Finished: Aug. 21, 2009
First Published: 1989
The biggest mistake that parents and teachers make when helping children to read is that they stop reading aloud to them once the children have begun to read for themselves.
Reason for Reading: I first read this book to my eldest son approx. ten years ago and it became my favourite retelling of myths to read aloud to children. I had always planned to read it to my 9yo and I've been reading a story a day to him every M-F.
Comments: This is the best book of Greek and Roman myths especially written for reading aloud to children that I have come across and we've read a lot in our household. This book is written in the storyteller format. Each story starts with a brief synopsis for the storyteller and a list of words with phonetic pronunciations. These words also are shown with phonetic pronunciations the first time they appear in the story. After each story is a short paragraph or two called "A Few Words More" which is for the benefit of the storyteller and tells the Greek or Latin roots or word history of certain words that come into play in this particular story. This is not meant to be read aloud but gives the storyteller options to weave them into a post story discussion if time permits.
The book is divided into two sections. Part I is recommended for ages 5 and up and concentrates on the well known Greek Myths such as Athena, Echo, Marathon, Damocles, Pegasus, Io, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Theseus and Jason. Part II is recommended for ages 9 and up and primarily tells in chapters three tales, The Trojan War, Ulysses and Aeneas.
Do not let the age recommendations fool you into thinking this is a baby book. Five year olds listening to these stories are five years old who have grown up on Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Hans Christian Andersen (the originals, not Disney-fied versions). The vocabulary used right from the beginning is rich literature, as you would expect to find in Hawthorne's own tales of the myths. The violence of the original tales remains, in the first half perhaps the blood is not quite so red yet gruesome death does abound and in Part II the blood and gore flow freely. The only 'watering down' found in these tales is in the s*xual aspects of the original tales. Words like 'lover', 'friend' 'maid' and 'met' are used instead of the actual s*xual situations that occur when reading from original Greek sources.
I'm being quite blunt here as I do want readers to beware that these are very real renditions and don't expect a tenderhearted Teletubbies five-year-old to have a cutesy fun time with these tales. But then, this is exactly why I love this book so much. When your child is ready to really meet the Greek Myths this is my recommended book to start with. We've met some of these tales in our reading before but these versions really bring out the glory of the Greeks' mythology and the final Trojan War and Ulysses chapters are amazingly well told for this age group. The author even makes Aeneas (in a brief retelling) exciting.
I sold my original copy of this book and had to buy another copy to read it this time. You can bet I'll be keeping my copy now and saving it for the day I (hopefully) can read it to my grandkids.
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