How to introduce your young child to Greek mythology

Larry Sanger

My Greek mythology-obsessed 3-year-old remarked as he splashed in his bath: “It’s as fierce as Poseidon’s waves!”

Here he is reading from Mary Pope Osborne’s version of The Odyssey a few months ago:

Some Facebook friends were asking how we got him so interested in and able to follow Greek myths. Well, first of all, we just give him more of what he asks for, and he kept asking for Greek myths. That is certainly not going to be the case with every kid. H. (now age 8) at age 3 wasn’t as interested, for example.

Anyway, if you did want to introduce a child to Greek mythology (which I’ve done with both of my boys, in approximately the same order but not at the same ages), I can recommend the following. I’ve divided the books into stages, and within a given stage, it might not matter what order you go in. Note that not even stage 1 consists of “baby books.” We didn’t start these until E. was 2, I think, and he didn’t really get into it until he was 3.

Usborne, Illustrated Stories from the Greek Myths
Never read this one, except maybe particular stories in single volumes, but given Usborne’s track record I’m sure it’s awesome.

Others in the single-volume “Usborne Early Reading” series such as this one but there are several others (Hercules, Jason; these might or might not be included in the above collection).

My five presentations. If you start with these and they like them, great. E. didn’t like them when I tried them out on him before reading any myths. Later, after we read quite a few myth books, he absolutely adored them. So for E. these would have gone in Stage 2.

The combination of the next two worked very well as a good general intro for H.:
Usborne, Greek Myths (not a baby book, but not as hard as it might look)

E., who didn’t like this one right away, made it through this one later than H. did; still pretty good:
The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus

The various (at least a half a dozen) Graphic Myths & Legends series comix like this one about Hercules.
Whole series by Graphics Universe is highly recommended

This “Step Into Reading” version of the Trojan Horse story.

This is a rather nice one, pretty well-illustrated and well-written:
McElderry Book of Greek Myths

We also read this one but I barely remember it; it was OK; there are doubtless much better options we didn’t read:
Greek Myths and Legends

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

Osborne, Tales from the Odyssey (in two volumes; E. loved this to death, we not only read it but listened to it in the car; H. loved it too, we listened to it two times in the car when he was smaller)

We only listened to this one in the car, but the narrator was awesome and the versions were second to none. Arguably superior to both D’Aulaire and Osborne.
Evslin, Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths
Here’s the book version, which we might pick up.

There are many, many others. These are just the ones we used.

We own several “reference” type introductions to Greek myth, and we find them boring, so I don’t list them. It’s much better to learn about Greek myths by actually reading the stories, rather than lists of facts about gods, etc.

After that…

Percy Jackson books, Black Ships before Troy, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology

The originals in translation; Homer, Hesiod, Apollodorus, Ovid

The originals 🙂

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