Book Review: Aleta and the Queen by Priscilla Galloway, illustrated by Normand Cousineau

Aleta and the Queen is a tale of ancient Greece, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.

Odysseus, the King of Ithaca, husband of Penelope and father of Telemachus, has been gone for nearly twenty years.  He left to go fight the Trojans with the rest of the Greek kings, albeit reluctantly, and the war itself lasted ten years.  However, the journey home was much longer than he anticipated.  His faithful wife has no idea what could have kept him away, but she believes that he is not dead and will come back to Ithaca as soon as he is able.  There are others though, who do not want that to happen.  They would much rather Penelope chose a new husband, who would in turn become king of Ithaca.  And so the palace is full of suitors, all of who want to be the next king.

Aleta is the granddaughter of Queen Penelope’s closest servant, Kleea.  At aged twelve, Aleta can pass by almost unnoticed as she moves around the palace, which is a good thing, when she tries to help her grandmother and the Queen stall the suitors plans.  But there is more going on at the palace than simply how the missing king should be replaced – and by who.  And this concerns Aleta herself.  Why is it that her mother and grandmother don’t get along?  And why does her mother show so little interest in her?  Something isn’t right and Aleta wants to find out what.

When things go awry, the two story lines converge, and Aleta finds all the answers she has been looking for, with drastic results.

Aleta and the Queen is a captivating story and the illustrations that accompany it are colourful, vivid and stylised, in a similar way to ancient Greek art.  The characters are realistic and the story deftly weaves myth and legend with historical detail, bringing the period and the mythology to life.

Aleta and the Queen is a great introduction to the world of the ancient Greeks, one that would engage most children interested in history.  At the start of the book there is a handy guide to pronouncing Greek names as well as a map of the world marking many of the place names that are mentioned in the story.


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