HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Winged Girl of Knossos
Author and Illustrator: Erick Berry
Publisher: Paul Dry Books, republished 2017
Related website: http://www.pauldrybooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Berry, Erick. The Winged Girl of Knossos (published in 1933 by the D. Appleton-Century Company, New York City, NY; republished in 2017 by Paul Dry Books Inc., Philadelphia, PA). Inas, a teenage girl, lives at Knossos on the island of Crete, which is ruled by King Minos, with her father Daidalos who is chief engineer and inventor for the king, her old nurse Teeta, their slave Mufu, and other servants. Her mother, now dead, had been a Greek slave. They also have a country home where Glos the shepherd tends their animals. Inas is attracted to young Kadmos, son of Meropes who is the admiral of Minos’s vast fleet, and her best friend is Princess Ariadne, the only daughter of the king. She loves adventure, diving for sponges with the fishermen in the Aegean Sea, vaulting the bulls with the athletes, and soaring with the wings secretly invented by her father, yet is also at home among royalty when visiting her friend, the princess.
However, there are enemies, such as Kres, Minos’s goldsmith who thinks that Daidalos’s attempts to fly are black magic. Then there is Theseus, the hulking Greek captive with whom Ariadne is infatuated. As a result of a plot, Daidalos and Inas are forced to flee on a ship. They are headed for Zafire on the western end of the island, but a storm blows them all the way to Kamikos on the island of Sicelia ruled by Kokalos. Have they really escaped the danger? Can they ever find a way to return home? And if they do, what will happen to them? Erick Berry was the pen name of Allena Champlin (Mrs. Herbert) Best (1892-1974), and The Winged Girl of Knossos was a 1934 Newbery Honor book. It is a retelling of the Greek myths of Daedalus and Theseus. Besides being an exciting adventure story with themes of love and friendship, it is also filled with lots of rich, fascinating detail about the ancient Minoan world, a lost period of Greek history.
Those who believe that it is wrong to study pagan myths will want to avoid this book as it has numerous references to Cretan gods and goddesses. I personally am convinced that one can learn about such tales from a purely historical standpoint without giving any credence to heathen deities. And there are possible real-life explanations to the myths of Icarus’s wings and Theseus with the Minotaur in the Labyrinth. A couple of reviewers complained that the plot is a little too complex. Of course, this book was written back in a day when young people were expected actually to read and think, rather than just to watch television or play video games. In the original myth, Daedalus had a foolish son named Icarus, but Berry gives him a wise and courageous, though fun-loving, daughter. Another reviewer wrote, “I much prefer Berry’s version, which has aged absurdly well and has no business being out of print.” This very creative tale, from someone who clearly did her homework, given the list of references in the back of the book, has wonderful period-inspired illustrations drawn by the author herself.