Award winning children's book author, Cynthia Rylant retells the Greek myths of Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus, and Psyche. Each story imparts valuable life lessons on such topics as hope, courage, love, pride and forgiveness, while entertaining with ancient romantic tales.
Because of an adult fiction series I've been reading that is based on Greek mythology, I've recently rediscovered an interest in these myths, so when I saw The Beautiful Stories of Life on the featured shelf at the library, I decided to pick it up. It turned out to be a nice way to refresh my memory on the stories of Pandora, Persephone, Narcissus and Psyche, and I believe, get my first introduction to Orpheus and Pygmalion, as I recognized their names but don't recall reading their tales before. I'm far from being any kind of expert on Greek mythology, so I can't really address the accuracy of the re-tellings, but they seemed to mesh well with my vague childhood memories of the myths I was familiar with. All of the stories are about life and love, and all contain some type of romantic element which was another part of what drew me to the book. As such, they would probably be of interest to children who enjoy fairy tales and fables. There are some good life lessons to be learned from the stories, but they are probably a bit too sophisticated for younger children to fully appreciate. I have my doubts that this book would hold the interest of the average youngster, which is why I would recommend it for the 9-12 age range. By that age, children should have developed the ability to think in more complex terms and understand stories that contain deeper meaning. For them, The Beautiful Stories of Life could become a nice little introduction to these Greek myths.
I was surprised to discover that the illustrations are all done in black and white in a more classical style. The style suited the subject matter of the book well, but I was hoping for something more colorful, perhaps like the pale pastels of the cover illustration. As is, they just didn't really stand out to me. Instead, they just blended in with the text, and there were too few in my opinion. Each story had only one or two pictures with several pages of solid text in between, which is another reason that I think this book would be more suitable for older children. Overall, I enjoyed reading The Beautiful Stories of Life and found it to be a fun way to reconnect with a few romantic Greek myths, but for a children's picture book, I felt that the illustrations left a little something to be desired.
Note: One illustration depicts a statue of a nude woman, which some parents may find inappropriate.
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