The First Marathon: The Legend of Pheidippides


Twenty-five hundred years ago Greek soldiers faced the Persian army on the plain of Marathon. Pheidippides ran to neighboring Sparta, 140 miles away, to ask for the Spartans' aid. Afterwards he sped back to the battle, where he helped defeat the enemy.

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Twenty-five hundred years ago Greek soldiers faced the Persian army on the plain of Marathon. Pheidippides ran to neighboring Sparta, 140 miles away, to ask for the Spartans' aid. Afterwards he sped back to the battle, where he helped defeat the enemy.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Reynolds retells in picture book format the 2,500-year-old story of Pheidippides, the young runner who raced from the plain of Marathon to the city of Sparta to seek help for the Athenian army when they confronted the Persians in war. After returning to the battlefield and helping the Athenians win, the young man then ran to Athens to relay the news of the victory. Reynolds manages to exercise the turn of story to her advantage by making a final connection between the legend and modern marathons, those who take part in them, and those who aspire to do so. Daniel Minter's bold paintings use flat and shaded primary colors accented with rich black strokes that lead the eye. A black-and-white border employs a variation of the Greek key pattern—its mythic and artistic significance sustaining the textual links between ancient Greece and our contemporary world. A detailed afterword provides interesting background and supports the retold legend with sources and contextual material. Taken together with the bibliography that follows, this section goes a long way toward rendering the retelling transparent, pointing out to readers where the author has fictionalized and why. The afterword includes some fascinating facts that older readers will enjoy (e.g., that a Greek woman who showed up at the first modern Olympics in 1896 was refused a place and ran alongside the men but off the course). In an author's note, Reynolds also provides a brief description of the process of researching the story of Pheidippides. 2006, Albert Whitman, Ages 4 to 8.
—Uma Krishnaswami
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Twenty-five hundred years ago, a small band of Greeks faced the huge Persian army. Given the horrendous odds, help was a necessity, so a young runner named Pheidippides ran 140 miles to Sparta to request aid, and then ran back to report that the Spartans were on their way, albeit in their own good time. The boy stayed to help the Athenians defeat the Persians, and then ran to Athens to relate the news of the victory. Completely spent by his superhuman efforts, he collapsed and died-but he left a legacy in the 26-mile race named after the battle he reported on. This rather heavily fictionalized picture-book recounting presents an engaging young hero in readable, if slightly "gee whiz" prose. The facts of the story, as they are known, are set out clearly within the context of a tale, and the book would read aloud quite well. Minter's illustrations are reminiscent of Ashley Wolff's work, with the strong black outlines and blocks of solid color. The map of Greece and the Persian Empire on the endpapers is most helpful in laying a framework for the story. An afterword includes detailed information on the historical sources the author used to inform her story. A sound addition for most collections.-Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Reynolds, a distance walker herself, spins detail around skimpy Classical sources to create a tale in tribute to every marathoner's hero. Unfortunately, however impressive Pheidippides's achievement may have been-he ran 140 miles to Sparta to beg for help against the invading Persians, ran back to fight in the battle of Marathon, then ran about 25 miles to Athens to report the victory, before dying of exhaustion-this rendition of it never rises above the pedestrian. Minter's static, amateurishly drawn figures are paired to lines like, "But Pheidippides would just laugh and run in circles so that he could stay close to his mother but still get to run." Reynolds closes with a detailed source note and a brief history of the modern marathon-not enough to carry this, or readers, much past the starting line. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807508671
  • Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company
  • Publication date: 1/1/2006
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,024,274
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.06 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.41 (d)

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