Roaring Book Press
This book immediately caught my eye with its exuberant cover and title-as-declaration. In an era in which the word-count for the average picture book is ever shrinking, I was impressed by its heft when I lifted it from the shelf. Nearly 80 pages of story!
The books follows the lifespan of Pan - from his birth to his... death? Do gods die? We do get an answer of sorts. We also witness the passage from one era to the next, from an ancient world in which the gods are very real beings whose antics have very real consequences, to a modern world wherein the gods have become myths and stroll about incognito.
"Most of the retellings of the Greek myths I've seen take the stories and characters quite seriously. Or they treat the gods and goddesses as superheros, telling us how great, grand and powerful they were," writes Gerstein. "But from my reading, [they] could also be bad-tempered, silly, jealous, vengeful and ever stupid... that's what these myths are: gossip about the gods."
Pan falls in live with the moon, with nymphs and with his echo. He does battle with Monster Typhoon. All of the stories are funny and clever, and filled with enthusiasm. I think my favorite was "The Great Music Contest" in which Pan and Apollo try to outdo each other musically, with Mount Timolus serving as judge. After a few pages of childish banter, Gerstein includes two gorgeous double-page spreads back-to-back, one demonstrating Pan's prowess on the pipes, and the other demonstrating Apollo's skill on the harp. Each image is stunning, and make for a great contrast amidst so much foolishness.
In the end, Pan brings out the best in everyone he comes across, gods, nymphs and humans. "A perfect deity for kids," Gerstein writes. "Because though fully grown, at least he's one of them."
All hail Pan, goat-footed, two-horned lover of noise and chaos. God of music and confusion, sleep and shepherds, goats and goatherds, duck and duckherds, cows and cowherds, beekeepers and bees!