- Lugalbanda: The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War: An Epic Tale from Ancient Iraq
Lugalbanda was an ancient Sumerian king in the land that is now Iraq, and his story is one of the oldest in the world—nearly 300 years older than the Epic of Gilgamesh. The epic tale of his adventures and triumph is gripping: Lugalbanda is the youngest prince in the city of Uruk, teased because he is small and weak. When King Enmerkar decides to conquer a nearby city, Lugalbanda tags along but falls ill, so he is left in a mountain cave while the army presses on. Quick wits and several miraculous events, including an encounter with the magical Anzu bird, allow Lugalbanda to save himself and gain his wish to have unending strength and "dance like the sunlight, leap like a flame, and dart like lightning." Using these gifts, he carries a message to the goddess of war, Inana, for King Enmerkar and his flagging army, saving his people and setting him on the path to becoming the next great king. Henderson's text is lively and accessible, streamlining the epic and dividing it into brief chapters that accentuate the action in descriptive yet fast-moving prose. Ray provides emotive illustrations that evoke the two-dimensional, stylized techniques of Sumerian art in muted brown tones highlighted with shimmering teal and gold. [End Page 17] The art is carefully woven throughout the text, from full-page ziggurat city scenes replete with people and animals to intimate, close-up spot illustrations. The book's tinted paper features lightly inked layering of fauna and animals in pale browns, further adding texture and ambience. Henderson appends an introduction and conclusion outlining historical context, source information, and her own journey to the tale, which should be extremely useful to adults guiding children through the story. This handsome and engrossing work would be a distinctive addition to any collection.