You can tell your family is totally obsessed with the Greek Gods and Goddesses when they choose their email names based on their favorite. (And for Molly, that would be Hestia, Goddess of family, hearth and home). Or when the favorite family game of choice is the fast-paced math game “Zeus on the Loose,” (which Jacob would be willing to play for hours on end.)
What sparked this preoccupation with all things Greek mythology? You won’t be surprised to learn it’s Rick Riordan’s award-winning and best-selling series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. (Known to our family as The Lightening Thief series for the splendid and captivating first book of that title.)
We are very confident in recommending this as a perfect family read-aloud to introduce your tweens and teens (and even early readers. . . ) to this terrific series of tales. No doubt about it, you and your family will be hooked and sucked into reading the entire series. You’ll need to make some rules about reading ahead if you don’t want spoilers to abound, as kids we know can’t help but talk about the surprising twists and turns. For those who enjoy these chapter books for their independent reading, it will be tough to wait for the next evening’s read aloud installment.
So in the meantime, for readers who want to enjoy the lives of the gods on their own, may we recommend the following two series?
Goddess Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Did you ever wonder what it was like for the pre-teen Goddess set? Luckily, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams have! This is a perfect read-on-your own series (I estimate for 3rd though 7th graders). It’s helpful to start with the first book in the series ( Athena the Brain ) to enter the world of Goddess girls and understand the context. Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, has always known she’s a smart cookie, but is surprised when she is whisked away to Mt. Olympus Academy–and a bit nervous about fitting in and dealing with her dad (Zeus, of course). But she becomes great friends with (most of) the other girl goddesses and godboys. Of course there is the occasional mean girl (Medusa). . .Luckily, she excels in her studies and activities, meeting challenges in Hero-ology by ending the Trojan Wars, for example. A light touch on the Greek myths and the relationship of the goddesses to each other. Fun reading! And definitely addictive.
Heroes in Training by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom is the first book of this series with the Greek Gods as pre-teens. Here we meet Zeus as a 10-year-old who is darn sick of getting hit by lightening every single year. In a clever re-interpretation of the origin myths of the Greeks, Zeus is kidnapped by the Titans to set a chain of events into play. He sets off on a quest to rescue his youthful fellow Olympians from the evil Cronus. Armed with his trusty thunderbolt (named Bolt, of course), Zeus is on an adventure of a lifetime–and a journey to fulfill his destiny as King of the Gods. The series is lots of fun, and as addictive as the Girl Goddesses.
Of course, other resources abound, and we’ll be blogging about them soon. But while you’re waiting for our posts, we suggest you dip into the two following resources (and terrific coffee table books):
D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaires
This over-sized picture book has introduced at least a couple of generations to the Greek Gods over the last 50 years. The illustrations capture young readers’ imaginations, and the tales are more engagingly written than other retellings we’ve come across. Even pre-readers can look through the pages and be mesmerized and eager to hear the stories that go with the pictures.
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco
Written from Percy’s insider point of view, this compilation of the Greek Gods and Greek mythology is awesome! He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who’s who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. “If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that.” Love the sarcastic asides. A must-have resource for lovers of Rick Riordan’s take on the Greek Gods.