Gifts from the Gods: Ancient Words and Wisdom from Greek and Roman Mythology

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Overview

Ancient names come to rich and fascinating life in this lavishly illustrated gift book for mythology fans and word lovers.
Did you know that “museums” were initially temples built to worship the nine muses, the goddesses of the arts? That “Janus” was the god of the doorways and hallways, and we have named our janitors after him?
Where did these words — and other words, such as chaos, genius, nemesis, panic, echo, and narcissus — come from? From...

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Overview

Ancient names come to rich and fascinating life in this lavishly illustrated gift book for mythology fans and word lovers.
Did you know that “museums” were initially temples built to worship the nine muses, the goddesses of the arts? That “Janus” was the god of the doorways and hallways, and we have named our janitors after him?
Where did these words — and other words, such as chaos, genius, nemesis, panic, echo, and narcissus — come from? From the ancient stories of the Greeks — stories that rang so true and wise that the names of the characters have survived for centuries as words we use every day. The brief stories here not only impart the subtle wisdom of these ancient tales, but make us understand the words, and our own world, more deeply.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lunge-Larsen and Hinds explain what words like echo, grace, hypnotize, and janitor have in common, tracing the origins of common words and expressions to Greek and Roman myths. Readers may know that “arachnid” derives from the story of Arachne and that modern-day “sirens” have mythical antecedents, but this collection has plenty of surprises, too, such as the roots of “nemesis” (the goddess of justice) or “tantalize,” after doomed Tantalus. Lunge-Larsen provides additional context, including dictionary definitions, and quotes from children’s literature. Hinds incorporates graphic novel–style elements into his dynamic illustrations, including dialogue balloons and filmic perspectives. A treat for myth lovers and language lovers alike, this smart and well-executed compilation should provide readers with a deeper understanding of the ways in which language evolves and of the surprising symbolism behind certain words. Ages 9–12. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A treat for myth lovers and language lovers alike, this smart and well-executed compilation should provide readers with a deeper understanding of the ways in which language evolves and of the surprising symbolism behind certain words."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The colorful artwork and brief chapters make this volume ideal for classroom sharing. Use this unique offering to launch a discussion about the elemental power of story and its influence on modern-day language."—School Library Journal

"Sure to attract language arts teachers who want students to master word origins, this work will also hold strong appeal for teens who will be attracted by the combination of clever text and exceptional illustrations."—VOYA

VOYA - Rachel Wadham
The complexity of language, from what we say and what we mean when we say it, hearkens back to the stories of the past. Lunge-Larsen shows clearly how this happens as she outlines how the origin and meaning of thirteen different words are strongly based in Greek and Roman mythology. Beginning with the word, its definition, and a quote from a modern children's book, she then very clearly describes the mythology behind the word. This book is very simple but packs a lot of punch, with to-the-point information that draws from history, mythology, and linguistics. Sure to attract language arts teachers who want students to master word origins, this work will also hold strong appeal for teens who will be attracted by the combination of clever text and exceptional illustrations. Hinds has honed his craft though the creation of many outstanding graphic novels, and this volume's layout pays homage to that form with the use of speech bubbles and illustrations of various sizes. Because of this, the work reads more like a comic than an informational text, a feature that will draw teens in and keep them in so they will forget they are actually learning something. A prime selection for both school and public libraries, this book will be suitable for classroom use as well as personal reading. From the familiar to the unusual, readers will be able to see these myths and the language they created in an interesting new light. Reviewer: Rachel Wadham
Children's Literature - Danielle Williams
The English language uses thousands of words taken from other languages, though the etymology of many words have been lost through the years. The ancient Greek and Latin languages have contributed hundreds of words to the English language and Larsen has presented the most common words along with their origin in a fun and interesting manner. Nemesis, for example, is a word that is quite familiar to children fond of superheroes; yet Nemesis was a Greek goddess responsible for meting out justice whose name has taken on new meaning in modern times. Pandora's Box, Panic, and Siren's stories are equally fascinating and are just a few of the dozen stories that appear in this brief book. Each word is accompanied by a modern definition of the word as well as a quote of the word as used in a modern children's story that lends the word a bit of familiarity to children before the history of the word is presented. The illustrations, though simple color illustrations, add depth to the stories presented and help bring the ancient stories to life. Reviewer: Danielle Williams
School Library Journal
Gr 3–7—Mythology meets etymology in this handsome collection that introduces words derived from the gods, goddesses, and humans featured in Greek and Roman tales. From "Achilles' Heel" to "Victory," 17 terms are presented along with the stories of the characters that inspired their origins. Each section begins with a page containing a definition and a quote from a well-known children's book that makes lively use of the featured word, all attractively bordered by a thematic frieze (round eyeballs for "Hypnotize" or emblems of the arts for "Muse"). Clearly and vividly written, the subsequent tales range in length from quick summations (a two-page entry for "Genius") to more detailed recaps of myths (Arachne and Athena's weave-off for "Arachnid"). Entries end with additional notes about the highlighted word and its uses and variations. Hinds's pencil-and-watercolor illustrations have a classical feel, showing statuesque characters girded in golden armor or draped in graceful clothing, frightening beasts (the Furies, set against a crimson background, are particularly haunting with their dripping-with-blood eyes and batlike wings), and an array of human emotions. A thoughtful author's note and a chart listing the Greek and Latin names for the characters are appended. The colorful artwork and brief chapters make this volume ideal for classroom sharing. Use this unique offering to launch a discussion about the elemental power of story and its influence on modern-day language.—Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews

Countering the notion that our language just sprang into existence from nowhere, a respected storyteller offers quick notes on the Classical backgrounds behind several dozen words or expressions in common use.

Arranging her 17 main choices alphabetically from "Achilles Heel" to "Victory," Lunge-Larsen supplies for each a use-quote, retells or paraphrases a Greek or Roman myth that explains the term's usage then closes with quick references to several related gods or other figures whose names are still embedded in English. While "Pandora's Box" and some other entries feature fully developed tales, others do not. The story of Achilles (whose role and death in the Trojan War are encompassed in one sentence about how, after the "Battle of Troy [sic] broke out ... one fateful arrow pierced his heel") and others are sketchy at best. Adding occasional dialogue balloons graphic-novelist, Hinds presents expertly drawn but similarly sketchy watercolor scenes of fully-clothed or discreetly posed mortals and immortals on nearly every page. While pulling modern use-quotes from current literature for kids has the potential to spice up the presentation, some works are relatively obscure (River Boy, by Tim Bowler) or above the natural audience for this text (The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney).

A quick skim of the subject—readable, but unsystematic and not well served by either the art or the dusty closing bibliography. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pamela Paul
Gifts From the Gods, an inventive blend of glossary and anthology, provides a fine introduction to one of the Greeks' enduring legacies: their impact on the English language…With stories that explain the Greek and Roman origins of certain words and expressions, the book gives children something different from the standard dumbed-down Edith Hamilton…likely to stimulate fact-obsessed Percy Jackson fans as well as children who have been ordered to research their school papers offline.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547152295
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/25/2011
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 275,354
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Folklorist, linguist, and professional storyteller, Lise Lunge Larsen draws upon her rich background in legends and myths to make these tales come alive.  A children's book author, she has received many starred reviews and awards for her books. 

Gareth Hinds has created illustrated versions of such classics as BEOWULF, KING LEAR, MERCHANT OF VENICE and most recently, THE ODYSSEY, forthcoming from Candlewick in fall 2010.   As a recent interview with him (SLJ Teen 1/20/2010) said, "He stays faithful to the original text but uses art to illuminate the story and make it more accessible to the reader."  A graduate of the Parsons School of Design, he lives in New York City with his wife, former children's bookseller, Alison Morris. 

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    Highly Recommended-good for vocabulary

    This book explains the meaning of words based on the Gods' stories. It is very interesting and fascinating.

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