The Odyssey

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Odyssey Book Poster Image
Essential, epic poem of Greek gods, monsters, and heroes.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Reading Homer's heroic epic poem, The Odyssey, introduces middle and high school students to many of the Greek myths, gods, and goddesses that are referred to in centuries of literature that came afterward; along with Shakespeare and the Bible, the Greeks are essential background for any modern literature student.


Positive Messages

Though morality in the world of The Odyssey bears little resemblance to 21st-century codes of behavior, goodness and courage do win out in this poem, and the gods eventually reward Odysseus for his steadfastness and past heroic deeds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The hero of The Odyssey, Odysseus, occasionally strays from his homeward path, but he always returns to his mission of returning home to his family. He fights his enemies bravely and honors the gods. Odysseus' son, Telemakhos, is also courageous and resolute in his mission to find news of his father out in the world. Odysseus' wife, Penelope, shows cleverness and loyalty when she fools the suitors by unraveling her weaving every night.


The Odyssey contains plenty to offend pacifists and vegetarians. The slaughter and cooking of animals for foods, and for religious sacrifice, is described in detail. Odysseus loses several crewmen to the six-headed monster Scylla, and faces numerous dangerous threats in his journey. When he returns home, he kills the evil suitors with bow and arrows, and with the help of the goddess Athena. The events in The Odyssey take place 10 years after Odysseus fought in the Trojan War. Throughout the poem, Odysseus' achievements as a warrior are recounted.


There's a degree of implied sex in The Odyssey, as readers know that Odysseus spends long visits with various temptresses, and beautiful young women bathe and adorn men in the book. However, sexual acts are not described in detail.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of wine is consumed by the travelers and the suitors in Ithaca. The suitors are particularly greedy, and they consume much of the wine in Odysseus' cellar while he's away.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, as the name implies, The Odyssey is an epic poem of journey and discovery. It's an essential book for students of literature and students of Greek history and culture. Because the book recounts not only Odysseus' tumultuous journey home and his son Telemakhos' coming of age but also tales of Odysseus' bravery in the Trojan War, it includes a good deal of violence. There's also some implied sexual activity (though nothing graphic). 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybailey.lewis14 May 31, 2015
Adult Written byHappytraveler555 January 7, 2021

A Masterpiece which is best understood with a guide who has read it

It's fashionable to have students read certain things because "they don't want to read anyway, so let's give them something they'll lik... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 21, 2020

An Interesting Book

Yeah, it can be kind of gory and sexual, but it's a great read.
Teen, 16 years old Written byAaron Short September 25, 2018

Timeless Classic

Some depictions of love are too mature for older readers, but besides that its one of the best Epics (and in my opinion best BOOKS) ever written.

What's the story?

When THE ODYSSEY begins, the heroic warrior, Odysseus, has been missing for 10 years, and dozens of greedy suitors are camped out in his house in Ithaca, courting his wife, Penelope, eating his meat and drinking his wine. Odysseus' son, Telemakhos wants to take his place as head of the household, but he is too young and inexperienced to rule over the suitors and he doesn't know if his father is coming home. With the help of the goddess Athena (who disguises herself as a family friend), Telemakhos embarks on a journey of discovery where he meets people who have known his father, and learns a great deal about Odysseus and about himself. Meanwhile, Odysseus is still trying to sail home from the wars; he must overcome numerous supernatural obstacles before he can reclaim his home and family.

Is it any good?

The Odyssey isn't just an important book, it's also a very exciting book and a beautiful work of literature. As the popular Percy Jackson series for younger readers attests, kids are fascinated by Greek tales of gods, monsters, and heroes, and The Odyssey is the original Olympian tale. The epic hero, Odysseus, overcomes supernatural creatures and all kinds of magic, thanks to gods warring among themselves. The prose of The Odyssey, while possibly daunting for middle school and younger kids, is worth appreciating with its beautiful, rhythmically repeated images: "grey-eyed Athena," dawn spreading her "fingertips of rose," etc.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Telemakhos' journey is important. What does he learn about his father and about himself?

  • How do the Greek gods compare with modern ideas of god and religion?

  • What other books have you read that involve a long, arduous journey? Are any of them similar to The Odyssey?

  • Why do you think The Odyssey is required reading for so many high school students?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Greek myths and other classics

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