Newbery Honor 1929: The Boy Who Was

When I started reading The Boy Who Was, I didn’t think that I was going to like it much. First, I saw that it was going to be another book of short stories.  Second, the book began with stories about the Sirens and Odysseus.  I love Greek mythology, but I have read these stories several times now so I wasn’t too excited about more Greek mythology.

So I began the book with the attitude that I was probably going to be doing some skimming.  Instead, I soon realized that the story was actually about a little Italian goat-herder boy named Nino.  He loved to sit by the seashore and listen to the Sirens sing (the songs did not affect him quite like they did the sailors on the ships!).  One day the Sirens became very distraught when Odysseus outsmarted them by putting wax in the ears of his sailors and strapping himself to the ship.  The Siren sisters felt like failures because their songs didn’t end up in Odysseus wrecking his ship so they threw themselves off a cliff.  Before they did so though, one of the sisters gave Nino eternal life.

The rest of the stories take place during different time periods in Italy.  At least a hundred years pass between almost every story.  Nino turns out to be a quiet wonderful hero.  Once I realized what this book was really about, I no longer wanted to skim.  It has turned out to be one of my favorites.  Some of Nino’s adventures include being present at Pompeii (when Mt. Vesuvius erupts!), and he also has an encounter with Redbeard.

Once again, there are some beautiful illustrations. Here’s Redbeard:

bowywhowas3

In the final story, Nino joins a group of bandits who kidnap a very grumpy unkind Prince.  The Prince is miserably overweight and unhappy.  This tale could have served as inspiration for The Biggest Loser (with the exception of the kidnapping part!). The bandits put the prince on a diet and exercise regime and change his life.  In the end, they part as good friends.  It’s a great story.

Here is the unhappy overweight grumpy prince:

Boywhowas1I am learning that I tend to want to give up on a book too quickly.   Sometimes it takes a little while to appreciate what a real gem a book can be.  This book was definitely a gem.

boywho2

 

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