Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Contemporary Retellings from Mythologies - May 2013

Selected and annotated by Keri Carroll


Angelini, Josephine. Starcrossed. HarperTeen, 2011. 496 p. Gr. 9-12.
After being plagued with dreams of the Three Furies, Helen Hamilton attempts to kill Lucas Delos, a new student at Nantucket High School. From there on she learns of her ancient genetics from Lucas (tying her to Helen of Troy) and her role in an upcoming war where creatures want either to recruit Helen in support of their evil ways or to see her dead.

Barrett, Tracy. Dark of the Moon. Harcourt, 2011. 310 p. Gr. 8-10.
Fifteen-year-old Ariadne must fill her mother’s position as the Goddess of their household, allowing herself to be possessed to ensure her family’s success and thus guaranteeing that her life as she knows it is over. Theseus also questions his role in his family’s life as he’s been sent to Crete to battle Ariadne’s deformed brother, the minotaur Asterion. Both teens struggle with choosing between their given paths and making life decisions for themselves, as well as facing the consequences for those actions.

Barrett, Tracy. King of Ithaka. Henry Holt, 2010. 261 p. Gr. 6-10.
While Odysseus is making his way back from his adventures across the seas, his son Telemachos must keep watch over his family’s household, especially since numerous suitors are lining up to marry his mother Penelope under the assumption that Odysseus has perished. In an effort to find out more about his father’s whereabouts, Telemachos sets out with his two friends to find some answers, discovering more about himself and the similarities he shares with his father along the way.

Booraem, Ellen. The Unnameables. Harcourt, 2008. 317 p. Gr. 6-8.
On the island of Island, everything that has a use has a name; anything that is not useful remains nameless and is scorned by the inhabitants as being a waste of time. Thirteen-year-old Medford believes in these strict foundational rules, even though he practices carving (a wasteful activity) in private. However, when a mysterious satyr (half man, half goat) arrives on Island, he and Medford take it upon themselves to shake up the established order.

Cabot, Meg. Abandon. Point/Scholastic, 2011. 320 p. Gr. 7-10.
Riding along the River Styx after drowning in a swimming pool, Pierce Oliviera is suddenly plucked from the Underworld and brought back to life. Unfortunately, this was after she’d met John Hayden down among the dead, and after he’d insisted that Pierce would stay with him forever down below. Now back on the surface, Pierce must struggle between the life she now has in Connecticut—where no one believes her story—and the “life” she had after death, playing out the same role as Persephone, queen of the Underworld.

Carter, Aimée. The Goddess Test. Harlequin Teen, 2011. 304 p. Gr. 8-10.
When her mother falls terminally ill and wishes to move back to her hometown of Eden, Michigan, Kate Winters agrees. Though she knows no one upon arrival, she soon meets the mysterious Henry, who claims to be king of the Underworld and will keep Kate’s mother alive if Kate remains with him for the remainder of winter. Little does Kate know that she’s actually being trained to take the role previously held by Persephone, Hades’ former wife.

Collins, Ross. Medusa Jones. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008. 134 p. Gr. 3-5.
Int this story set in ancient Greece, Medusa Jones is a middle schooler at the Acropolis Academy, where her fellow classmates are all the children of gods and kings. Along with her best friends, Chiron the minotaur and Mino the centaur, Medusa is teased for being a “freak.” However, the tables turn when it’s up to Medusa to save the day during an overnight camping trip.

de Lint, Charles. Dingo. Firebird/Penguin, 2008. 224 p. Gr. 7-9.
Twins Lainey and Em are more than typical teenage girls: they’re shapeshifters who can change into dingoes and who are also being chased by an ancient ancestor who needs their blood to survive. Unaware of the girls’ special abilities, seventeen-year-old Miguel Schrieber falls in love with Lainey, and he, along with his sworn enemy Johnny (who falls in love with Em), are dragged into a dream world where the four of them must fight against the powerful force working against the twins.

Farmer, Nancy. The Islands of the Blessed. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009. 479 p. Gr. 5-8.
The third novel in the Sea of Trolls trilogy (The Sea of Trolls [2004] and The Land of the Silver Apples [2007]), apprentice Jack and his Viking companion Thorgil are tired of village life and ready for another adventure. Suddenly, a draugr (evil spirit) sends a tornado sweeping across Jack’s homeland, decimating it, and forcing the duo into action to calm the menacing beast responsible.

Ford, Christopher. Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle. Philomel, 2011. 200 p. Gr. 5-9.
Banished from his homeland of Sticatha (a pun on Ithaka), Zozimos must fight to reclaim his home from his evil stepmother. Along the way he meets hermits, golems, and sorcerers who inevitably end up saving him from peril. Pulling from themes in Homer’s Odyssey, this graphic novel is entirely drawn with stick figures to illustrate Zozimos’ (the stick man’s) epic journey back home.

Franco, Betsy. Metamorphosis: Junior Year. Illus. by Tom Franco. Candlewich, 2009. 128 p. Gr. 8-10.
Named after the Roman poet, Ovid (the high schooler) keeps a journal where he parallels the lives of his classmates to those stories of ancient Roman mythology, populating his school with Cupid, Icarus, and the like. At home, though, Ovid is living out his own version of the Greek tragedy in the aftermath of his sister’s meth-addled disappearance and his parents’ need for him to be the ideal son in her absence.

Friesner, Esther. Nobody’s Princess. Random House, 2008. 305 p. Gr. 7-9.
Before she was the infamous Helen of Troy, she was simply Helen of Sparta, a beautiful queen-in-training who was more interested in hunting and wrestling with her brothers than looking to be coddled. Disguised as a boy, she hopes to assert herself as an independent figure by proving her worth beyond womanly skills, showing that she’s more than just a pretty face.

Friesner, Esther. Nobody’s Prize. Random House, 2008. 306 p. Gr. 7-9.
The sequel to Nobody’s Princess, Helen of Sparta follows her brothers on board the ship Argo, setting sail with Jason and the other Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece. Donning her boyish disguise, Helen continues her adventures and efforts at self-discovery, interacting with famous Greek figures and locations along the way.

Gaiman, Neil. Odd and the Frost Giants. Illus. by Brett Helquist. Harper/HarperCollins, 2009. 117 p. Gr. 4-6.
A young Viking named Odd is tired of life in his small Scandinavian village, where his father has recently passed away and his mother has remarried a man with seven children. To combat his feeling of isolation, Odd sets out on an adventure and comes across a fox, eagle, and bear, who end up being in actuality the Norse gods Loki, Thor, and Odin. Soon after, it becomes Odd’s job to help the three gods reclaim their place in Asgard now that their home has been taken over by Frost Giants.

Halam, Ann. Snakehead. Wendy Lamb Books, 2008. 289 p. Gr. 7-9.
In an attempt to steal away Perseus’ mother, King Polydectes charges the lad with the seemingly impossible task of beheading the Gorgon Medusa and bringing her severed head back to his home of Serifos. Meanwhile, another ill-fated character, Andromeda, is plagued with the role of sacrifice (though she deftly escapes). Despite these intrusions, Perseus and Andromeda find love in one another’s company and must deal with the secrets each other is carrying.

Harris, Joanne. Runemarks. Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. 526 p. Gr. 7-10.
Blessed (or cursed) with the imprint of runemarks upon her hand and the ability to access magic, twelve-year-old Maddy’s lone friend is One-Eye, a mysterious sage who has become her mentor. Little does Maddy know that he’s actually the Norse god Odin and that he has entrusted her with the task of taking down the evil forces of the Order. Maddy must re-awaken the slumbering gods and goddesses scattered throughout the world as well as discover her own role in this newly-forming war between Chaos and Order.

Healey, Karen. Guardian of the Dead. Little, Brown and Co., 2010. 345 p. Gr. 9-12.
Ellie’s life is thrown into the world of Maori mythology and culture when a new boy arrives at her New Zealand boarding school, bringing with him more than just good looks. Evil Maori fairies (patupaiarehe) are on a quest for immortality and it is now up to Ellie –and her biting wit – to stop them.

McKinley, Robin. Pegasus. Putnam, 2010. 404 p. Gr. 8-10.
An alliance formed nearly a millennium ago pairs Pegasi with a human companion when humans reaches their twelfth birthdays. Syvli, eagerly anticipating this day, is surprised when it becomes clear that she can communicate with Ebon, her Pegasus, telepathically, something that breaches the distance that was understood to stand between a human and Pegasus partner. Their unusually close bond quickly becomes a threat to the differing nations, setting into motion a second look at the relationship between humans and Pegasi.

Moore, Bryce. Vodník. Tu/Lee & Low, 2012. 368 p. Gr. 8-10.
Tomas’ family decides to move from America back to their native Slovakia after a house fire consumes the majority of their possessions. Upon arrival, Tomas befriends his cousin Katka and learns of his special gift that enables him to speak with elemental spirits in addition to the vodník, an evil cross between water spirits and vampires. When Katka’s life is endangered, Tomas must bargain with a grim reaper to provide his cousin with a new soul in exchange for her old one.

Riordan, Rick. The Lost Hero. Disney/Hyperion Books, 2010. 553 p. Gr. 5-7.
Jason, Piper, and Leo—three kids with seemingly nothing in common—discover that they are all actually the offspring of a Roman god or goddess and are quickly whisked away off to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp intent on training these demigod children. The three new demigods learn that it’s up to them to free the trapped Hera who is being held captive, as well as calm the awakening Gaea, who if fully awakened will rip their world apart.

Riordan, Rick. The Red Pyramid. Disney/Hyperion, 2010. 516 p. Gr. 5-8.
Raised separately after the death of their mother six years ago, siblings Carter and Sadie Kane only get to see each other twice a year. This time, their father, renowned archaeologist Julius Kane, takes the siblings to the British Museum, where he subsequently destroys the Rosetta Stone and unleashes five Egyptian gods and goddesses in the process. Carter and Sadie soon learn that they are more than they appear, descended from pharaohs and playing hosts to Horus and Isis, and that it is up to them and a handful of strange companions to bring the released deities back under control.

Taylor, Laini. Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Little, Brown, 2011. 418 p. Gr. 9-12.
Seventeen-year-old Karou leads a double life: in public, she is a simple art student in Prague, but in private, she and her adoptive chimaera family must shuttle through portals to collect animal and human teeth all over the world for Brimstone, the wishmonger. During one of these trips, Karou collides with the beautiful winged Akiva and soon finds herself placed in the middle of a battle between the chimaerae and seraphim, while also battling her newfound feelings of attraction toward Akiva.

Whitman, Emily. Radiant Darkness. Greenwillow, 2009. 288 p. Gr. 7-10.
Persephone’s kidnapping into the Underworld by Hades is retold as a willing departure into the arms of a powerful lover. As Persephone’s mother, Demeter, runs about, leaving her alone (and bored), Persephone is greeted by Hades, who offers her love and affection. In return, Persephone chooses to follow Hades into the Underworld despite her mother’s fury at her choice, and she must learn to balance life above and below the surface.

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