The Labors of Hercules Beal

HarperCollins/Clarion. May 2023. 352p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780358659631.
Gr 4-6–Every morning, Hercules Beal gets up to watch the sun rise over the ocean in “the most beautiful place on Earth,” Truro, MA, on Cape Cod. The ritual is one the 12-year-old’s few comforts since his parents’ recent death in a car accident. His older brother Achilles is grieving, too, and has given up traveling the world writing for National Geographic to return home and run the family nursery business. The brothers’ numbed coexistence gets a jolt when Hercules starts seventh grade at a new school with an ex-Marine for a teacher. Lt. Col. Daniel Hupfer’s sensitivity—thinly veiled behind his steely exterior—leads him to assign Hercules a project to help the boy work through his grief. He must recreate and reflect on the 12 labors of his mythical namesake. The process helps Hercules realize that, like the classical hero, he has been to hell and back, but is still here and has something to live for. Herc’s first-person narrative is sharp and funny, balancing the gravity of the issues he’s struggling to overcome. Schmidt’s use of run-on sentences may give grammar teachers fits but is very effective. The oceanfront setting is so powerfully visualized it’s a character in itself and frequently drives the narrative. References to characters from Schmidt’s previous books will please fans without distracting new readers.
VERDICT This essential purchase will spark interest in classical mythology and encourage readers to reach out to others in times of stress. Like Hercules, they don’t have to carry the sky by themselves.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing