Lugalbanda by Kathy Henderson and Jane Ray
|Lugalbanda by Kathy Henderson and Jane Ray|
|Category: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Possibly the world's oldest story, rendered in accessible but poetic and enchanting style with beautiful illustrations drawing on both classical tradition and modern drama. Recommended both for reading aloud and as a discussion point for newly confident readers who enjoy myth and legend.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 80||Date: May 2007|
|Publisher: Walker Books Ltd|
This is the story of a boy called Lugalbanda who got caught up in a war. It is one of the oldest stories in the world, older than the Torah, the Bible, the Koran, older than Homer or the Greek and Roman myths, older even than the Epic of Gilgamesh. Told aloud five thousand years ago and more, it comes from the land of Ancient Sumer, which we now call Iraq... Here is one of the oldest stories in the world, brand new.
And if that doesn't make YOU want to read it, let alone buy it for your children to read it, I don't know what will. The story of Lugalbanda disappeared for four and a half thousand of those five thousand years. It was discovered on cuneiform tablets about a hundred and fifty years ago and painstakingly translated. As far as I know, Kathy Henderson's is the only retelling outside the academic world, let alone for children. So at last, it takes its rightful place among the oldest of stories, retold for and enjoyed by new generations.
It's a lovely story. According to Sumerian legend, Lugalbanda was the third king of Uruk and the father of the king-god Gilgamesh, whose story you may know. The text fleshes out Lugulbanda's childhood, his nature, and his claim to a just kingship. It follows the little boy as he accompanies his king and his brothers to war, but falls ill and is left behind. When he recovers, he proves his humility and faith in the gods and affirms a just and generous philosophy when he honours the Anzu bird. In return, the Anzu bird grants him his dearest wish and the gods look kindly upon him. Lugulbanda rejoins his people at war, but ultimately is the one responsible for ending the conflict in a spirit of friendship and reconciliation. So you could say that Lugulbanda is the world's first written plea for peace.
Kathy Henderson's text is rich, vivid and poetic. It's the kind of text you remember from your own childhood - you weren't sure what many of the words actually meant, but you knew they were beautiful. They entranced you, and you could read them over and over again. Henderson skilfully avoids both ignoring the current conflict in Iraq and paying it too much attention, opting for a lyrical interpretation of the simple story of a young boy proving his worthiness through humility. Jane Ray's illustrations suit the text perfectly, offering a combination of classical form with modern drama and bold, sun-baked colours with a wealth of detail that young eyes will be able to pore over for hours.
Lugulbanda would make a wonderful book to share with younger children from pre-school to newly confident readers. The interesting introduction and closing notes also made it a book my myth and legend obsessed twelve-year-old enjoyed reading. It's highly recommended by Bookbag.
My thanks to the publishers, Walker Books, for sending this beautiful retelling to Bookbag.
Lugalbanda by Kathy Henderson and Jane Ray is in the Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.
You can read more book reviews or buy Lugalbanda by Kathy Henderson and Jane Ray at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Lugalbanda by Kathy Henderson and Jane Ray at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.