d’aulaires’ book of greek myths

Alyce at At Home with Books is doing a weekly feature where she highlights one of her favorite reads from the past and encourages others to do so as well.

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!

14 comments:

Alyce said...

This book sounds like it's a perfect intro to mythical characters. I have to admit to being completely lost when it comes most of the mythical stories and characters. I think it's great that your mom encouraged you to learn about the different ancient cultures!

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

This book sounds beautiful and magical...the illustrations look fabulous.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Carin S. said...

I love this book! I did a paper based on Demeter and Persephone when I was a kid from this book but it was years before I could pronounce either of their names correctly. The D'Aulaires have other books too that sound good (similar vein) but I have only ever seen this one.

bermudaonion said...

I loved mythology when I was young, but haven't read any in a while, and have sadly forgotten most of it.

brizmus said...

I've never even HEARD of this one, but I love greek myth, and it sounds wonderful!!!!

Mystica said...

Greek myths and a youngster thats unusual in itself. Your mother must have been a very clever lady. She obviously inculcated in you the love the reading and books that you now have.

Aimee said...

looks beautiful - I freakin love the Greek Myths!!

Yvonne said...

Good choice!

Ginny said...

so true... that book is amazing. i love it. as in, present tense. yes, i used it for The Odyssey unit for 9th grade English. smart choice for me. the kids love listening to the stories and then waiting to see the pictures. it's perfect!

Charlotte said...

This is a favorite of mine too, and has been since I was five or so. A lovely book indeed!

Amy said...

This sounds wonderful and you have some great memories to go with it.

Jenny said...

Oh, I had this book when I was a kid and I loved it; in fact I still do. I remember those exact illustrations!! I was totally the Greek myths expert in my elementary school classes, and when StarLab came to school every year (did you ever have StarLab?), and we'd all talk about the constellations, I knew all the stories that went with them. :)

vvb32 reads said...

loved this book while growing up. it's where i first got introduced to greek myths.

J.T. Oldfield said...

i heart this book forever and ever. last fall i was recounting halloween costumes to my niece, and told her that when i was her age (2nd grade) i was aphrodite for halloween. she didn't know who that was, so guess what she wound up with for christmas?

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