Dionysos by George O’Connor
With Dionysos, writer/illustrator George O’Connor’s OLYMPIANS series comes to an end after 12 titles and at this point, having reviewed a third of them and read more, all’s that need be said is either now you can complete your collection or, if you haven’t yet purchased any — and really, why haven’t you? —, now you can go out and get the whole thing. Because it’s simply great, start to finish. We’ve reviewed these previous installments: Zeus, Ares, Artemis, Hermes.
Every book in this series has been a five (including the ones I didn’t get around to reviewing), and this one is no different and for all the same reasons. Fantastic retelling of stories both familiar and not-so-familiar? Check. Wonderful sense of voice? Check. Distinctive characterizations? Check. A refusal to dumb down the stories, the vocabulary, the syntax, or to sand off the rougher, darker edges of the myths? Check. Moving moments? Check. Artwork equally effective at conveying quietly human expressions and awesomely cosmic events? Check. Great backmatter? Check. The only complaint I have about this final episode in this superlative series is that it is the final episode in this superlative series.
Writing about his goal in the author’s notes at the end of Dionysos, O’Connor tells us he wanted to write “the series I always wished I could read when I was introduced to Greek mythology.” As a reviewer, a reader, a teacher, a parent, and a lover of myth, I would amend that to say O’Connor has crafted a series I wish everyone will read as their introduction to Greek mythology. And as their reintroduction.
Teachers — stock the entire series on your classroom shelves; I don’t care if you teach elementary, middle school, or secondary. Librarians, stock this series on your shelves and preferably more than one full set so no kid has to wait overly long. Parents, buy this series to read with your younger children and then keep it on the home shelves for them to read on their own and get more out of as they age. Nor, I want to make clear, should these books be read solely by the young or by those who haven’t yet read the Greek myths. They’re a treasure for all, young or old, steeped in the stories or barely recalling them from high school. As Dionysos says at the end, “To the Olympians: Long may they reign!”