Bull by David Elliott

Bull by David Elliott. March 28, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 200 p. ISBN: 9780544610606.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

SEE THE STORY OF THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR
IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT

Minos thought he could
Pull a fast one
On me,
Poseidon!
God of the Sea!
But I’m the last one
On whom you
Should try such a thing.
The nerve of that guy.
The balls. The audacity.
I AM THE OCEAN!
I got capacity!
Depths! Darkness! Delphic power!
So his sweet little plan
Went big-time sour
And his wife had a son
Born with horns and a muzzle
Who ended up
In an underground puzzle.
What is it with you mortals?
You just can’t seem to learn:
If you play with fire, babies,
You’re gonna get burned.

Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology’s most infamous monsters.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Bestiality

 

Author Videos

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. This striking reexamination of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur maintains the bones of the original story: Minos, King of Crete, angers sea god Poseidon, who exacts his revenge not on the king but on the king’s wife. Queen Pasiphae, seduced by a bull, births Asterion, the famed future Minotaur, who is ultimately locked in a labyrinth and killed by hero Theseus. Elliott focuses this novel in verse on Asterion and the women in his family, painting them in a particularly sympathetic light. Rotating first-person narrations appear in a variety of poetic forms. Poseidon takes on the role of irreverent, anachronistic narrator, as he raps the story (“Life’s not for wimps. / Sometimes gods are gods / And sometimes they’re pimps”); Pasiphae grows increasingly nonsensical; Asterion speaks in childlike rhymes; Daedalus, labyrinth builder, is ever the architect with rigid, four-line stanzas; and princess Ariadne’s flowery language is imbued with a clever slant rhyme that belies her coquettish facade. When Theseus the hero finally struts onto the page, it’s with significant frat-bro swagger (“Ariadne! What a rack! / I knew I’d get her in the sack / As for her bro? / He won’t outlive me. / No sweat. / In time they all forgive me”). Effective both for classrooms and pleasure reading, this modernization brings new relevancy to an old story. It’s a conceit that easily could have floundered; in Elliott’s capable hands, it soars.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
There’s little grand or heroic in Elliott’s clever verse version of the classical story of the Minotaur: its title, Bull, is topically and colloquially apt. The story unrolls in the voices of seven characters, each with his or her own poetic form (an appended author’s note details them), but it’s the god Poseidon who determines the tone—as instigator, manipulator, and despiser of humankind. His raunchy, derisive take on humans (“Man! / That guy’s a dick!” he says of Minos) is a spreading stain that permeates even the innocence of Asterion the bull-headed boy, maternal Pasiphae (who “take[s] refuge in madness”), and valiant Ariadne. The sympathetic heart of Elliott’s story is Asterion/the Minotaur: Elliott presents him as a physically deformed youth, suffering cruelly from his hateful father’s abuse. But Poseidon’s voice comments on all, and Elliott characterizes him as despicable, misogynistic, and sexually prurient. Raplike wordplay, rhymes with coercive predictability, unpleasant intensity—it’s horribly effective, culminating in the god’s conclusion: “the things you mortals do: / Ridicule. / Follow orders. / Stay passive. / Betray. / What a pity! / It could have gone another way.” Such is the matter of the Greek myths. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

David Elliott is the author of The Cool Crazy Crickets and The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle. He says of And Here’s To You!, “My neighbor’s rooster and I were having a disagreement. I wanted to sleep in the morning; he wanted to crow. The rooster won, of course. The first verse of And Here’s To You! is a tribute to his victory and to the joys found in simply following your nature.”

Her website is www.davidelliottbooks.com.

Around the Web

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Bull Publisher Page

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