The Odyssey

Common Sense Media says

Essential, epic poem of Greek gods, monsters, and heroes.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

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

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
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.

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). 

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Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Homer
Genre:Adventure
Topics:Adventures, History
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:November 28, 1998
Number of pages:528

This review of The Odyssey was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byhappysted April 28, 2012
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

Great book!

As a smart teen, I love this book. It's one of my favorites. It's loads easier than the Iliad. (I read the Odyssey in four days compared to where it took me a month to read the Iliad) It's a great way to get into epic poetry. I would reccomend having some myth knowledge or having some sort of myth dictionary while reading it. (Try Mythica for a myth encyclopedia) I would say gifted kids could read it at 12. I read it at 13 for the first time. Reassure them that it's okay if they don't get everything the book has to offer. There was many details you'll miss. After reading it three times now, I still find new details every time!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written byrugbyrules April 29, 2012
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Great for everyone that understands it

Awesome book. I only rate it 11 and up because people under 11 may not understand it. Great educational value.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old December 7, 2014
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

Very good

This is an essential for everyone and you will most likely read it in school. There is some violence and implied sensuality. A lot of the old terms and language may be too hard for younger children to comprehend. Some of the parts might also be frightening (Scylla, ghosts, dead cattle mooing).
What other families should know
Educational value
Too much violence
Too much sex

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