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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josee Masse. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin, Random House. 2016. $21.99 ages 10 and up

here ... "
a nymph?
an echo?
Leave me,
foolish pursuer!"

I cannot, for the life of me, imagine the writing and rewriting that begins when Marilyn Singer finds herself ready to pen another book of reverso poems! This is the third time she has done it, following on the success of Mirror Mirror (2010) and Follow Follow (2013). It is a poetic form unique to this incredibly talented and accomplished writer and poet. I am in awe all over again!

If you haven't seen her other books, there are two poems side by side. The second poem reverses the lines of the first one ... exactly! The only changes come in the rules of grammar that determine what is capitalized and where punctuation is placed for the second poem to make perfect sense. Each poem is about the same story. After two books that retold classic fairy tales, Ms. Singer turns her attention to Greek mythology.

In order to write such stories, you must know a lot about the mythology itself. Then, you tell the tale from differing points of view. There are twelve poems included. They inform readers about Pandora, Arachne and Athena, King Midas and his daughter, Perseus and Medusa, Bellerophon and Pegasus, Narcissus and Echo, Pygmalion and Galatea, Theseus and Ariadne, Icarus and Daedalus, Melanion and Atalanta, Demeter and Persephone, and finally Eurydice and Orpheus.

Short summaries of the pertinent parts for each story are included at the bottom of the poetry page. They help readers new to the mythology with the gist of the tale, and provide a review for those of us who have a tough time keeping all myths clear in our minds.

"To stop the Minoans from attacking them, every nine years the Athenians were forced to send fourteen boys and girls to the labyrinth in Minos, where they were eaten by the Minotaur, a creature half bull and half man. Theseus, who was to become kind of Athens, put an end to this by killing the monster. The king's daughter, Ariadne, gave Theseus a ball of thread to help him find his way back out of the maze."

After reading the book more than once, I think that I have many of the myths finally sorted out in my head. That is some feat, after all these many years. What an introduction it provides for any classroom teacher wanting to introduce students to these timeless tales, and to the concept of varying points of view.

This third book is also the third collaboration for Ms. Singer and Josee Masse, who creates her acrylic images in blues and golds ... each of the split-down-the-middle illustrations clearly matching the two stories being told in the poetry. Their symmetry is awesome and invites careful study. 

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