This book retells the fascinating story from Greek mythology of Persephone, the lovely daughter of the Earth Goddess Demeter, who attracted the eye of Hades, King of the Underworld. Hades decided Persephone should be his queen, so he scooped her up and took her down to his kingdom.
Persephone was depressed, and Demeter was angry. The daughter wouldn’t eat, and the mother caused the earth to freeze up and bear no plants. For a whole year, nothing grew:
“It was a year of hunger and misery. It was winter all the time. No one recognized the Great Goddess [Demeter], wrapped in her cloak, weeping and waiting for the world to die of hunger.”
Zeus, like many men, took a while to notice anything was different, and when he did, he sent his messenger Hermes down to Hades to retrieve Persephone.
Hades agreed to let her go, but asked Persephone to eat something first to have the strength to return. In this retelling, she takes three pomegranate seeds. (Other versions have her eating six seeds.)
In any event, she was allowed to return, but she had to go back to be with Hades for three months of the year – one for every seed she had eaten. When she was back in Hades, winter would come to the Earth, and when she returned, Demeter once again was happy, and Earth once again bore fruit.
English Illustrator (and sculptor) Virginia Lee uses lovely watercolors to depict the splendor of the Greek Gods and the changing emotions of the main actors in this story. (Her speciality is mythology, and she worked on the movie set of “Lord of the Rings.”) She does some amazing fantastical work that you can see on her blog, here.
Evaluation: The story of Persephone has a lot of appeal, and will no doubt inspire many questions from young readers (recommended for ages 7-10) about origin stories, mythology generally, and even morality.
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009