledged to chastity. She agrees to marry whoever can beat her in a race -- but if she wins the man must die.
Is it any good?
This is a straightforward retelling of the Atalanta myth in novel form, and it's enjoyable and action-packed. Though it lacks the humor and cleverness of author Stephanie Spinner's other novelized myth, Quicksilver, Atalanta was never as witty and snarky as Hermes, so the tone fits the subject. This book hews closely to the original stories (and even including an obscure episode that comes after the traditional ending of the myth), making it useful for classes studying mythology.
What humor there is, is provided in the arch commentary of the gods and goddesses that appear from time to time. Spinner also resolves one of the more troubling aspects of the original myth -- that Hippomenes seems to win the race by cheating. In this version, Atalanta clearly knows what he is doing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Greek myths. Why do we still study these stories? How are they relevant to our lives today? Why do you think modern authors are interested in retelling these stories?
What do you think of the violence here? Is it easier to handle in the myth context than if you were reading it in a modern, realistic novel?
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