Elizabeth Spires,
I Am Arachne:
15 Greek & Roman Myths

(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001)

I Am Arachne: Fifteen Greek & Roman Myths is a collection of mythology, drolly told. This small book would serve nicely as an introduction to classical myths for the middle grades -- and interested adults as well.

Elizabeth Spires' tone as she retells the tales of not only Arachne, but of Pandora, Orpheus and Eurydice, Sisyphus, Endymion and others as well, is just wry and arch enough to be quite delightful and so appealing. This is captured very well in Mordicai Gerstein's simple and almost cartoonish illustrations; it's just so much fun to hear and see Eurydice saying, "I was married to Orpheus for about fifteen minutes when I was bitten by a poisonous snake and brought down to the underworld. So much for my happiness."

Spires' characterizations of these well-known archetypes are always on the mark. The cast of characters listed at the end of the book is also useful, if not really essential, and also set in a droll prose. The work well fills the gap between the D'Aulaires' classic Book of Greek Myths and the more adult By Jove! Brush Up Your Mythology by Michael Macrone, as well as the also wonderful and more recent Friendly Guide to Mythology by Nancy Hathaway. I Am Arachne is entertaining and painlessly edifying.

by Stephen Richmond
29 October 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.