|Image from BarnesandNoble.com|
Much has been written about grown up Zeus, the lightening bolt throwing ruler of Mount Olympus from Greek mythology, but what was his childhood like and how did he become top dog? In a compelling and humorous storytelling voice, Karas tells the story of young Zeus whose mother, Rhea, hides him on the island of Crete so that he may grow up in safety away from his cruel father, Cronus. Although he is well cared for by the enchanted she-goat, Amaltheia, Zeus is lonely and longs for playmates. As soon as he is strong enough, Zeus is sent to free his brothers and sisters from their prison inside Cronus’ belly. His adventures continue, filled with monsters and battles, until Zeus is proclaimed “the ruler of heaven and earth. He divided up chores and scheduled playtimes…And thus began fun and order on Mount Olympus.”
The story is a combination of researched information, sources cited in the author’s note, and Karas’ own imaginings used to fill in the gaps. Zeus’ desire to have other gods to play with will be understood by the targeted audience of 5-10 year olds. Although Karas does not go into gruesome detail, adults should be aware that Cronus is shown eating his children and many characters are banished to the underworld. The text is fun to read aloud, especially several rhyming songs that Zeus makes up during his adventures (my brother says my rapping versions of the songs leave much to be desired). The loose and expressive illustrations, created with gouache and pencil on paper, are textured and mysterious. There is a cartoony, slightly surreal atmosphere to the world Karas has created. The difference in size between characters adds a humorous element. Karas also includes an illustrated cast of characters before the story starts, which helps to orient the reader.
I found this book last year while putting together a collection of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology books for kids 7-12 for a course in graduate school. Check out the collection for recommended books, DVDs, audio books, graphic novels, magazines, and websites.
After reading this book have kids choose another god or goddess and have them research and write about their childhood. Bring in a few of your favorite mythology anthologies for kids to cross reference. My current favorites are D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, Donna Jo Napoli’s Treasury ofGreek Mythology, and Greek Myths by Ann Turnbull.
The Cyclopes and the Hundred-Handers are mentioned in this book. Bring in more information about these mythological monsters. Invite kids to research another monster. Have them draw a picture and find two or three facts to share with the group. Try bringing in books like What a Beast!: A Look-It-Up Guide to the Monsters and Mutants of Mythology, Greece! Rome! Monsters!, and Children’s Book of Mythical Beasts and Magical Monsters. Both of these activities are great for kids to practice using table of contents and indexes.
If you’re having a Percy Jackson themed program at your library this is a fun book to read aloud. If you have leftover Harry Potter lightning bolt temporary tattoos, bring them out and rename them Zeus’ lightning bolts.
Check out the book trailer, narrated from the she-goat’s point of view.