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A Fuse #8 Production
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Recommendation from Under the Radar: The Winged Girl of Knossos (Part One)

knossos Recommendation from Under the Radar: The Winged Girl of Knossos (Part One)I received my degree in library and information science in a small midwestern college going by the name of St. Catherine.  Librarianship was one of those occupations I fought against.  I was the kid who made a cataloging system for the family videotapes.  Who tried to work out a pre-computer list of searchable terms for my National Geographic Magazines.  I didn’t want to just fall into the occupation of librarian, but sometimes we have very little choice in these matters.  As it was, I decided not to give in without a fight.

So it was that when I entered the College of St. Catherine MLIS program I decided to shy away from the usual day-to-day deskwork and do something a little flashy.  I wanted to be an archivist.  As you might have gathered, I have a funny definition of "flash" floating about my head.  But I took a children’s literature course on a lark.  I thought that maybe it would be fun.  Good for a laugh.  An easy-peasy class I could dip my toe into without having to commit myself in any way. 

It was during that time that I also began to work in the St. Catherine library as a Serials Manager.  While on the job I’d often find myself inspecting the college children’s collection in conjunction with my class.  It was a lovely little collection, I might add.  Lots of goodies from the past and present were freely circulating.  And one day as I was perusing the shelves, my eyes alighted on a fun title.  "The Winged Girl of Knossos" by Erick Berry. 

For reasons of my own that I will not go into (i.e. they’re silly) I was in a let’s-read-all-the-children’s-books-with-winged-characters phase.  The luck of the draw caused me to smile and snatch up Berry’s book.  Imagine my surprise then when I discovered it to be a 1934 Newbery Honor title.  Oh la la, as they say.  Of course, I’ve read a lot of older Newbery titles.  Berry’s book was, as it turned out, one of eight Honor books that year (the winner being, in my personal opinion, the nice but blah "Invincible Louisa").   It was a product of the D. Appleton-Century Company (1846-1962).  Now deceased, an enterprising soul could probably root around the files of this company, now housed in Indiana University’s Lilly Library Manuscript Collection and perhaps find info pertaining to this book (though the online inventory does not look promising).  You won’t though.  No one will because "The Winged Girl of Knossos" is a completely forgotten title despite its magnificent plot, characters, and storyline.

In spite of the fact that this book is, in my eyes, the greatest out-of-print travesty of this or any other life, I’ve never reviewed it. I meant to.  Yet when I found that stray circulating copy in the St. Kate library (now mysteriously gone from the record, I was sad to find) I was not yet reviewing children’s books, old or new.  It’s just sheer luck that I happen to work in a library right now that has a Reference copy of the book in question.  So was it as good as I remembered?  I took a second look and tried to determine if I was correct in recommending this book to every man, woman, and child I knew. 

The story begins with a theory.  What if the mysterious lost land of Atlantis wasn’t a land sunk deep below the sea as so many have suggested?  What if it was, in fact, the ancient civilization of Crete instead?  And if Crete were, in fact, a remarkable land above and beyond its neighbors, could we then also assume that maybe some of the Greek myths we know so well were based on true events?  Theseus vs. the Minotaur and the tale of Icarus take on a whole new meaning in this clever novel.  In Berry’s book we meet Inas, daughter of Daidalos. She’s the kind of girl who prefers hanging out with sea divers and testing out her father’s inventions over your usual needlepoint and girly type activities.  Her father, as it happens, is a fairly important fella.  He created the
Labyrinth, used by King Minos, and has a whole slew of ideas every day.  Speaking of Minos, recently he acquired some rather interesting Greek slaves.  Amongst them a tall burly man by the name of Theseus.  Princess Ariadne, a confident of Inas, has grown rather fascinated with that young man, much to the younger girl’s dismay.  Then things start to get dirty.  Crete is threatened by outside forces.  Ariadne manages to free Theseus and run away with him.  And now, for some reason, Minos is accusing Daidalos of treachery and is threatening him with imprisonment.  It’s up to Inas to survive the changes coming to her kingdom as Crete reaches the last of its once beautiful days.

(CONTINUED IN PART TWO)

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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Liz B says:

    OK, I so want to read this book now! And now I have to try and track it down.

  2. guest says:

    I have another book by Erick Berry, ‘The Flight of the Wild Goose’. Well worth reading if you can track it down. Such a pity it’s out of print.

  3. Dale Ogren says:

    Elizabeth Bird, Thank you, thank you, thank you! I read a dusty old copy of this book at John T. Allen Junior High School in Austin, Texas, about 1950, and it totally captured my imagination. It was unforgettable, and I’ve always wanted to go to Crete and see Minos’s palace.

    I’m near Heidelberg now visiting my daughter, and we just returned yesterday from a wonderful week in Crete! Yes, we tromped all over Knossos, and it was wonderful to see the fresco of the bull tossing the athlete over its back, just like Eric Berry wrote in 1934. I’m so grateful for the information you put in part 1 of your review, and I’m hoping to find the rest of it floating somewhere in cyberspace. I’m so glad to find out that the novel was a Newberry Honor Book, too. I just Googled the title on impulse this morning.

    Gratefully,

    Dale Ogren (female, grandmother, etc. in spite of the boy’s name)

    P.S. Allen Jr. High burned to the ground the fall of 1955, and, presumably that copy of The Winged Girl of Cnossos was lost, too. I’d love to buy one if I could find one!

  4. Fuse #8 says:

    Thanks! At the bottom of Part One you’ll see a link that says CONTINUED IN PART TWO. Click on that to read more.

  5. Martha F. Hoar says:

    I grew up with this book in the 1940s and loved it. How to get a kid enraptured with mythology and ancient history! Then as a grownup I found a natural segue in Mary Renault’s novels such as _The Bull from the Sea_ and _The King must Die_. Now, age 80, I want to get hold of this book and read it again. Any suggestions?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Well, your best bet at this point in time is the used bookstore world. I tell you, though, this is a tricky title to get ahold of. If you manage to find a copy it won’t be cheap. Worth it, though. I just wish I could convince a publisher somewhere to reprint it.

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