The Beautiful Stories of Life by Cynthia Rylant

At a recent trip the local library with the kids I stumbled upon this little gem.  As regular readers will know, I am interested in myths and fairy tales and enjoy seeing how authors rework and retell this classic stories for young and old.

The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greeks Myths, Retold by Cynthia Rylant is aimed at children but it makes for an enjoyable read no matter how old you are.

Here is the publishers blurb:

Newbery Medal-winner Cynthia Rylant retells her favorite stories from Greek mythology, breathing fresh life into the tales of Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus, and Psyche. The writing is lyrical and understated, a perfect tone for stories that introduce young readers to themes of love and loss, pride and forgiveness. Carson Ellis‘s elegant black-and-white illustrations lend an aura of beauty and mystery.

Rylant’s style and tone reminded me of a good story teller sitting down and offering their version of these famous stories.  They are simple and straightforward – and thus enjoyable for young people – but they also contain brief commentaries or observations about human nature and life – which make them interesting and enjoyable for adults.

The reason these stories have stood the test of time is because they offer reflections and insights into human nature. And even as she simplifies them, Rylant keeps this foundation intact. But she doesn’t beat you over the head with some didactic lecture, but instead slyly offers her take on what these stories are getting at and why they resonate with us even today.

I think PW sums it up well:

The small format reflects the book’s purpose: to be a pleasurable sampling of some well-known Greek myths, their ideas and morals distilled to their core.

This would make a nice collection to have for bedtime reading, or storytime, but it would also be great for older readers wanting to get their feet wet with a simple introduction to the Greek myths.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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