April 23, 2019

Wings of Olympus

Written by Kallie George
HarperCollins Canada
224 pp.
Ages 8-12
March 2019

It is the journey that is most important. (pg. 107)

Young Pippa adores working with the horses at an Athenian stables but, when she is distracted from her chores after catching a glimpse of Zeus's steed Nikomedes in the sky, she is fired. A foundling, abandoned by her parents with only a coin engraved with a winged horse, Pippa trudges off, needing to find food and shelter. But when she awakens, she discovers she has been transported to Mount Olympus with other children to compete in the Winged Horse Race, an event that takes place every 100 years to choose Zeus's next steed.  Each child has been selected by a god or goddess to ride their winged horse, and Pippa, the only child without an impressive family, has been chosen by Aphrodite to ride Zephyr, a small horse "like a moonbeam." (pg. 40) The other children include Basileus who is to ride the powerful Kerauno for Ares, the shy Timon riding Skotos for Hades, the only other girl, Sophia, rider for Athena, Theodoros riding for Poseidon, and the arrogant Khrys riding for Apollo.

Under the direction of Bellerophon, the hero who'd tamed Pegasus, the child riders learn the many rules for the race, how to train, and how to deal with their gods and goddesses who are constantly squabbling and are willing to bend the rules or even cheat in order to be honoured with having their winged horse selected to replace Nikomedes. While Pippa is falling in love with Zephyr, who is easily distracted by butterflies and such, she is the only one who has not had an opportunity to meet her goddess. Upset with this slight, she and Zephyr fly off and get lost, only to meet the Fates, one of whom suggests Pippa will not win. Pippa is desperate to stay on Mount Olympus and care for Zephyr and so she comes up with a plan to help herself and some friends out. But how will Mount Olympus's immortals react when their rules are ignored, even for a good reason?

Taking a trip to ancient Greece and to visit the immortals who inhabit Mount Olympus is a treat with Kallie George's expressive text and extraordinary story.
The sky was her home now: blue ceilings, courtyards of clouds, and, if she was out late, stars so close and so numerous it was like they were woven tight as linen. (pg. 107)
These are worlds mythological and singular in their attributes but Kallie George invites us into that reality as welcome visitors to see the wonders of Mount Olympus and the imperfection of its inhabitants and the parallels between children then and now. There is the bully who threatens and cheats, the know-it-all child, the boy who misses his family, and the orphaned girl whose heart is teeming with love for horses and specifically Zephyr. They may be wearing belted chitons and sandals but they are young people most of us will recognize. And Kallie George's messages about love and trust are universal and perpetual.

Like the other middle-grade series Kallie George has written, including Heartwood Hotel and Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Wings of Olympus is fated to take off as a new series. There are animals and a unique time and setting and a diaphanous sheath of fantasy. I look forward to seeing where the next books land.

"Nikepteros," she whispered. "Victory in flight." (pg. 107)


Kallie George is launching Wings of Olympus this Thursday in Vancouver for those of you who know any middle-graders who love horses or mythology or a great story. Details here.

1 comment:

  1. I love the cover! Sounds like a great read. Well done, Kallie!