Ancient Greek epics for children?
December 5, 2006 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a book retelling the Odyssey that's appropriate for an elementary-school-aged child.

My daughter (8 years old, but reading maybe 2 years ahead of that) loves the Odyssey, and asks me to tell stories from it a lot. I don't dwell on gore, but neither do I neutralize the violent parts. I find that she can handle scary things in written or spoken narrative much better than in visual form. Is there a children's edition in which the text is pretty complete (no major plot points left out), not too bowdlerized, and any illustrations are not that scary?

Bonus question: How about an edition of the Iliad that also fits these criteria?
posted by expialidocious to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's an awesome Duck Tales movie that covers Homeric legend. Episode 1.26 - "Home Sweet Homer"
posted by sjuhawk31 at 12:17 PM on December 5, 2006

*rereads* Oh, BOOK retelling. I dunno.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 12:21 PM on December 5, 2006

I can't speak from firsthand experience, but Mary Pope Osborne's six-book series of Tales from the Odyssey is supposed to be pretty good. (
posted by Bromius at 12:21 PM on December 5, 2006

Wow, here's one of a series!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:28 PM on December 5, 2006

Here is a class set for the Odyssey and the Iliad.
posted by mattbucher at 1:14 PM on December 5, 2006

The Children's Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy by Padraic Colum covers both the Odyssey and the Iliad. It might be a bit challenging even for a motivated 8-year-old reader, but it does have good read-aloud potential!
posted by kittydelsol at 1:45 PM on December 5, 2006

Forgot to add: Rosemary Sutcliff's The Wanderings of Odysseus and Black Ships Before Troy.
posted by kittydelsol at 1:51 PM on December 5, 2006

I have an old copy of The Odyssey as a paperback-sized comic book which covers all the exciting stuff without the lengthy descriptions. I think it's this one; quick read, immersive presentation, no gorey pictures.
posted by junkbox at 2:03 PM on December 5, 2006

Seconding the Mary Pope Osborne books. My brother of the same age just thoroughly enjoyed them.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:16 PM on December 5, 2006

The Nextext series by McDougal Littell has a retelling of the Odyssey that is very good. It is a text book, but it looks like you might be able to order a single copy from the website.
posted by ubu at 2:20 PM on December 5, 2006

It's out of print, but Tony Robinson's Odysseus: The Greatest Hero Of Them All (book, audiobook, TV series) is a fantastic, albeit very loose retelling of the Odyssey. The BBC really ought to reissue it.
posted by holgate at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2006

Thanks all. I think Sutcliff's Odyssey is the one that had a too-scary illustration of the Cyclops getting stabbed in the eye. I will look at Black Ships, though, and also the Osbornes. One Amazon reviewer commented that her Odyssey books are better written than her Magic Treehouse series - which is good, because I find those to be really clunky to read aloud.
posted by expialidocious at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2006

black ships before troy: i must have read that to my 5-year-old son 20 times? entirely adequate, if not genius-level. i had an illustrated version, fairly short text; maybe there's a longer one. i realise it is iliad not odyssey, but there's probably a companion volume; and to a small child, the iliad is perhaps more interesting than the odyssey. try robin hood as well ;)
posted by londongeezer at 3:55 PM on December 5, 2006

I could have sworn there was a muppet version, but I can't remember who was Odysseus. Grover, maybe.
posted by bingo at 7:17 PM on December 5, 2006

In line with sjuhawk31's suggestion, the PBS show Arthur did a really good adaptation - episode 406 "D.W. Tale Spins."
posted by bluefly at 8:30 PM on December 5, 2006

I grew up with the Barbara Leonie Picard versions of the Iliad and Odyssey, illustrated by Joan Kiddell-Monroe. These would be ideal for reading with an 8-year-old, and I don't think the illustrations would be too scary (they are elegantly done and quite stylised, in the manner of Greek vase-paintings). To my surprise they are still in print, though you might prefer to go to ABE and pick up one of the older Oxford hardback editions, which can still be had quite cheaply.
posted by verstegan at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2006

I read Roger Lancelyn Green's versions as a child - Tales of the Greek Heroes and The Tale of Troy.
posted by paduasoy at 3:30 PM on December 6, 2006

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