A lot of my picks for this meme date from the days when my mom homeschooled me. Well, it makes sense. I was homeschooled for six years, from ages eight to fourteen, and those years are crucial for development and education. They’re also great years for discovery and history and learning to love the written word. I mentioned in this post that my mom taught several Ancient World units. We took our time with Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and as a result, I can remember a lot of the mythology and history to this day.
One of the most memorable books from that period was D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. My mother started by reading the myths aloud, but I was anxious to learn more, and I ended up reading most of the book to myself in between lessons. When we cleared out the schoolroom area a couple of years ago, I found several ‘essays’ on the Greek myths that I wrote around that time. My 10-year old handwriting is funny, but my vocabulary was stellar. Talk about precocious!
Mighty Zeus, with his fistful of thunderbolts, Athena, goddess of wisdom, Helios the sun, greedy King Midas--here are gods, goddesses, and legendary figures of ancient Greece brought to life in the myths that have inspired great literature and art throughout the ages.
This book contains retellings and illustrations of most of the major Greek myths, and many lesser-known tales as well. While the textual portion is remarkably thorough and doesn’t over-simplify the myths, its strength is in illustration. I still remember the beautiful renderings tied to specific stories – the depiction of the Titans, or of Demeter and Persephone, or of Zeus and Europa. I think these were done with oil pastels or colored pencils – and the bright colors caught my younger eye and stirred my imagination.
Later, when we read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology in high school, I already had a firm grasp on the myths, what they meant, and who did what. I was also actually interested, because of that early exposure to D’Aulaires’ fabulous pictures. I’m proud now to be able to understand the symbolism and the literary references I find in my adult reading. And now that Percy Jackson and the Olympians have come along, there’s even more interest among the younger set about what these heroes and gods did, and if any of it is important.
Recommended for: anyone with an interest in mythology, but especially younger readers, and fans of illustrated books. It’s not heavy and complicated – it’s meant to be transparent and understandable. Oh, and fun too!