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Greek Mythology for Kids: Reference Books, Story Collections and re-tellings of The Odyssey and The Iliad

For a list of chapter books, middle grade and YA novels that employ themes and characters from Greek Mythology in fictional settings, click here.

The D'Aulaires, Edgar and Ingri, met at art school in Munich in 1921 and published their first children's book ten years later and, up until 1980 when Ingri died, contributed a number of distinguished children's books, most of them non-fiction. Their book of Greek Mythology remains the biggest selling collection for children and is often used as a textbook. The collection is thorough and wonderfully illustrated and includes a family tree, a map of the constellations and a chart showing the Greek and Roman names of the major gods and goddesses. This book is available in hardcover and paperback and well worth the price. All kids seem to go through a phase where they are fascinated with the Greek myths and this book is perfect for young kids reading above grade level as well as older kids. Only available in hardcover, Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne's Favorite Greek Myths is a beautifully illustrated book that features Osborne's wonderful storytelling and ability to convey sometimes complex information to young readers. In addition to twelve myths, Osborne includes a section on GODS, GODDESSES, AND MORTALS that details the Olympians, Major Gods and Goddesses, other Gods and Goddesses, Mortals and other Names to Know. There are also sections on Modern Words with Greek Origins and Who Wrote the Greek Myths? and a bibliography. Tony Howell artwork is rich and colorful in contrast to the D'Aulaires'.



Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green: Book CoverTales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green, with an introduction by Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson Quintet, is another classic collection worth mentioning. The Puffin Classics edition is full of interesting extras for a great price ($4.99.) Green was an Oxford professor who, along with CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein, formed The Inklings, a literary discussion group. Green also produced retellings of Norse and Egyptian myths as well as the stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood, all of which are classics and most of which are also part of the Puffin series.


MythologyOf course, don't forget Mythology, part of the fact and fun packed "Ology" series from Candlewick Press. If you don't know this series, every book comes with envelopes to open, books within the book, fold out maps and other great manipulatives to add to the facts. The accompanying handbook has additional facts, is a bit smaller than the original, and does not have the fun things to open and unfold, but has more information.




Marcia Williams has retold and illustrated everything from Chaucer to Homer in comic strip format, distilling the classics to a form that is suitable for the youngest readers and perfect for introducing these historically important stories, people and places. 




Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders by Mike Townsend is sort of a mash-up of Percy Jackson, Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Presented in comic book format, this book should attract readers who aren't ready for the Percy Jackson books but are interested in Greek Mythology after seeing older siblings or school mates reading the popular series by Rick Riordan.



Before creating The Odyssey: A Graphic Novel in 2010 Gareth Hinds had already established a reputation as a masterful, succinct adaptor of classic literature to graphic novel format from Beowulf to The Merchant of Venice and King Lear. Reviewers have heaped deserving praise upon Hinds's work, The Odyssey: A Graphic Novel especially. At 250 pages, his adaptation is precisely succinct and well paced, capturing the tone and import of the original. Click here for my review.








Neil Packer's stunning illustrations make this adaptation by Gillian Cross of The Odyssey unforgettable. While the story is pared down to fit and oversized picture book format, Cross maintains all the suspense and adventure (and creepy stuff that kids love) and presents the story of Odysseus's trials as he tries to reach Ithaca in a straightforward way that makes it much easier for young readers (and listeners) to follow. For my review, click here.







Originally published as four books, coming in around 110 pages each, Osborne crafted The Odyssey into stories second and third graders could read. Now published in two volumes, they may seem a bit daunting due to the page number, but don't let that dissuade your young reader. Ultimately more digestible in this day and age than Padraic Colum's classic adaptaions (see below) fans of Percy Jackson should have no problem reading these books, and well they should. For my review, click here.




Children's Homer by Padraic Colum: Book CoverGolden Fleece by Padraic Colum: Book Cover
While there are many adaptations of Homer's writing for children, Padraic Colum's prose adaptation of The Illiad and The Odyssey, The Children's Homer, first published in 1918, remains a standard and classic. Part 1 follows Telemachus, son of Odysseus, as he leaves home to discover whether his father is still alive. In Part II, the messenger Hermes appears to Calypso and tells her to release Odysseus. The framework of the two stories meets up for a suspenseful close and is unique to this book. The only downside to this book is that readers must have a fairly high reading level to comprehend the story and may not want to go on to read the original. Colum's Caldecott winning The Golden Fleece describes the cycle of myths that follows the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece, as well as tales of the creation of heaven and earth, the labors of Hercules, the Minotaur and others.


GREEK MYTHOLOGY for Middle Grade and Teen readers:





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 call Geras' writing vivid and rich with details of the time period as well as gripping in her feminist perspective.


Black Ships before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff: Book CoverBlack Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad by Rosemary Sutcliff makes such extraordinary stories as those of the Trojan Horse, Aphrodite and the Golden Apple and the fearsome warrior women, the Amazons, accessible to contemporary readers in her retelling of Homer's epic poem.






 

Comments

Ruth said…
Thanks for this list! Another book that I have come across that looks fantastic is The Wanderings of Odysseus by Rosemary Sutcliff - a retelling of the Odyssey. Her retelling of The Iliad is called Black Ships Before Troy and it looks great too. Both are highly recommended by homeschoolers I know who are studying ancient history.
Tanya said…
Thanks for the tips! I will look for those titles.
Wow - a great list. I'd have to add Greek Myths by Marcia Williams
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Greek-Myths-Marcia-Williams/dp/140630347X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269524578&sr=8-1
Tanya said…
That book - the whole series put out by Walker Books ( the UK sister publisher of Candlewick Books here in the US) looks amazing. Sadly, they are not published in the States! Maybe Candlewick can do something about that!
laura in la said…
__Black Ships Before Troy_ is definitely wonderful -- my sixth-graders loved it! The language is hauntingly beautiful and retains quite a flavor of the original story. In general, Rosemary Sutcliffe's historical fiction is very well-written and a great hook for medieval and other historical studies.
Tanya said…
Thanks for the tip! I am adding it to the list!!
Andrew said…
I wonder if I have ever loved anything more than I loved D'Aulaire's Book Of Greek Myths as a child

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