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Friday, October 3, 2014

Review and Interview: Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of Hades Speaks

I'm dying (see what I did there?!) to share my interview with Vicky Alvear Shecter and my review with y'all today...

Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead
(Secrets of the Ancient Gods series)
by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Boyds Mills Press

Hades, god of the dead, welcomes readers on a dangerous tour of his underworld kingdom, filled with monsters, furies, giants, and vampire demons. Along the way, he reveals ancient death rites and sinister curses, tells hair-raising stories, and cracks jokes to die for. With his witty voice and ghoulish sense of humor, Hades is the perfect guide through this fresh and imaginative work of nonfiction that reads like a novel. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and index.

In Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead, author Vicky Alvear Shecter takes readers on a wildly entertaining and captivating journey through the Underworld. Narrated by Hades himself, the snarktastic God explores not only his fiery realm, but offers an informative glimpse into many aspects of Greek myths and legends.

Though Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead is considered non-fiction, it reads very much like an exciting, twists and turns filled middle-grade adventure. Full of fascinating facts, spellbinding myths, laugh-out-loud humor, and sparkling writing, this is a completely addictive and charming book. Vicky Alvear Shecter lays out the Underworld in rich, vivid details, exploring every nook and cranny, sharing fun myths and facts along the way. Young readers will be simply mesmerized by this complex world and its unforgettable inhabitants. The Greek myths and figures introduced are explored in age-appropriate ways while keeping all the over-the-top, stunning, startling, sometimes wacky elements intact. Hades makes for a highly amusing narrator with his snarky, irresistible humor. I loved every moment of my time with this underrated god!

I’m a huge Greek mythology fan and found myself completely enthralled by the fantastical stories Hades spins. Young readers will have so much fun reading Hades Speaks, but they will also learn a great deal as well. I found the glossary especially informative and handy!

My Final Thoughts: Bursting with humor, fantastical myths, creatures, and stories, and a pitch-perfect voice, young and old readers alike will gobble this fun book up! Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead is perfect for younger readers interested in Greek mythology and for Percy Jackson fans.


What three words best describe your book, Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead?

Funny, Factual, Fun.

Grab a copy of Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead and answer the following:

favorite chapter/section?

The second chapter—“Welcome to the Land of the Dead”—because that’s where we meet all the ghoulish, gross, scary specters of death that Hades introduces to the reader so casually.

favorite page?

Page 32, “Beans, Beans are Good For Your Soul” section. Here Hades talks about the Greek philosopher Pythagoras who believed people came back reincarnated as beans (!).  Hades ends that section with, “How can you not love a guy who stuck to his beliefs even when people in his own time thought they didn’t amount to a hill of beans.”

favorite illustration?

Oh, man, that one is tough. I love illustrator Jesse Larson’s work. I’m partial to page 44 showing the twin gods—Thanatos, the god of death and Hypnos, the god of sleep. But I also love the one on page 72—Hades talking to the giant Cyclopes, the one-eyed guardian giant and brother to the Hekatonkheires, the hundred-armed guards of Tartaros. 

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:

p. 59:  “Follow me into my great hall where we decide the fates of the dead. What fun!”

Why did you choose to explore the Underworld of Greek mythology? What drew you to this fascinating place? Was it hard writing about this place and the many myths, beings, and legends introduced, in a way that is both accessible and entertaining to a younger audience?

Hades Speaks! is the second in the “Secrets of the Ancient Gods” series. Anubis Speaks! started it off with a tour of the ancient Egyptian afterworld and the river of darkness that Ra traveled every night. Exploring the cultures’ beliefs about death and evil is a great way to get into the heart of what a people believed about gods, justice, and evil. Plus, it’s fascinating and fun.

I didn’t find it hard because I love mythology so much! I love the outrageousness, the humor, the what-the-hell-like quality of so many of these stories. I write about them in the way that I view them—as funny, fascinating entertainment.

Can you tell us a bit about your snarktastic tour guide, Hades? What sets him apart from the other Greek Gods? What do you love most about him?

Poor Hades! He was the first-born son—he came first, then Poseidon, then Zeus. So by all rights, he should’ve gotten control of most of the world. Instead, his wily baby brother did. He is stuck with the underworld and is not happy about it. I wrote him in this way because it’s kind of funny to imagine the gods struggling with sibling rivalry. Plus, most kids can relate to having an aggravating sibling, so it gives them an entry point into his story.

Out of all the sections of the Underworld explored in this book, do you have a favorite?

I don’t have a specific section that is my favorite, but I particularly enjoy Hades’s ongoing exasperation with Herakles (Hercules), the son of his baby brother, Zeus. His irritation with that “muscle-head” runs throughout the book because Herakles keeps coming into the Underworld and ignoring Hades’s rules about entering and leaving his domain. Worse, Herakles stole his three-headed doggie once, killed one of his cattle, and snuck into his palace several times. His outrage over his cheekiness was fun to write. 

What are your three favorite myths or beings explored in Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead?

Oh, that’s a tough one. One of my favorite myths is the story of Orpheus. That one is always a heartbreaker. I also love the story of Tantalus and his particular punishment in Tartaros. I also love “The Immortality Barbecue” story about how the Eleusinian Mysteries began because the story is so reminiscent of an ancient Egyptian myth of Isis, that it seemed clear to me that the Greek story likely evolved from the more ancient Egyptian one. 

If you could meet and spend the day with ANY one of the other Greek gods/goddesses/demi-gods/etc, who would you choose? What would you do with them?

I’d choose Poseidon! And I’d ask him to give me a tour of his underwater realm so I could swim with dolphins and whales and play with giant waves.

Can you tell us a bit about the other two books you’ve written in this series?

Anubis Speaks!, as mentioned earlier, is similar in that it focuses on a tour of the death practices and afterworld of Egyptian mythology. The next book in the series, Thor Speaks, is different in that Thor gives the reader a tour of all of the Nordic realms, not just the underworld. It was a lot of fun to research and write.

Fill in the blanks:

I’m really awesome at Reading!
I’m really embarrassed to admit That I procrastinate so regularly!
The last great book I read was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Also 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

It would be all dark chocolate for the darkness of his realm, possible edged with bittersweet chocolate shavings. But it would also have a soft, squishy, sweet center because all Hades wants is to get as much respect and attention as his brothers. He’d probably like for it to be called, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” since he hardly gets any!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Aeicha! This was so much fun!

You are very welcome, Vicky! And thank YOU for stopping by :)

Vicky Alvear Shecter wishes she had a time machine to go back to the glory days of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Until she can find one, she writes about the famous and fabulous lives of the ancients and their gods instead. She is also a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University.

1 comment:

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks for having me on your scrumptious blpg, Aeicha!