Zeus for Toddlers?
August 20, 2012 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Looking for picture books of classical mythology (especially Greek) diluted for a 3-4 year old!

My 3-year old has several picture books of fairy tales and nursery stories, all sort and sweet, and whitewashed for kid consumption. I'd love to find a similar book dedicated to classical mythology -- a collection of 10+ myths, each trimmed down to a 5-minute bedtime story with attractive illustrations.

Does such a book exist? I think she would enjoy getting to know the characters and stories, even if she's not ready for the gory details of the grown-up versions. (And I like the thought of her knowing Zeus and Aphrodite as well as she knows Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood).

I'm looking particularly for Greek/Roman and Norse mythology, but I'd be interested in myths of any culture, and even non-mythological stories such as 1001 Nights, Canterbury Tales, etc.

The idea is to introduce her to characters and stories that will fascinate her now *and* will grow with her as she becomes increasingly literate. I'm sure in a few years she'll be bored with Goldilocks, but Greek mythology is so ingrained in literature, culture, the arts, and humanities, that familiarity with these stories is a cornerstone of cultural literacy at all levels.

I've searched but most of the offerings on Amazon seem geared towards older kids, and I haven't found anything suitable in brick-and-mortar bookstores. Hoping someone out there has firsthand experience with something appropriate.
posted by Alabaster to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You want the D'Aulaires' Greek mythology book! It has awesome illustrations and can be read by a parent for a small child and then still read by the child him/herself later.
posted by lysimache at 6:57 PM on August 20, 2012 [11 favorites]

This isn't exactly as targeted as you're thinking, but D'Aulaire's books of Greek and Norse mythology are absolute classics. Absolute.
posted by kickingthecrap at 6:58 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

D'Aulaires is exactly what you are looking for.
posted by jeather at 7:13 PM on August 20, 2012

Response by poster: I'm definitely considering the D'Aulaires' books for a future purpose, but they might be a bit much for her at the moment.

Ideally I'm looking for something around this level (flip to "first pages" to skim through some sample story pages).

She's certainly capable of enjoying longer and more advanced stories, but these ones are simple enough that she knows them word-for-word, and can "re-read" them on her own -- she is even starting to recognize and read many of the words on the page. And they're the perfect length for bedtime stories.
posted by Alabaster at 7:13 PM on August 20, 2012

If you can get a copy of Margaret Evans Price's book "A Child's Book of Myths and Enchantment Tales" which has been out of print for a while, it'll do the trick. My mom started reading it to me and with me when I was about 4.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:15 PM on August 20, 2012

I remember hearing about this Gods and Heroes Pop-up book on NPR and it sounded good.
posted by mogget at 7:53 PM on August 20, 2012

I loved D'Aulaires' SO MUCH as a kid. If you decide to go with something else - and you have good reason to - I would get D'Aulaires' too so that she can grow up with it.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:54 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

D'Aulaire is a constant favorite with kids, I have 4 copies in my elementary school library and they are frequently all out. Donna Jo Napoli recently released a book of Greek myths, it's pretty good as well. Finally, George O'Connor has created graphic novel retellings of some of the Greek myths, the kids can't get enough of 'em. Unfortunately, I'd put the target audience of ALL of these titles as 8 and up, but you could check them out and see...
posted by carterk at 9:32 PM on August 20, 2012

You know, on second thought, I'd say to find a good library with a strong children's librarian and a good collection of folk tales (Dewey 398.2). Fairy tales, folk tales and nursery rhymes are every bit as ingrained in our culture as Greek mythology is, and will be much easier for you to find/your daughter to enjoy at this age. Plenty of time to dive into the gory stuff a couple years down the road.

I can't emphasize enough finding access to a good collection. Ours would blow your mind– memail me if you're in Seattle.
posted by carterk at 9:38 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perhaps Jean Marzollo's Little Bear, You're a Star!: A Greek Myth About the Constellations or her Pandora's Box: A Greek Myth About the Constellations, Aliki's The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus, Craft's King Midas and the Golden Touch, or Amery's Greek Myths for Young Children?
posted by oceano at 9:51 PM on August 20, 2012

I used to go to the library multiple times a week in early elementary school/preschool and would more often than not take a look at this book because I loved the drawings and the stories so much: The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki. It's delightful. And probably just what you're looking for.

I also like the books on Greek and Norse mythology by Mary Pope Osbourne - nicely illustrated re-tellings of particular myths.
posted by grokfest at 1:13 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stories from the Stars: Greek Myths of the Zodiac, compiled by Juliet Sharman-Burke, wonderfully illustrated by Jackie Morris.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:09 AM on August 21, 2012

Usborne Greek Myths for Young Children.

and also
The Amazing Adventures of Hercules

The latter was my little brother's absolute favourite book when he was about 4. His heroes were Hercules and Caliban (from the animated tales version of The Tempest). He was quite a handful.
posted by Acheman at 6:17 AM on August 21, 2012

Not a book, but the Fandex Family Field Guide gives you classical portraits of mythical types as well as some text for when the child is older. You never know what is going to click with a four year old. Having an early memory of renaissance artist renderings might pay serious dividends later one. And the novelty of the arrangement might appeal as well.
posted by BWA at 7:03 AM on August 21, 2012

Seconding the Usborne Greek Myths book. I bought it for my then 4 year old daughter at the Nashville Parthenon and she loves it.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:14 AM on August 21, 2012

We had this book in my family. It is EXCELLENT - it is in cartoon format. In fact it made such an impression on my sister and I that we talk about it frequently 20 years later and I have gone back to it several times to see how my experience of it changes. However, I should warn you: it doesn't really dilute the essential horror of the myths. Orpheus and Euridice still freaks me out. I used to dare myself to look at the tragic panel where Euridice goes back to Hades as an 8-year-old.
posted by Cygnet at 12:46 AM on August 23, 2012

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