A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a bloody story, and the authors don't shy away from it. People are killed in battle and in cold blood, by humans and by monsters, and animals are killed for food and for sacrifice to the gods.
What's the story?
Nine years after the end of the Trojan War, a stranger washes up on the island of Scheria. He is found by Princess Nausicaa and taken to her father Alcinous' palace. There they discover that he is Odysseus, king of Ithaca, and he begins to tell his tale.
After foolishly enraging the sea god Poseidon by blinding his son, the cylops Polyphemus, Odysseus and his men are blown from one hair-raising, deadly adventure to the next, until the ship is destroyed, all the men killed, and only Odysseus survives. But more trouble awaits him at home, where evil suitors have taken over his castle, insisting that Odysseus' wife choose one of them to marry.
Is it any good?
The authors of this version of The Odyssey tell the story in much the same order that Homer did, and they include a bit of gritty violence that hints at the gore of the original. The language is slightly formal, clear, and rich -- this is a retelling, not a dumbing-down.
The illustrations are less successful. Highly stylized, they wrap around the text in sometimes confusing ways, and no character, not even Odysseus (who is oddly portrayed beardless), ever becomes recognizable. They are the kind of pictures that don't draw kids in; kids will glance at them, occasionally puzzle over some of the more confusing ones, but they fail to linger in the mind or enhance the story. Nevertheless, for the text alone, this is a worthwhile addition to a child's library of classic stories.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of hubris. Did Odysseus deserve his fate? Did his men? What does the story tell us about how the ancient Greeks saw the world? Children may be interested in reading more thorough retellings, and older children may want to read a translation of the original. Some may also be interested in researching the truth beyond this seemingly fantastic story.