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)