The Iliad, by Homer, retold by Gillian Cross, illustrated by Neil Packer; Candlewick Press, $19.99 160 pages, ages 9 and up.
Rediscover Homer’s epic poem that pitted the ancient Greeks against the fearsome Trojans in this superb retelling of The Iliad by Carnegie Medalist Gillian Cross, who also refitted the Odyssey for a younger audience. Cross has managed to take this daunting work and wrangle a fluid and enjoyable version full of action and adventure. The book opens with helpful a character map and concludes with the Greek alphabet and an appendix dedicated to discussing whether or not the Iliad was based on a true story. Illustrator Neil Packer, who collaborated on Cross’s Odyssey (2012), returns here to render the scope of human emotions with his instantly recognizable gouache and pen and wash art. (His work ought to be familiar to Folio Society fans: previous commissions for that publishing house include Umberto Eco’s The Name of The Rose (2001) and 2004s illustrated version of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.) Here, Greeks and Trojans locked in eternal battle are rendered in bold colors and appear as if they’ve been plucked directly from some ancient amphora, and it’s wonderful. (Readers interested in seeing Packer’s art for themselves can do so through October 24 at the Illustration Cupboard in London.) Printed in a large-format volume, this Iliad is a welcome addition to the picture-book world, filling the void between overly sanitized editions and those with blood practically oozing from the binding. A masterful gift for the ages.