Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Greek for Beginners at the Grolier: Therese Sellers’ ALPHA IS FOR ANTHROPOS

Greek for Beginners at the Grolier: Therese Sellers’ ALPHA IS FOR ANTHROPOS

article by Michael T. Steffen

Last Friday evening, 13 December 2013, in the Grolier Poetry Bookshop among an animated gathering of bibliophiles there stood a woman of pronounced Hellenic features with a generous smile chanting children’s rhymes to the tunes of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, “Row Row Row Your Boat”, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” and “Dona Nobis Pacem” among others. While the melodies rang familiar, the words being sung by Therese Sellers were, well, Greek to me—and to the rest of the audience.
     “Life is beautiful” one song told us. “The bridge is falling down”another song reminded us, while yet another celebrated our love for all animals.
     Sellers was at the Grolier to promote her new book ALPHA IS FOR ANTHROPOS: AN ANCIENT GREEK ALPHABET, comprised of a chart of the Greek alphabet and twenty-four nursery rhymes featuring rudimentary words in ancient Greek each for one of the letters in the alphabet. The songs are presented on the left-hand pages accompanied on the facing pages with illustrations done by Therese’s sister Lucy Bell Jarka-Sellers. She was also present at the book promotion.
     “The drawings are not intended to reproduce the style of Greek vase paintings exactly,” Sellers explains in the Preface to her new book. “Instead they present the motifs and style of red-figure vase painting in a way that both appeals to children and prepares them to look at real Greek vases with pleasure and understanding.”
     In the Preface the author also tells the story of how she invented the Greek nursery rhymes and set them to familiar tunes as a mnemonic aid to introduce Ancient Greek to children, using her godson Alexander as “my guinea pig.”
     This is stolen from the cover jacket comments:
Therese Sellers and Lucy Bell Jarka-Sellers began studying Ancient Greek as teenagers and went on to study Classics at Harvard. Their first artistic collaboration was a production of Euripides’ Bacchae in the Harvard football stadium for which Therese directed the chorus in Ancient Greek and Lucy Bell drew the iconic publicity poster in the style of a Greek red figure vase. After graduate studies in Classics, both sisters became teachers. While Lucy Bell teaches upper-level Greek and Latin, Therese specializes in teaching Ancient Greek to younger students.

     To assist the reader with the melodies and the drawings, a KEY TO THE SONGS & NOTES ON THE ILLUSTRATIONS is provided at the back of the book.
     It is a handsome 11 x 8.5 hardbound edition, the kind kids love to look at held up before them while reading along. Well worth its value, ALPHA IS FOR ANTHROPOS makes an ideal gift and keepsake for Greek students of all ages.

by Therese Sellers, illustrated by Lucy Bell Jarka-Sellers
published by Cricket Press
Ascanius Youth Classics Institute  www.ascaniusyci.org
56pp, is available for $35
at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop

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