Heroes of Olympus
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Heroes of Olympus

3.8 40
by Philip Freeman, Drew Willis

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Accessible, fast-paced retellings of the most important classical Greek and Roman myths, adapted for middle graders.

Ancient myths continue to have modern relevance—for thousands of years they have been the basis for plays, operas, paintings, and movies. And in these retellings from acclaimed writer and scholar Philip Freeman, classic tales fromSee more details below

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Accessible, fast-paced retellings of the most important classical Greek and Roman myths, adapted for middle graders.

Ancient myths continue to have modern relevance—for thousands of years they have been the basis for plays, operas, paintings, and movies. And in these retellings from acclaimed writer and scholar Philip Freeman, classic tales from Greek and Roman mythology find new life and inspire aspiring writers, artists, and musicians. Adapted from the lengthier Oh My Gods and specially tailored to a younger audience, these irresistible stories of philandering gods, flawed heroes, and tragic lovers portray the fundamental aspects of humanity and are filled with entertaining drama and valuable insights. Sixty dramatic illustrations enliven the book.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—Adapted from Freeman's adult title Oh My Gods (S & S, 2012), this overview of classical mythology covers much territory. Beginning with "Creation" and Zeus stepping up as "leader of the immortals," the book is divided into broad sections with two- to eight-page segments describing an array of "Gods," "Goddesses," "Heroes," and "Lovers" (included here are tales such as "Procne and Philomela" and "Glaucus and Scylla"). Chapters focusing on "Hercules," "Jason and the Argonauts," "Odysseus," and other well-known adventures are lengthier, and the final section touches briefly upon Roman myths. While Zeus and his interactions with the mortal women "unlucky" enough to catch his eye are allotted 14 pages, other deities get briefer treatment (Athena is given about 2 pages with the story of Arachne squeezed in). The stories unfold with plenty of violent encounters, sexual conquests, alliances and betrayals, ambition and revenge, and harrowing twists of fate. However, despite the high drama, the detail-laden writing seems almost workmanlike (Theseus's heroic feat is described: "He killed the Minotaur and then led the youths and maidens out of the twisting Labyrinth by following the thread"). Presented in shades of black and gray, the digitally rendered illustrations add muscle to the text with sophisticated, graphic-novel-style depictions of the characters and their endeavors. While this volume could be used as a survey-style introduction, readers looking for greater artistry and emotional depth would do better with works such as Donna Jo Napoli's Treasury of Greek Mythology (National Geographic, 2011).—Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
This competent introduction to Greek mythology, adapted from Freeman’s recent adult title Oh My Gods, begins with a description of Creation, followed by sections on major and minor deities, heroes, lovers, and such stories as the fall of Troy and the founding of Rome, among other popular tales. A great deal of space is devoted to Zeus’s love affairs and, more often, rapes. Other gods generally receive a page or two, although some who are naturals for a young audience—like Ares and Athena—are given little space. The heroes’ tales receive significantly more attention, though they are mostly told in a pedestrian third-person style that fails to convey much excitement. As part of one of Hercules’s labors, for example, Freeman writes that he “found the bull and wrestled it to the ground. Then he borrowed a trick that his father, Zeus, had used with Europa. He rode the bull across the sea and back to the mainland.” Adequate as an overview, but there are stronger choices available, particularly Donna Jo Napoli’s 2011 Treasury of Greek Mythology. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Joelle Delbourgo, Joelle Delbourgo Associates. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
A numbing catalog of "Gods, Goddesses, Monsters, and Mortals" from Greek and Roman mythology, condescendingly "adapted" for younger audiences from a juicier version for adults. Spun off from Freeman's Oh My Gods! (2012) but hardly differing in page count, Calkhoven's methodical treatments of 60-some classical myths and legends only rephrase and tone down Freeman's language. She leaves most of the (nearly continual) sex and violence in but describes it euphemistically or in dryly factual ways. The retellings arbitrarily blend Greek and Roman versions of names (Zeus, Hercules) and inconsistently render some in English ("Sky" rather than Uranus and "Earth" rather than Gaia, but only proper names for all of their offspring). The dozens of headed entries begin with "Creation" and, after Cronus castrates his father (or, as it's put here, "slashed Sky's flesh") the war between gods and titans. Thereafter in no particular order (except that the Roman entries come last) come short accounts of individual gods and demigods mixed with topical overviews ("Goddesses," "Heroes"), genealogical recitations and short summaries of epic tales ("Troy") or legends ("Scaevola"). Original sources for all of these get scarcely a mention, and though many of the tales are not among the usual suspects, readers needing reminders of who Despoina, Otus, Ephialtes and dozens of less familiar figures are will get no help from the spotty annotated cast list at the end. An opening promise of "beauty and magic and disturbing twists" goes unfulfilled in this monotonous parade of ancient names and detached barbarism. Illustrations not seen. (Mythology. 12-16)

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Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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Read an Excerpt


I love stories about ancient gods and heroes. Magical stories set in strange and ancient worlds were my favorite bedtime reading when I was young, and they still are today. What could be better than Zeus wielding his mighty thunderbolt or Hercules slaying monsters?

When we use the word “myth” today, we usually mean a story that isn’t true. The ancient Greeks used the word “mythos” to mean anything spoken—tales told by great bards and poets in story and song. The Greek and Roman myths were traditional tales that held important meanings, whether they were true or not.

The Greeks had their own stories, but they were also a people of the wine-dark sea. Everywhere Greek colonists settled, the stories of their gods and heroes flourished. They were quick to adopt new tales, and stories flowed into Greece from places like Asia Minor, the Nile valley, and Mesopotamia. When Phoenician traders introduced their alphabet to the area around the Aegean Sea, the Greeks adapted the symbols to their own language and began to write their stories down.

Sometime around the year 750 BC, a poet named Homer recorded the greatest of all the Greek stories: the story of the Trojan War. Others wrote down other tales as well, and throughout Greece, festivals were devoted to tragedies and comedies about the gods, goddesses, heroes, and monsters of ancient times.

Far to the west, a small village on the banks of the Tiber River in Italy had begun to expand beyond its seven hills. The Romans inherited a rich mythology from their own ancestors, but they added many of the Greek stories and made them their own. As Rome grew and its power extended across the Mediterranean and beyond, the Romans spread the ancient myths throughout their empire.

In this book you’ll find modern retellings of all the major Greek and Roman myths. These stories are so full of beauty and magic and disturbing twists that today’s readers can still find truths in the ancient tales.

May you never lose your love for old stories.

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