by Lloyd Alexander, published 1995
“When our Bear tribe forefathers came to Arkadia, they found a shocking state of affairs: a country governed by councils of women, all devoted to that figment of female imagination, the Lady of Wild Things.”
Something happens inside me, like millions of champagne bubbles, when I begin reading a really great children’s book. Arkadia falls in that category. It’s breathtaking when you find someone has put it all together in one book: action, humor, morals, good writing, and a pace that doesn’t let you put the book down till you are done.
I also imagine what fun the author must have had writing this children’s book, as he played with the Greek classics to his heart’s content. I must admit I don’t know the Greek classics well enough to recognize all that Lloyd Alexander has embedded in this little book. But I certainly recognized characters who represented Odysseus, the Minotaur, and of course, the Trojan Horse, though in this book, it’s a Trojan Jackass! Everything in this children’s book is slightly familiar, and yet slightly, or majorly revised, so that you have the feeling in the end you don’t really know which is the original version and which has been made up.
Another element in the book is the long-standing issue of men versus women, not a subject one thinks of offering children. However, Alexander handles it perfectly, bringing in a strong image of equality, neither sex dominating or controlling the other.
I’ve long heard about Lloyd Alexander as a children’s book author, but except for one illustrated book, Dream of Jade: The Emperor’s Cat, I hadn’t read anything by him. I look forward to seeing what else Alexander offers children.
This book would be great for those children who have most recently studied the Greek Culture (usually 5th or 6th grade), as they would enjoy the way the book plays with the old tales. However, I think it’s quite suitable for anyone over nine, whether they get the parody or not.