The Mythology Handbook: A Course in Ancient Greek Myths
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is both beauty and horror, love and violence, and honor and treachery in the Greek myths. Some of the illustrations could be frightening to younger readers, though no blood or slayings are shown. Parents may need to be ready to discuss the kinds of violence (fantastical verses realistic), the variety of relationships (mortal and immortal liaisons), the existence of humans as well as other races of creatures (Cyclops, giants, satyrs, etc.), and the moral lessons imbued in the ancient stories.
What's the story?
THE MYTHOLOGY HANDBOOK is presented as a course study by Lady Hestia Evans for her two children, Hector and Hippolyte. Lady Hestia Evans is an intrepid 19th century explorer (the year is 1837), and when her research abroad keeps her from her children longer than expected, she creates this handbook and sends it to them to help the kids love Greek myths as she does. The Handbook is divided into three main sections, with 25 lessons in all. The three main sections are, "The Immortals," "Gods and Men," and "Time of Heroes." Information covered includes the Greek gods, the Titans, some of the mythical stories, mythical creatures, hero humans, historical facts about ancient Greece, art and architecture, as well as a timeline, a family tree of Gods, Monsters and Heroes, the Greek alphabet, and a map of ancient Greece. Stickers are also included. Follow-up activities are offered at the end of every lesson.
Is it any good?
This handbook has a scrapbook quality to it, and is rich with sepia-toned, black and white, and color illustrations. There are letters from Lady Hestia Evans, Homeric hymns, and anecdotal sidebars sprinkled throughout the book. The information is an overview rather than an in-depth compendium of the mythical stories, and as such, some readers may be left wanting more. However, readers will get a viable introduction to the major gods and characters, as well as to the vibrant history and panoply of creatures, demi-gods, and human heroes.
The first few pages of the book are somewhat confusing as the reader is confronted with a Publisher's Note, a warning to all mythologists, illustrations randomly placed, and a hefty table of contents. Also, the type face of Lady Hestia Evans' letters is quite small, light, and difficult to read. Maps are also small and difficult to read. A glossary would have been a helpful touch, but there is much information and activity in this handbook to capture the attention of multi-aged readers -- as an introduction or a refresher to the Greek myths.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Greek myths as stories but also as an ancient religion to people living thousands of years ago. What might it have been like to be alive back then, when gods were believed to interact with humans on a daily basis? Do you have a favorite god or goddess? Who and why? Can you think of some English words or phrases that came from the ancient Greek myths? Can you identify any mythical creatures that you have met in contemporary stories, like Harry Potter or the Percy Jackson series?