For young fans of Greek mythology, here is a diverting series that puts a fresh spin on the world of gods and monsters. The Pig Scrolls (2005) and The Pig Who Saved the World (2006), by Paul Shipton, tell the story of Gryllus, who sailed with Odysseus home from the Trojan War, and who was turned into a pig by Circe the enchantress. When all his shipmates were transformed back, Gryllus hid in the woods. After all, life as a pig was somehow more satisfying--sun on the back, tasty treats, low expectations--than the nasty and brutish humanity of his former life.
But sometimes even a pig can become caught up in adventure, and this is what happens to Gryllus when his path crosses that of Sybil, a desperate young oracle-in-training commanded by Apollo to find the talking pig. She's desperate with good reason--something strange is happening on Mount Olympus, and the followers of Thanatos (aka Death) are gaining in strength. Joined by a rather odd goatherd (nicknamed Bumscruff by Gryllus) the trio sets out to journey to Delphi and save the world. Beset by monsters at (not quite) every turn, and regarded much too hungrily by Epicurius and his cohort (who have never had the chance to eat talking pig before) it's a bit much for our porcine hero. But at the end he finds it in himself to save the world....
In the his second adventure, Gryllus and Sibyl are off to find Circe--the pig is ready to be human again. But once more, they are plunged into mythological mayhem. With the severed, yet still sentient, head of Orpheus in tow, and accompanied by Tithonus (in the grasshopper stage of his eternal life) they must escape from Cyclopses and sea monsters to defeat a new danger to the cosmos. Can a rather pie-obsessed pig be a hero once again?
Light-hearted and fast-paced, these are very entertaining books. Gryllus' narrative, filled with introspective asides about what a pig wants, and snarky commentary about this, that, and the other, held my attention nicely. He is something of an anti-hero--it's pretty much a given that he'd rather run than fight. And from this comes the emotional tension of the stories, because as he and Sybil go through repeated trials and tribulations, it's clear that in spite of his continued displeasure with heroics, Gryllus is growing up, and putting aside piggish things. It's never a given that Gryllus will do the brave thing, or even do his best, but, at the end, he manages to come through....Sybil, on the other hand, has spunk and brains for two.
Age-wise, this is just fine for older middle grade kids on up, and a rather fun read for grown-ups too! (Especially the second book, which I thought was tighter. And I liked the Cyclopses lots).
(disclaimer: review copies received from the publisher, Candlewick)