Friday, December 10, 2010
REVIEW: Medusa Jones--Read it or fear being turned to stone
Appetizer: Medusa Jones is teased and bullied by the champions at her school. She just wants to be normal, but having snakes on your head pretty much makes that impossible. And no matter how much she begs, her parents won't let her turn the bullies to stone. (Annoying parents.)
Along with her friends and fellow outsiders, Chiron and Mino, Medusa must go on a camping trip with the Champions on Mount Olympus. The question is, will they all return?
The setting of Medusa Jones is this anachronistic version of Athens, Greece that has schools and newspapers and suburban looking home but everyone also wanders around wearing togas and the Greek gods and heroes are big in the news. On top of that, Collins seemed to choose his good and bad guys among the characters of myth in what seemed to be a willy-nilly fashion. Sure both Medusa and Mino the Minotaur are traditionally "bad guys" who deserve redemption, but generally Chiron the centaur is perceived as a good guy and teacher. It was interesting to see the traditional heroes (Theseus and Perseus) portrayed as bullies, but I was a little sad to see Cassandra in their number, since I see her as a kind of tortured hero who wouldn't be a bully. (I could see her going goth as opposed to popular and petty.)
It also took awhile for the actual plot of the story to develop. The camping aspect wasn't introduced until about half way. I found myself wishing that Medusa's friends had been introduced sooner. Collins first shows Medusa going through a miserable week seemingly on her own. Her friends are introduced on the weekend, then on Monday *surprise* her friends do attend the same school, her teacher is Medea and they're going camping. I wanted more cohesion! (Was that a very long ramble to get to my point? It kind of feels like it was.)
I also wasn't too crazy about the ending. It felt like the punch line of a joke.
Don't let my criticisms get you down though. I found Medusa Jones to be very fun. The illustrations were a nice touch. Here are some examples:
I did have a little trouble pegging down the age appropriateness of the book. It has plenty of illustrations (completed by the author) and it reads like an early chapter book, great for about second grade, but every now and then there's some advanced vocabulary (like gorgeous, pessimistic, deficiencies, etc.). Because of that, I'd probably use the book as a one-on-one read aloud so the child would have access to all the pictures, but wouldn't be on his or her own for sounding out the difficult words.
"Pleeeaase can I turn them to stone?" Medusa begged.
"It's not the polite thing to do, dear," said MEdusa's mom.
"They're not polite," Medusa said. "They were mean about my hair again today."
"Sticks and stones, Medusa," said Medusa's mom. "You can't go turning everyone who's mean about your hair to stone."
"Gran did," Medusa scowled.
"Gran is insane and lives in a cave" (p. 3).
"The Champions always stood at the school gates in the morning. They got up early each and every day. Brushed their shiny white teeth, which would be just as shiny and bright if they never saw toothpaste. Put on their dazzlingly white chitons and got to school before everyone else. The Champions considered it their duty to remind everyone of their deficiencies firs thing in the morning" (p. 14).
"What'll we do?" Chiron asked. "We have to go look," said Medusa. She amazed herself even as she said it.
"Why?" Mino asked. "They wouldn't cross the road to help us."
"I know," Medusa answered. "But we're not them, and we can't just sit here and listen to that [screaming]. It's awful" (p. 103).
Tasty Rating: !!!