1.17.2014

Chapter Books, Middle Grade and YA novels with Themes from Greek Mythology

For my list of reference books on Greek Mythology and retellings of The Odyssey and The Iliad, click here.

With the tremendous popularity of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, many other books with Greek gods and goddesses as characters and themes from Greek Mythology have hit the shelves, so I thought I'd round up all the titles I could think of for you here. While the Riordan's books have enticed masses of boys to read, interestingly enough, most of the books I was able to round up are really "girl" books, meaning they have girls as the main character and thus may not appeal to boys. The two exceptions are Scott Mebus's Gods of Manhattan trilogy, which, while not technically about Greek gods and goddesses, have figures from American history posing as gods AND a boy protagonist and Christopher Ford's Stickman Odyssey. The Gods of Manhattan and The Shadow Thieves and Stickman Odyssey also happen to be the only books on this list that I have read and reviewed. Please know that I HAVE NOT read any of these other books on the list, but have researched them.


Cover art for STICKMAN ODYSSEY Cover art for THE WRATH OF ZOZIMOS
The Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle and Stickman Odyssey Book Two: The Wrath of Zozimos by Christopher Ford are graphic novels loosely based on The Odyssey. These books have been a big hit with WIMPY KID fans and are really very funny. Zozimos is a little bit like Greg Hefly in that he's pretty self-centered and stubborn in the first book and most of the second, but he does have an epiphany of sorts near the end, setting him up for another adventure.






 
OLYMPIANS is another great graphic novel series featuring the stories of the gods and goddesses from FirstSecond, who publishes THE BEST graphic novels for kids, teens and adults you will find. Be sure to check out George O'Connor's website where you can look inside the books and find great activities like reader's theater, write or draw your own page from a graphic novel and reading group questions!

Medusa JonesMedusa Jones


Medusa Jones by written and illustrated by the prolific picture and chapter book writer Ross Collins was published by Scholastic in 2008. At 144 pages, it is the easiest to read of the bunch and maybe the funniest. Collins imagines Medusa as a young school girl and oddball, tormented by the "cool kids," the Champions of Olympus. Instead of beautiful golden ringlets like Cassandra, Medusa has a head full of snakes that make reading difficult and often unpleasant. It seems her "headsnakes had a habit of turning the pages back when one of them had missed an important plot point." Medusa's friends are Chrion the centaur and Mino, the Minotaur, who's father has gotten so carried away with adding on to their house that it is now a maze that family members can get lost in for days.




Pandora Gets Jealous (Pandora Series #1)Pandora Gets Vain (Pandora Series #2)Pandora Gets Lazy (Pandora Series #3)Pandora Gets Heart (Pandora Series #4)
Pandora Gets Heart (Pandora Series #4)Pandora Gets Angry (Pandora Series #5)Pandora Gets Frightened


Pandora Gets Jealous is the first in this series of books by Carolyn Hennesy, Pandora, daughter of Prometheus, needs something good for her school project. Tired of sharing her father's old eagle-eaten liver, she secrets a box given to her father by Zeus himself to the competition at Athena Maiden Middle School. Once there, she accidentally opens the box and unleashes the plagues on humanity. She is sentenced by Zeus to retrieve them and is helped along the way with secret gifts from gods and goddesses who, as Hermes tells her, remember their own youthful mistakes, "A little petty thievery, a few unrequited loves, people mistakenly transformed into animals or trees or hideous monsters. Things we're not As the Publisher's Weekly review noted in 2007:


Aspiring Hellenists will appreciate Hennesy's informed liberties with her topic, and novices will be not only fine but possibly inspired to go further. Debut novelist Hennesy's Hollywood comedian background shows in her witty juxtapositions of modern popular culture and classical Greek legend: her work is rife with mythic creatures (dryads, satyrs, gorgons), magic (a talking diary, winged flying shoes, shape-shifting) and lively dialogue (" 'Hey, sorry about the light,' Hermes said. 'Standard procedure. Zeus wants everyone to be terribly afraid when I appear whether it's good news or bad; but that kind of thinking is sooooo Bronze Age, right?' "). Accurate where it counts, this loosely interpreted myth rarely misses a comic twist.

At this point, five out of the seven deadly sins have been covered by Hennesy. Besides Pandora Gets Jealous, Pandora Gets Vain, Pandora Gets Lazy and Pandora Gets Heart, Pandora Gets AngryPandora Gets Frightened and Pandora Gets Greedy are currently in print. 

The Dolphins of Laurentium (Roman Mysteries Series #5) by Caroline Lawrence: Book CoverPirates of Pompeii (The Roman Mysteries Series) by Caroline Lawrence: Book CoverThe Assassins of Rome (Roman Mysteries Series #4) by Caroline Lawrence: Book Cover
Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence: Book CoverSecrets of Vesuvius by Caroline Lawrence: Book CoverThe Prophet from Ephesus by Caroline Lawrence: Book Cover

The Roman Mysteries is Classical historian Caroline Lawrence's seventeen book series for young readers that is rich with detail and intrigue. Characters include 13 year old Flavia, who was born in Ostia, Rome to a wealthy family, Jonathan, who was born in Jerusalem and fled with his father shortly before it was besieged and Nubia, a young girl who saw her family murdered in Egypt, her birthplace, and was sold into slavery and bought by Flavia. Then there is Lupus, born on a Greek island and a mute. He is sneaky and good at spying on people, which is an asset to Flavia in her quest to solve mysteries and poke her nose where it doesn't belong. These books were recently made into a ten-part series on the BBC, but sadly, are not yet available to rent on DVD.


Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus: Book CoverGods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus: Book CoverGods of Manhattan 3: Sorcerer's Secret

Not exactly Greek Mythology, but worth mentioning for all the boys out there is Scott Mebus's Gods of Manhattan, with cover art, magical and fantastic as always, hardworking Brandon Dorman. Thirteen year old Rory and his nine year old sister Bridget live a seemingly life in New York City, unaware that sprits from Manhattan's (or Manhatta, as the invisible world is called) co-exist alongside them. Rory has a gift for seeing this other world but has ignored it until one day he can ignore it no more. Walking home from a birthday party, Rory notices a cockroach riding a rat, an ancient Indian warrior, a papier-mâché boy and other oddities. He also sees historical figures such as Walt Whitman, Babe Ruth, Peter Stuyvesant, John Jacob Astor and Alexander Hamilton, all gods in this parallel world. Rory is enlisted to help find a devious assassin who has somehow found a way to kill the immortals and has trapped the Munsee Indians in Central Park. Along the way he gets help from immortal teens, including Lincoln Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass. He also gets help from Bridget, who has an alert-ego she named "Malibu Death Barbrie" as well as Battle Roach named Fritz.


 The Shadow Thieves (Cronus Chronicles Series #1) by Anne Ursu: Book CoverSiren Song (Cronus Chronicles Series #2) by Anne Ursu: Book CoverThe Immortal Fire (Cronus Chronicles Series #3) by Anne Ursu: Book Cover

The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu is FANTASTIC! To be completely reductionist, it's the girl's answer to Percy Jackson. Please read my review for all the details.


FOR TEEN READERS:
These books are shelved in the teen section at the bookstore where I work. The covers are dead giveaways for their placement, but, I also suspect there may be some light (or serious) romance in these books, making them teen titles. If you are concerned about content for your young reader, PLEASE read these books first. I am including them because the plot synopses I read sounded interesting. Personally, my policy at work and at home is to keep girls from reading romance themed books for as long as possible, or until age 15.


Tera Lyn Childs is the author of Oh. My. Gods. and Goddess Boot Camp, books that follow Phoebe Castro as she learns that her dream of having a great cross-country track season and preparing to attend USC are about to change. When her mother comes home from vacation with a new husband and a new home Phoebe finds herself on a secret island in the Agean attending a secret academy where her new stepfather is the headmaster and his students are the descendants of Greek gods and goddesses, super powers included. In the second book, Phoebe has adjusted to her new life and also learned that she is a descendant of Nike (the goddess, not the shoe, as Child's humorously points out.) In order to prepare for the Pythian Games, the only thing bigger than the Olympics, Phoebe's stepfather sends her to summer camp to hone her skills. Unfortunately, the camp is full of 10 year olds.


TroyIthaka by Adele Geras: Book Cover

Troy, by Adèle Geras, is a portrait of the Trojan War as told by the women of Troy and most likely will appeal to older readers who are girls. During the last weeks of the war, the women are sick of tending to the wounded, the men are tired of fighting and the bored gods and goddesses are looking for ways to stir things up. The sequel, Ithaka takes place after the war and is told from the viewpoint of Klymene, the fourteen year old servant to Queen Penelope. As the queen waits for her husband, Odysseus, to return from war, she is besieged by suitors who demand she remarry while they wreak havoc on the palace. Klymene is secretly in love with Telemachus, son of Penelope, and she pines for him as his attentions turn to the beautiful but fickle Melantho. Reviews say Geras' writing is vivid and rich with details of the time period and gripping in her feminist perspective.


In Nobody's Princess, Esther Friesner imagines Helen of Troy (the face that launched 1,000 ships..) as a child. Helen goes from being a curious, spoiled girl to a brave adolescent who yearns to be trained as a warrior. The descriptions of life in the Bronze Age of Greece, a place full of royal palaces, slavery, grand feasts, the Oracle of Delphi and a bloody boar hunt will give readers a rich idea of the time. The Spartans and their way of life as well as the gods they worshiped are also described in great detail. Helen remains a strong character yearning for independence throughout the book, whether she is thwarting an unwanted suitor or accompanying her sister the Mykenae for her wedding. In the sequel, Nobody's Prize, Helen, in disguise, follows her brothers on the quest for the Golden Fleece where she faces danger and adventure at every turn.



Temping Fate by Esther Friesner: Book CoverTempting Fate, also by Friesner, is the story of Ilana Newhouse and her search for a summer job. When her unique fashion sense makes this difficult, she is happy to be taken in by the Divine Relief Temp Agency. Sent to work in a textiles business run by three unusual sisters, she soon realizes she is working for the Fates who are responsible for spinning, measuring and cutting the life threads of everyone on earth. She soon makes friends with other teens who are temping for the gods and goddesses and makes a friend of Arachne, the maiden turned spider. This book is described as having quirky characters with "Personality Plus," sizzling dialogue and a fast pace.



Taken from her home when she is six, Anaxandra is destined to be the companion to the crippled daughter of King Nicander on the island of Siphnos. However, on the way there their ship is attacked by pirates and Anaxandra is the sole survivor. When rescued, the adopt the identity of Princess Callisto to survive. The ship belongs to Menelaus, King of Sparta, who believes Anaxandra's lie. His wife Helen, however, does not. How Anaxandra survives her deception, as well as the passionate affair between Helen and Paris that plunges Sparta and Troy into war.


Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman: Book Cover
Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman (thanks for the recommendation, Charlotte!) is the story of Persephone, the goddess Demeter's daughter, who is courted by Hades, King of the Underworld. Demeter is so overprotective and powerful that living in Paradise, one that is devoid of men, feels like a trap to Persephone. Check out these rave reviews:





5 comments:

Charlotte said...

Great list!

Another one for teens is Radiant Darkness, by Emily Whitman, which is a retelling of the Persephone story.

Brenda said...

Goddess Girls and Hero's in Training are some that I've enjoyed, although I'm not sure if they are retellings. Do you know of many Norse series/books? I had thought after Thor came out there would be more to follow.

Tanya said...

Sadly, no. The Daulaires have a book on Norse mythology, Jonathan Stroud (the fantastic Barimaeus Trilogy) has a book HEROES OF THE VALLEY which is based on Norse mythology.There is also Nancy Framer's TROLLS TRILOGY which involves Vikings, although I'm not sure how much Norse Mythology comes into play. I really need to read those!

Brenda said...

Thanks Tanya I'll have to check those out.

Karennina Posa said...

Thank you for this list. What a great resource! I will definitely be checking these books out.