Interviews: (external links open in new window)
- Brief video interview with Candlewick Press for Macbeth
- Brief video interview with Politics & Prose
- YALSA interview for Teen Read Week
- Radio interview with Bill Buschell on WNYE's Hellenic Public Radio
- Graphic Novel Reporter on The Odyssey
- Publisher's Weekly on The Odyssey
- Video interview by Paul Falcone, with clips from a presentation at Wellesley Booksmith and clips of me doing aikido
- School Library Journal Teen
- Boston Globe West
- The Harrisburg Patriot-News ran two bits of an interview here and here, but the full transcript is here.
- Powell's Books Q & A for Merchant
- Ingram Advance interview for Merchant
- Audio: Metrowest Library author panel - presentation and Q & A
- Boston Globe article
- Early interview with Sequential Tart
Reviews for Samurai Rising:
School Library Journal(starred review) - link
Gr 7 Up — Minamoto no Yoshitsune, the 12th-century Heian hero who defeated the rival Taira clan only to be undone by another member of the Minamoto group, is a samurai legend. His rise from obscurity, reckless brilliance in battle, and gruesome end (which helped establish seppuku as part of the warrior code) are irresistible features of a life that ended at age 30. A near-contemporary chronicle, Heike monogatari, and a nemesis's history, Azuma kagami, reporting Yoshitsune's deeds were too thin for the popular imagination, which immediately began embroidering on the sources. Turner unpicks some of the yarn but brightens the colors of what remains so that Yoshitsune, physically a small man, leaps from the pages, larger than life and twice as active. Everyone dies—violently—but the famous ends of Atsumori, Antoku, Kiyomori, and others are moving rather than grim. The text rips along, skillfully engaging teens in many swift turns of events. Historical and cultural references are impressively accurate, and Hinds's fluid brush-and-ink drawings and battle maps add useful detail. Although Turner often uses the word probably, the compelling narrative never strains credulity, and expert tricks help readers navigate Japanese names and sort out relationships. Students will find the 60 pages of endnotes equally fascinating and lively; a seven-page bibliography attests to the serious research behind the vivid (but never simplistic) writing. VERDICT Japanophiles, action lovers, and future historians will all find this book gripping. — Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Booklist (starred review) - link
With more beheadings than you can shake a katana at, this account of the life of twelfth-century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune is pure excitement. While he is known mostly through legends, Turner plumbs the archives to figure out who Yoshitsune—the man who redefined the samurai—really was. Beginning in 1160, her account describes the clan rivalry between the Minamotos and the Taira, particularly Yoshitsune's father's failed power grab, which lost him his head and tipped the scales to favor the Taira. Yoshitsune was sent to a Buddhist monastery, but as a teenager, he snuck away to pursue a warrior's life and seek revenge. Throughout, Turner uses modern language and points of reference to draw meaningful comparisons to historic events. For instance, she likens Yoshitsune's sudden decision to undergo samurai training to that of a "boy who never had played Little League showing up for spring training with the Yankees." In short, fast-moving chapters—each with opening art by Hinds—readers witness the rebellious, brave Yoshitsune's formative battles, rise to fame, and eventual fall in 1189, while gaining an understanding of the changing role of samurai in Japanese society. Every bit as exciting as fiction, Yoshitsune's saga is supported with extensive chapter notes, a time line, a character list, and an explanation of how Turner recreated his world. Kids who think history is boring will lose their heads over this one.
Kirkus (starred review) - link
The life of 12th-century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune unfolds in this compelling and often shocking nonfiction account. The opening warning doesn't lie: very few people die of natural causes. Even as a baby, Yoshitsune's life is tied to war and honor. After Yoshitsune's father, the leader of the Minamoto samurai, kidnaps the Retired Emperor as payback for favoring rival samurai leader Taira Kiyomori, Yoshitsune is taken from his family to live at the Kurama Temple. (His father is later beheaded.) Although he grows up among monks, his warrior heart leads him to escape and seek out samurai training. Soon, he learns that his half brother Yoritomo is rebelling against the Taira. How can Yoshitsune refuse an opportunity to reunite with his kin, avenge his father's murder, and conquer Japan? Turner describes how, with skill, brilliance, and mental toughness that borders on insanity, Yoshitsune attacks the Taira in infamous battles, including an audacious over-the-cliff attack on the fortress Ichi-No-Tani. He becomes a war hero to some, a loathsome figure to others, entering the lore with unforgettable consequences, including institutionalizing the ritual suicide known as seppuku and figuring in art from contemporary medieval songs all the way to modern manga. Samurai life isn't pretty. References to beheadings and seppuku are plentiful and may make some wince. The cast of characters listed becomes a handy guide in keeping up with the Minamotos and Tairas. A well-researched narrative told with true grit.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
It’s not often that “biography” and “page-turner” come together in one thought, but Turner’s tale of the twelfth-century warrior Minamoto Yoshitsune is just the work to draw samurai fans from the manga and movie aisles into the nonfiction shelves. Murder and mayhem, intrigue and ritual suicide, family treachery, stolen royal regalia—Yoshitsune’s story has it all, as rival Taira and Minamoto families vie for control in a power vacuum left by a weak Retired Emperor. Raised in a secluded monastery, Yoshitsune ran away and trained to be a samurai at fifteen, well past the age when boys usually acquired their skills. Under the aegis of his elder half-brother Yoritomo, Yoshitsune won a string of battles against the Taira, but instead of lauding his victories, Yoritomo saw his brother as a threat and often subtly but publicly berated him. This only seemed to make Yoshitsune more focused on earning the honor due him, and by the tragic end of his career, he had become a popular figure bound for history and legend. Turner navigates the complex family and court relationships with commendable ease, occasionally tossing in a wry remark that supplies a touch of comic relief in so gory a tale: “When your half-brother sends assassins to kill you, it’s a strong hint that your relationship is beyond repair.” Plenty of support is also offered to readers making their first foray into the samurai world: a list of characters and places is located before the introduction; timeline, glossary (with pronunciations), and index can be found at the end. Annotated chapter notes state whether information is drawn from history or legend, and they remark on where traces of Yoshitsune’s adventures can be found in present-day Japan. Hand this to long-faced kids whining that they “have to write a history report.” Final art not seen. EB
Reviews for Macbeth:
The New York Times Sunday Book Review - link
...a remarkably faithful rendering of the world of the play. You can almost feel the damp chill of the Scottish Highlands in the silvery-green palette, and as the murdered corpses pile up, the warm oranges of the candlelit castle interiors inevitably tinge toward the blood-red at the center of the story... - full review here.
Booklist (starred review) - link
Hinds offers another sensitive adaptation of classic literature in this beautifully colored and evocative rendition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Basing his version on both the full canonical text and research into Macbeth’s historical period and how that era was understood in Shakespeare’s time, Hinds engages students, researchers, and drama fans on several levels. Hinds’ full-color artwork, stuffed with details of body language and facial expression, is warmly lit in interior scenes and starkly weathered when out on the heath. Hinds also makes great use of cinematic visuals in moments of intense emotion. Lady Macbeth’s hand-washing scene, for instance, reveals her growing obsession as the panels fill with more and more hands. Hinds’ depiction of the Weird Sisters, moreover, include occult symbols from a wide variety of traditions, imbuing the trio with ominous timelessness. Though many lines of the original are intact, Hinds does undertake some changes to make this version more accessible to contemporary readers, and a closing note addresses those alterations. Students struggling to find an entry point into the Scottish play should look no further than this entertaining and elucidating volume. Along with Hinds’ earlier Beowulf (2007) and The Odyssey (2010), an essential addition to Shakespeare collections as well as curricular support materials. — Francisca Goldsmith
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review) -
Teachers and students alike can rejoice that Hinds has turned his considerable talent for graphic adaptation to the Scottish play. Here’s Macbeth as a handsome, well-formed warrior beckoned to madness and treason by his beautiful, scheming wife as she goads him to man up and embrace his destiny by any means necessary. In full-color panels with just the right amount of foregrounded detail, Hinds shows Macbeth’s triumph shading into tragedy through a subtle move from sunlit pastel backgrounds to ever-darkening scenes of paranoid horror. The three crones and other mystical elements are particularly effective in living color, as Hinds incorporates multicultural archetypes into the witches’ graphic presentation and manipulates hue, blurred panel edges, perspective, and ominous shadows as cryptic elements that highlight the shifts between reality and the many haunts of the play. A map and graphic organizer of the main characters front the blood-soaked narrative, and a full set of notes follows it, offering a brief account of Shakespeare’s likely source material and the liberties he took with it, a rationale for Hinds’ own abridgments and variations in the language of the text, and then detailed lessons on how to read the pictures for maximum uptake of the many codes and meanings therein. These notes are in and of themselves worth working into a unit on the play, since it is here that Hinds draws attention to the humor, pathos, allusions, and staging difficulties that an in-depth study will want to focus on anyway. This is an essential addition to Hinds’ growing library of engrossing adaptations and a must-have companion to Shakespeare’s original. -KC
The Horn Book
Whereas Romeo and Juliet received a striking makeover with a new setting and an ethnically diverse cast in Hinds’s graphic novel version (rev. 11/13), he has chosen to remain faithful to the original period and setting of Macbeth, owing to its basis in historical fact (one of the many interesting artistic choices that Hinds details in the back matter). A strange prophecy unleashes Macbeth’s dark ambitions, and he murders first to become king and then to stay on the throne. It’s a dark tale of power and greed, and Hinds effectively communicates in words and pictures the gist of the story. Using a muted palette of blacks, blues, browns, and grays, Hinds reserves his most vivid use of color for the supernatural elements and for the rivers of blood that flow in battle. This is the fourth Shakespeare play that Hinds has tackled and retold as a graphic novel, and while his faithfulness to the original language may prove a stumbling block for some young readers, in the end it provides an authentic and powerful entry point into the original play. - Jonathan Hunt
Kirkus - link
Following his adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and King Lear, Hinds turns to the story of the Scottish king who is ruined by his ambition. The play’s supernatural elements give Hinds the chance to bring some of Shakespeare’s eeriest imaginings to life. He paints the three weird sisters—a crone, a pagan goddess, and an African witch—perched on tree branches like crows. The ghost of Banquo sits down for dinner bathed in cool blue light that reddens as blood courses down his skin. Judicious abridging and even rewording make the text more accessible, yet Shakespeare’s language is preserved throughout. “What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?” Lady Macbeth cries as she tries frantically to clean her hands of blood, a moment whose intensity Hinds drives home with close-ups of dozens of hands rubbing each other, over and over. Such visceral, violent imagery is common—Hinds understands, as Shakespeare did, that sorcery and gore are powerful draws. Detailed endnotes provide “making-of” style details.
Publisher's Weekly - link
Having previously interpreted The Merchant of Venice (2008), King Lear (2009) and Romeo and Juliet (2013), Hinds turns his pencil to the Scottish Play.
In a palette that alternates between gloomy Highlands grays, greens and blues and firelight russets that modulate easily to blood, Hinds evinces a medieval Scottish setting, giving his graphic-novel production a traditional feel. Macbeth is darkly Celtic, Lady Macbeth a Gaelic redhead and Banquo a burly Norseman, neatly capturing Scotland’s ethnic mix. From an opening spread that combines a map and dramatis personae, the action plays out in Hinds’ characteristically clean and thoughtful panels, with Shakespeare’s language largely intact. Many lines have been cut, but those that remain preserve the feel of the original in diction and syntax, only a few words judiciously massaged. Perhaps the biggest change—the recasting of much of the play’s iambic pentameter into speech-bubble–friendly prose—is aurally almost indistinguishable from the original. Scenes that rely on acting rather than dialogue to carry meaning, such as Banquo’s murder, unfold lucidly, although the porter scene may mystify more than it amuses, Shakespearean humor being particularly reliant upon acting for its success. Copious backmatter, including seven pages of notes explaining various artistic and directorial choices, provides fascinating insight and will be particularly valuable in a classroom setting.
An adaptation both respectful and daring that should please all but the most ardent traditionalists.
CMU Children's Bookshelf (excerpt)
The illustrations, rendered in pencil, ink wash and digital media, are masterful. The artist shrouds some pictures in fog and shadows, some in red-hot emotions and others in the terror of madness. Facial expressions tell the story twice. The transformation of the face of Lady Macbeth from loving wife to aggressive murderess is astounding. - Sue Ann Martin
Reviews for Romeo and Juliet:
Romeo and Juliet is an official selection of the Junior Library Guild and is on the following best-of lists: 2014 IRA "Teacher’s Choices reading list", 2013 Kirkus "Best Books for Teens", 2014 YALSA "best graphic novels for teens", Bank Street Books 2014 "best books for young adults", Texas Library Association 2015 Maverick Graphic Novel List, Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California (ACL) 2013 Distinguished Books.
Kirkus (starred review) - link
Hinds as director, set designer and writer has expertly abridged the original text while embellishing it with modern sensibilities. His edition retains the flavor and poetry of the 1597 play and its memorable and oft-quoted dialogue. It is in the watercolor and digitally illustrated panels that he truly presents a stunning visual reading. Juliet and the Capulets are from India. Romeo and the Montagues are from Africa. Thus, the political rivalries of Verona become contemporary and more meaningful to 21st-century readers. The Capulets are dressed in reds and the Montagues in blue—all against the finely rendered lines of Verona’s buildings and Friar Laurence’s monastery. Beautiful shades of blue infuse the night sky as the two lovers swear their eternal devotion. The panels vary in size to control the pace of the plot. Sword fights pulse with energy and occasional karate thrusts for added drama. The most moving image—a double-page spread without words—is depicted from above in shades of gold and brown stained red with blood as Romeo and Juliet lie dead and immortalized in each other’s arms. As thrilling and riveting as any staging.
The Horn Book (starred review)
Cleaving to Shakespeare’s words and his dramatic arc, Hinds creates another splendid graphic novel, tracing each scene in taut, coherent, and expertly deployed dialogue. Hinds’s characters, in period array modified by a few more contemporary touches, are poignantly specific yet as universal as this tragic tale of young love demands. ... . Expertly pacing the drama with varied frames, often with sharp, action-propelling angles, Hinds explicates and amplifies Shakespeare’s story on every page, including wordless fight scenes that highlight pivotal details. ... From swirling action to subtly delineated emotion, he delivers the play’s essence and beauty, its glorious language, furious conflict, yearning love, and wrenching tragedy. This is not only a wonderfully accessible introduction to a full text or (better yet) theatrical production; it’s a visual delight for anyone.
- Joanna Rudge Long
The Wall Street Journal - link
Hinds has set the romantic tragedy of the star-crossed lovers in 16th-century Verona, as did Shakespeare, but takes the interesting liberty of portraying Romeo as black and Juliet as a brown-skinned Sikh. This approach gives an added poignancy to the enmity between their families. The night that the lovers secretly spend together is handled discreetly—parents take note—but there is no escaping the force of the heartbreaking ending. With its sumptuous colors and fealty to the original text, this sophisticated “comic” would suit any strong reader over the age of 12.
Reviews for Gifts From the Gods:
Publisher's Weekly (starred review) - link
Lunge-Larsen and Hinds explain what words like echo, grace, hypnotize, and janitor have in common, tracing the origins of common words and expressions to Greek and Roman myths. Readers may know that “arachnid” derives from the story of Arachne and that modern-day “sirens” have mythical antecedents, but this collection has plenty of surprises, too, such as the roots of “nemesis” (the goddess of justice) or “tantalize,” after doomed Tantalus. Lunge-Larsen provides additional context, including dictionary definitions, and quotes from children’s literature. Hinds incorporates graphic novel–style elements into his dynamic illustrations, including dialogue balloons and filmic perspectives. A treat for myth lovers and language lovers alike, this smart and well-executed compilation should provide readers with a deeper understanding of the ways in which language evolves and of the surprising symbolism behind certain words. Ages 9–12. (Oct.)
The New York Times Sunday Book Review - link
Gifts From the Gods, an inventive blend of glossary and anthology, provides a fine introduction to one of the Greeks’ enduring legacies: their impact on the English language. While American children are being introduced to foreign languages at increasingly young ages (Mandarin for toddlers being all the rage), they spend little time examining the etymological intricacies of their mother tongue, native or adopted. With stories that explain the Greek and Roman origins of certain words and expressions, the book gives children something different from the standard dumbed-down Edith Hamilton.
Beginning with “Achilles’ heel,” the book showcases 17 terms and accompanying stories of varying length to explain their origins in myth. The stories behind some words, like “arachnid” and “fate,” are relatively well known, but more obscure ones, like “panic” and “janitor” add to the child’s sense of discovery. (The latter is related to Janus, god of doorways, gates and bridges, for those left wondering.) This is the kind of rich but accessible reference work school librarians love. It’s also likely to stimulate fact-obsessed Percy Jackson fans as well as children who have been ordered to research their school papers offline.
The single off note is the quotation from various works of children’s literature that appears on the opening page of each entry. Most will be unknown to young readers and distract from what is already a high-concept, information-rich book. A table of contents is also curiously lacking. But this, along with the evocative graphic-novel-style illustrations by Gareth Hinds, makes the book feel more like play than work.
Lunge-Larsen introduces readers to 17 words and phrases whose origins can be traced to classical mythology. Using appropriate character names (depending on the Greek or Latin origins of words), she provides definitions, short excerpts from a children’s text that includes the term, longer retellings of the relevant myths, and follow-up discussions that incorporate related expressions. A few terms (Achilles’heel, Pandora’s box) have clear connections to mythology, but most (echo, fate, fortune, janitor, panic, tantalize) are less obvious. Hinds’ computer-enhanced pencil-and-watercolor illustrations appear on every page, depicting key moments from the tales and adding subtle details to the text: Leonardo da Vinci is shown painting the Mona Lisa in the section “Genius,” while Homer recites the opening lines from the Odyssey in “Muse.” Appended with author and illustrator notes, a bibliography, and a chart of the immortals (including Greek and Roman names and spheres of influence), this makes a good resource for mythology units, history classes, or English or Latin teachers hoping to perk up vocabulary lessons. — Kay Weisman
School Library Journal
Gr 3-7 – Mythology meets etymology in this handsome collection that introduces words derived from the gods, goddesses, and humans featured in Greek and Roman tales. From “Achilles’ Heel” to “Victory,” 17 terms are presented along with the stories of the characters that inspired their origins. Each section begins with a page containing a definition and a quote from a well-known children’s book that makes lively use of the featured word, all attractively bordered by a thematic frieze (round eyeballs for “Hypnotize” or emblems of the arts for “Muse”). Clearly and vividly written, the subsequent tales range in length from quick summations (a two-page entry for “Genius”) to more detailed recaps of myths (Arachne and Athena’s weave-off for “Arachnid”). Entries end with additional notes about the highlighted word and its uses and variations. Hinds’s pencil-and-watercolor illustrations have a classical feel, showing statuesque characters girded in golden armor or draped in graceful clothing, frightening beasts (the Furies, set against a crimson background, are particularly haunting with their dripping-with-blood eyes and batlike wings), and an array of human emotions. A thoughtful author’s note and a chart listing the Greek and Latin names for the characters are appended. The colorful artwork and brief chapters make this volume ideal for classroom sharing. Use this unique offering to launch a discussion about the elemental power of story and its influence on modern-day language. –Joy Fleishhacker
The Horn Book
From Achilles’ heel to victory, Lunge-Larsen explores how words have been derived from myths. Each several-page, alphabetically ordered entry begins with a definition of a modern English word plus a quote that incorporates it, from R. L. Stevenson and H. C. Andersen to James Marshall, Beverly Cleary, and Lemony Snicket (“The children were alone with their nemesis, a word which here means, ‘The worst enemy you could imagine’”). Next comes the relevant myth, along with graphic novel-style art, its pencil and watercolor renditions enlivening the straightforward text with eloquent gestures and expressions. Each section includes comments on related words (e.g., from the Graces—gratia in Latin—come gracious and grateful, while the names of the Fates have generated such diverse descendants as stamina and mortal). The classic tales and lively art make an effective lure to etymology’s more dramatic possibilities; how it all works is made clearer in an author’s note followed up with a chart of “correspondences” (Greek and Latin names plus their definitions) and an index to all the names and words (well over one hundred) that are referenced. A lengthy bibliography interfiles standard works for adults (Bulfinch) and young people (D’Aulaires). —Joanna Rudge Long
The complexity of language, from what we say and what we mean when we say it, hearkens back to the stories of the past. Lunge-Larsen shows clearly how this happens as she outlines how the origin and meaning of thirteen different words are strongly based in Greek and Roman mythology. Beginning with the word, its definition, and a quote from a modern children’s book, she then very clearly describes the mythology behind the word. This book is very simple but packs a lot of punch, with to-the-point information that draws from history, mythology, and linguistics. Sure to attract language arts teachers who want students to master word origins, this work will also hold strong appeal for teens who will be attracted by the combination of clever text and exceptional illustrations. Hinds has honed his craft though the creation of many outstanding graphic novels, and this volume’s layout pays homage to that form with the use of speech bubbles and illustrations of various sizes. Because of this, the work reads more like a comic than an informational text, a feature that will draw teens in and keep them in so they will forget they are actually learning something.
A prime selection for both school and public libraries, this book will be suitable for classroom use as well as personal reading. From the familiar to the unusual, readers will be able to see these myths and the language they created in an interesting new light. —Rachel Wadham.
NY Journal of Books - link
From “Achilles’ heel” to “victory,” the author’s clean, simple format involves displaying the illustrator’s sharply designed frame for each term, introduced on its own page with the preferred pronunciation and definitions. Spicing up those dry details is a superbly chosen excerpt from children’s literature.
Accompanying the story of how the Furies, the three goddesses of vengeance, punish the murderers of two women, is Mr. Hinds’ full-page drawing of the goddesses, with their gruesome, gouged eyes; snakes clasped about their waists, and a whip in one’s hand. In the spot illustration on the following page, the goddesses have transformed into black bats swooping down to torture the evil men. The feature closes with Ms. Lunge-Larsen pointing out how words such as “infuriate,” “furious,” and “furor” come from the same root.
With this attractive, energetically illustrated volume, middle-school readers will gain a better understanding of how such commonly used words as “echo,” “grace,” and “muse” originated with the classical myths. Educators can use it as a classroom supplement for units on Greek and Roman mythology.
Reviews for The Odyssey:
The Odyssey has received four starred reviews, from Booklist, The Horn Book, Kirkus, and BCCB. But if you're a teacher, this customer review from BarnesandNoble.com may be the best possible recommendation:
"I am an English teacher and most of my students are low level learners. The Odyssey is part of my curriculum, but many of my students really struggle with the text. This book is a God send!!!It is extremely well written and stays spot on with the original text. The illustrations are fantastic and engaging. My students LOVED reading the Odyssey and did SO much better with their unit test (which I did not change at all from the one I use with the regular text). This book is a delight!"
Booklist (starred review)
"As the proliferation of recent Odyssey graphic novelizations approaches the record held by Shakespeare adaptations, it is perhaps appropriate that Hinds, the Bard’s premiere sequential adapter, should produce the most lavish retelling of Homer yet. Showing great artistic evolution since his rough-and-tumble Beowulf (2007), Hinds lets the epic story take its time, with a slow build and pages that aren’t afraid to alternate packed dialogue with titanic action. The sumptuous art, produced with grain, texture, and hue, evokes a time long past while detailing every line and drop of sweat on Odysseus’ face and conveying the sheer grandeur of seeing a god rise out of the ocean. Teens may be baffled by the hero’s commitment to the same pantheon of gods who heap trouble in his path, but they will not lose touch with the universal qualities of steadfastness that Odysseus still embodies. The mythic trials have seldom felt more grueling or genuine, and this makes a perfect pairing with Tim Mucci and Ben Caldwell’s adaptation for a slightly younger audience from the All-Action Classics series, affording a chance to see how an archetypal story can function so powerfully at both the realistic and the stylized ends of the artistic spectrum. A grand example of Hinds’ ability to combine historical adventure with human understanding. — Jesse Karp
Kirkus (starred review) - link
Hinds adds another magnificent adaptation to his oeuvre (King Lear, 2009, etc.) with this stunning graphic retelling of Homer’s epic. Following Odysseus’s journey to return home to his beloved wife, Penelope, readers are transported into a world that easily combines the realistic and the fantastic. Gods mingle with the mortals, and not heeding their warnings could lead to quick danger; being mere men, Odysseus and his crew often make hasty errors in judgment and must face challenging consequences. Lush watercolors move with fluid lines throughout this reimagining. The artist’s use of color is especially striking: His battle scenes are ample, bloodily scarlet affairs, and Polyphemus’s cave is a stifling orange; he depicts the underworld as a colorless, mirthless void, domestic spaces in warm tans, the all-encircling sea in a light Mediterranean blue and some of the far-away islands in almost tangibly growing greens. Don’t confuse this hefty, respectful adaptation with some of the other recent ones; this one holds nothing back and is proudly, grittily realistic rather than cheerfully cartoonish. Big, bold, beautiful.
The Horn Book (starred review)
A graphic-novel adapter of The Merchant of Venice (rev. 7/08) turns his hand to an adventure that still towers over its descendants-rather as Hinds's powerful jacket image of a vengeful Poseidon looms over the home-seeking voyager who was hounded around the Mediterranean by the sea god. Citing classic translations of The Odyssey as sources (from Chapman to Fagles, with a special nod to Fitzgerald) but using only a dozen or so actual quotes from their work, Hinds retells Homer's epic in pictures plus a judicious minimum of words, sticking to the original intricate, twenty-four-chapter order with its flashbacks, multiple narrators, bloody climax (the massacre of Penelope's suitors), and peaceful, god-decreed conclusion. Brief as the text of this graphic version is (many spreads are nearly wordless), it makes an accessible and effective complement to the dramatic pencil and watercolor art that explicates and interprets the story. A timeless long-ago past comes alive in these images of gods and heroes, monsters and enchantresses; of mayhem, lovemaking, and touching reunions-all arrayed in frames whose shape, number, and palette expertly pace and propel the story. As introduction, outline, illustration, and visual translation, a worthy companion to its great predecessors. - Joanna Rudge Long
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review) - link
"The depth of the dialog, the outstanding individuation of the characters, and the patient and lovingly developed flow between frames--often in wordless stretches--make the work accessible. Hinds' delicate pencil lines and softly blended watercolors coax an amazing variety of moods and settings from the sandy beiges and sea blues dictated by the Mediterranean milieu."
Publisher's Weekly - link (bottom of page)
"One of the oldest and most often retold literary classics is faithfully recreated in watercolors and pastels. Hinds, who has previously adapted Beowulf and several Shakespeare plays in comics format, uses different translations as a basis for his adaptation, trimming the text but keeping all the events of Odysseus' journey home from the Trojan War. The adaptation is most impressive in its ability to convey the despair, anguish, and joy of the characters in a sudden, striking way that text alone can't, pulling these familiar figures out from a thousands–year-old story and presenting the reader with human faces. Hinds's watercolor landscapes of the Greek coast, islands, and mountains are another strong point. But seeing the characters as they exchange archaic dialogue emphasizes its stilted and unnatural quality. And in some sections, particularly in early exposition, the text is so plentiful it crowds out the art. Still, Hinds has created a work that both honors the epic's long tradition and helps readers see these characters in a new light."
The Wall Street Journal - link
Gareth Hinds's The Odyssey does genuine justice to Homer's epic poem. With spare language taken principally from the translations by Robert Fitzgerald and Robert Fagles, and with intricate pencil and watercolor illustrations, Mr. Hinds re-creates Odysseus' turbulent voyage across "the wine-dark sea" from the ruins of Troy to the island of Ithaca and his long-suffering wife, Penelope. It is a violent and thrilling Bronze Age journey. Supported by the goddess Athena and sabotaged by the god Poseidon, Odysseus makes his way homeward past such obstacles as the man-eating sirens and the twin terrors of sea-sucking Scylla and six-headed Charybdis.
This version of "The Odyssey" is an excellent adjunct for teenagers and adults who have already read the original. (In fact, reading graphic novels after the original is a good general policy.) One caveat: Odysseus was catnip to the ladies, and though Mr. Hinds depicts the hero's romantic encounters with restraint, the meaning of certain panels is hard to miss and may be disconcerting for younger readers. Also, there is no avoiding the gore. The "age of gods and monsters" was, after all, soaked in it.
- Meghan Cax Gurdon
School Library Journal - link (partway down the page)
Taking a world-famous epic poem and adapting it into a graphic-novel format for modern readers is certainly an enormous endeavor. But since Hinds already performed the same feat quite admirably with Beowulf (Candlewick, 2007) he has proven himself more than capable of the task. To sum up the classic story: Odysseus tries to get home after the Trojan War, but many obstacles are thrown in his way, and many people, creatures, and gods try to stop him. His men are loyal on the one hand, yet bad at following critical orders on the other, which results in even more delays. Meanwhile, his faithful wife Penelope waits for him while fending off scores of impatient suitors. Luckily for Odysseus, he does have a few supporters, including the goddess Athena. Hinds’s beautiful watercolors skillfully capture the rosy-fingered dawn, the wine-dark sea, the land of the dead, and many other settings and characters that will inspire readers. This adaptation goes far above and beyond the “highlights” coverage that other versions such as Tim Mucci’s The Odyssey (Sterling, 2010) provide. Hinds’s work will be a welcome addition for fans of Homer’s original work and for newcomers to this classic story. –Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
Reviews for The Merchant of Venice:
Kirkus (starred review)
"Of late, there have been many unsuccessful attempts to adapt Shakespeare into the graphic-novel format; Hinds's beautiful new offering now sets the standard that all others will strive to meet. Presenting readers with deftly drawn characters (based on live models) and easily read dialogue that modulates over the course of the work from adapted prose to the original Shakespeare, he re-works the classic Shakespeare play of deception, greed and revenge. Though located in a modern setting, readers will easily follow the premise and find themselves lost in the intricately lovely Venetian backdrop. While this adaptation may leave purists sniffing at the omission of entire scenes and characters, Hinds carefully explains to his readers in a note why and how he made those choices. A deceptively simple graphic novel on the surface, this volume begs for multiple readings on a closer level, at the same time acting as a wonderful introduction to the original. Easily on a par with his stellar adaptation of Beowulf (2007), it's a captivating, smartly executed work."
Publishers Weekly - link
Fans of the play will find this an intriguing adaptation. Hinds sets his version in modern dress and dramatically edits the text to the basics while keeping the Shakespearean flavor of the dialogue (increasingly as the book goes on). The coloring in shades of slate blue and pale gray gives it an antique patina that's counterbalanced by the way Hinds leaves construction lines visible. That makes it feel like reading someone's unpolished sketchbook, as though the characters were observed, not created. It's always a benefit to see Shakespeare acted out, to make the universal situations clear to the modern viewer, and that benefit extends to the graphic medium, especially when the characters have a sense of motion, as here. Some aspects of the original are still discomforting; Hinds is faithful to the play in its treatment of the bloodthirsty, money-hungry Shylock, and some readers may be put off by the inclusion of lines such as “you may be pleased to collect whatever usurious interest pleases your Jew heart.” An author's note encourages further research on that matter and clarifies some of Hinds's creative decisions.
Reviews for King Lear:
Booklist (starred review) - link
"Having kicked off the recent outpouring of graphic-format Beowulf adaptations, Hinds now contributes to the similarly enthusiastic flood of graphic-format Shakespeare adaptations with an excellent rendition of one of the bard’s great tragedies. Using splash pages that open up the settings, washes of otherworldly colors, grotesquely expressive faces right out of William Blake, and figural work much improved from his previous effort, Hinds occasionally attains a visual poetry that marked the painful betrayals, the epic scope of the battles, and Lear’s seething madness. Even abridged (with helpful endnotes about many of the excised passages), the story and language here can seem intimidatingly dense, but the artwork keeps the exposition moving, and comic-book sound effects (“thwok!”) and expletives (“unh . . .”) paradoxically add a gritty realism. The most effective parts of the book are the dramatic ones, and most memorable are the grisly eye-plucking scene, a supernaturally eerie storm scene, and two cracking good sword duels. For powerful drama with quality art, this adaptation is the one to choose." — Jesse Karp
Reviews for Beowulf:
The New York Times Book Review - link
"...graphic novelist Gareth Hinds has reimagined “Beowulf” as a kind of superhero tale... great stretches of this “Beowulf” take place with no words at all, except the occasional “SMASH,” “SSWACK” and “SKUTCHLP.” Hinds stages great fight scenes, choreographing them like a kung-fu master and then drawing them from a variety of vantage points, with close-ups, wide angles and aerial views. In its way, the result is as visceral as the Old English, which was consciously onomatopoeic, and by changing his palette for each of the poem’s three sections he evokes its darkening rhythm."
Publishers Weekly - link
"The king of heroic epics gets a lavish visual interpretation in Hinds's full-color mixed-media gem.... Hinds's angular perspectives and unusual color palettes (dark, ruddy colors, deep burgundy blood, and not a ray of sunshine in sight) lend the book an almost overwhelming sense of menace...an ideal introduction to a story without which the entire fantasy genre would look very different."
School Library Journal - link
"This epic tale is exceptionally well suited to the episodic telling necessary for a successful graphic novel, as the warrior-hero fights Grendel, Grendel's mother, and, ultimately, the dragon that claims his life, and (in true comic-book fashion) each challenge is significantly more difficult and violent than the one before. Although greatly abridged and edited, the text maintains a consistent rhythm and overall feel appropriate for the poetic nature of the story. Hinds's version will make this epic story available to a whole new group of readers." ©2007 Reed Business Information
"Pairing art from an earlier, self-published edition to a newly adapted text, Hinds retells the old tale as a series of dark, bloody, chaotic clashes. Here Grendel is a glaring, black monster with huge teeth, corded muscles and a tendency to smash or bite off adversaries' heads; the dragon is all sinuous viciousness; and Beowulf, mighty of thew, towers over his fellow Geats. The narrative, boxed off from the illustrations rather than incorporated into them, runs to lines like, "Bid my brave warriors O Wiglaf, to build a lofty cairn for me upon the sea-cliffs . . . " and tends to disappear when the fighting starts. Because the panels are jumbled together on the page, the action is sometimes hard to follow, but this makes a strongly atmospheric alternative to the semi-abstract Beowulf, the Legend, by Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, illus by Andy Lee (2006), or the more conventionally formatted version of Michael Morpurgo, with pictures by Michael Foreman (2006). (Graphic fiction. 12-15)"
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
"In 1999, Hinds self-published a three-issue mini-series of comics based on the classic epic poem Beowulf. He then self-published a collection of the three issues under the title The Collected Beowulf (thecomic.com, 2000). Even if a library is lucky enough to own the self-published original, purchasing this new edition is worth the cost. Both the self-published and new editions feature Hinds's fabulously detailed, action-filled artwork. The illustrations for each section of the story are created differently. The first section features Photoshopped pen-and-ink drawings, the second paint on wood, and the third black wash over black ink. This gives each section a distinct feel. The difference between the two editions lies in the text. For his self-published edition, Hinds based his text on the 1910 verse translation by Francis Gummere and included a glossary of unfamiliar terms. For the new edition, Hinds creates a new text based on the 1904 prose translation by A. J. Church. Both include all three sections of Beowulf's story as he fights Grendel, Grendel's mother, and finally the dragon that kills him. This blood-drenched, battle-packed story of one of the first superheroes is sure to interest a new generation. It is being released just in time to be useful as a page-turning introduction to the classic epic poem before the Neil Gaiman movie adaptation is released in fall 2008."
"There is a scene in Gareth Hinds's Beowulf when our hero dives into a lake to battle a monster. As the warriors at the lake's edge watch, horrified, the waters turn blood-red. Beowulf bursts to the surface, severed sword held high, the monster's decapitated head clenched between his teeth by the hair of its scalp. It's an intense image in a graphic novel rife with haunting imagery. To recap: Beowulf is an epic poem in three parts. The first part is about a troll-creature named Grendel, who kills and eats all who dare dwell within a certain hall. One day a hero named Beowulf swears that he will kill Grendel without arms or armor; he keeps his oath by using his great strength to rip Grendel's arm off. In the second part, Beowulf enters the lair of Grendel's mother (located at the bottom of a lake) and kills her. The third part takes place years later, when Beowulf is a king. A dragon terrorizes his people, forcing the aged warrior (the entire third book is colored in gray) to don his battle gear one last time. Beowulf kills the dragon, at the cost of his life. I have read a number of graphic adaptations of classic literature, but I've never seen one as visually impressive as Hinds's Beowulf. This graphic novel collects the three issues self-published by the author. The language of the poem—which is quite complex—has been contemporized, and the art is gorgeous: Hinds has an extensive knowledge of human anatomy and color, which he puts to good use. The fight scenes are well choreographed; it is obvious that the author has martial arts training. Beowulf contains some bloody fight sequences and may be too intense for younger readers; highly recommended for all collections."
University of Iowa - link
"Larger-than-life deeds, terrifying monsters and epic battles lend themselves perfectly to the graphic novel format as Gareth Hinds adapts the tale of the great hero BEOWULF (Candlewick Press, 2007) for a new generation.... This version of Beowulf will engage reluctant readers as well as allow students who struggle with verse translations an opportunity to understand the tale in a new way. The artwork is glorious and powerful, yet not overly graphic in ways that would make it inappropriate for readers as young as 5th or 6th grade. Hinds' BEOWULF would be a terrific companion to the classic translations often studied in high school British Literature courses."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This graphic-novel presentation of the traditional three-part tale of Beowulf gives young readers the Geatish warrior as the hypermuscular, hard-hitting proto-comic-book superhero he's always been. Grim, rugged faces stare out of action-packed spreads peppered with realistic black blood spatters and onomatopoeic fight grunts as the monsters chomp on various warrior appendages and our hero kicks, rips, and thwangs his various enemies into grisly submission and death. Hinds manages his palette to good effect, sticking mainly to sepia and burnt umber in the mead hall and teals for under the sea, so that the occasional punctuations of flame and the stark blackness of the monsters really stand forth, and the dusky purples of the final chapter lead readers visually into Beowulf's shadowlands. The text, though colloquial, remains a challenging read, as it retains the archaic rhythms and bardic vocabulary of the heroic epic; the adapter clearly provides history and some character-developing storytelling to establish the encounters, but leaves the fight scenes unencumbered with any text at all, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the flesh-ripping violence. The final chapter may be a little confusing for those not familiar with the story, but attentive observers will be able to follow the main plot through the pictures and will ponder over the thematics of including a distant cityscape, complete with suspiciously familiar twin towers, as a backdrop to Hrothgar's warning that Beowulf use his God-given gifts -- fame, fortune, the power to command an empire -- wisely and without arrogance, and remain ever mindful that death awaits us all. With treatments like this available, honors English may never be the same. KC"
Globe and Mail
"According to the author's note that prefaces this rendering of the epic poem, the exact date of the composition of Beowulf is not known. But the most probable date "is thought to be around 700 to 850 AD. And yet, it still resonates today, and indeed has much in common with our modern superhero stories."
And resonate it does, in this graphic version, a potent blend of a minimal amount of text based on the 1904 translation by A. J. Church, and dramatic artwork that, frame by frame, tells this age-old tale in a new and visually thrilling way. "This," Hinds writes, "is a colloquial translation, and we have attempted to strike a balance between easy readability and the poetic drama in our favourite verse translation."
The textual matter is admirable, no doubt of that, but for readers who have cut their teeth on Spiderman comics, it is the painted frames that unfold - often in a jagged, discordant fashion - to tell this age-old tale of the mortal wounding of Grendel, that beguile and astound. Superhuman strength, moral and physical courage, slaughter and gore are painted large across these pages."
BlogCritics - link
"Interestingly, the book traces Beowulf's life in just two events, in both cases dealing with monsters that are troubling his friends or his people. In the first half, he is full of vigor, confidence and agility and is able to easily take on monsters at will. In the second half, though regal, he is old and doubts if he will return alive from the dragon's lair. Hinds...is able to make us aware of the fickle nature of life using the story of the rise and fall of even a great, mythical warrior. He evokes wonder and pity for the same character by judicious use of imagery that will stay with us long after we have put down the book."
CommonSense Media family book reviews - link
"Beowulf is a grim and gruesome story, and artist Gareth Hinds has produced a graphic novel to match.... A visceral yet accessible treatment...."
"Hinds has done a phenomenal job of expressing the sinister aura of the text, and refining what is essentially one of the greatest sagas of the Dark Ages into a very exciting, very atmospheric comic... fusing offbeat visual effects into the story flow: astronomical charts stand in for the night sky, the agonized cries from hand-to-hand combat appear as floating scrolls in the sky, and decapitations at Grendel’s hand are depicted as running ink smears."
Scott McCloud (author of Understanding Comics)
"...a nice distillation of the energy of modern american comics without any of the annoying artifacts."