Brainy Bunny has a master's degree in Greek and Latin Philology, with particular interest in historical linguistics and ancient religions.
Stories about the Greek gods have been around for three millennia, and they're not going away anytime soon. In fact, they're hot again, popping up in children's literature like turkey timers on Thanksgiving.
Thanks to the Percy Jackson series, authors and publishers have jumped on the Greek god gravy train, and our kids are a little better off because of it. Leave your dusty old Edith Hamilton on the shelf, and take your kids on a wild ride to meet the modern-day incarnations of the Greek gods, goddesses, and monsters.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief started the renaissance in Greek mythology, and with good reason: the books are brilliant. Rick Riordan's command of the entire pantheon of Greek deities, monsters, and mythological happenings is unparalleled in its accuracy to historic texts and in the creativity he shows in his modern reimaginings.
The five-book series stars Percy as the son of Poseidon, destined to be the deciding factor in a battle of the gods against the Titans. Before he finds out he's a demigod, he thinks he's a bad kid; he's always getting kicked out of schools because of his low grades and ADHD. After he battles his math teacher (a Fury in disguise), he eventually finds out the truth. His best friend and protector, a satyr named Grover, brings him to train at Camp Half-Blood, a special camp for demigods. There he meets a daughter of Athena who becomes his companion in his quests to save the world. Each adventure is more gripping than the last, ending in the fifth book in the battle to end all battles. Percy Jackson deserves a place next to Harry Potter on the bookshelves of all readers, young and old alike.
The Pandora series by Carolyn Hennesy takes the familiar myth of Pandora's box, and turns it into a saga chronicling 13-year-old Pandora's quest to return all the types of evil to the box and save the world (after accidentally releasing them when she brings the box to school for a project). The books are full of humor and charm, as Pandora and her friends get help (and hindrance) from various gods, goddesses, and mythological characters. She also travels through time and lands in some mythological hotspots, like the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, and the Judgement of Paris, which provide a nice background in traditional myth for kids without hitting them over the head with "educational" stuff. This series is perfect for tweens and young teens.
This is perhaps the silliest series on this list, but who says mythology has to be serious all the time? These books, aimed at girls eight years old and up, take the bare essentials of Greek mythology and flesh them out again with a modern sensibility and a large dose of humor. Even just the premise — the immortal goddesses are in school at Mount Olympus Academy — is worth a few giggles. In addition to battling fierce monsters (for a grade, of course), Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, and various other bit players deal with the problems that plague kids everywhere, and in every time period: bullies, crushes, strict teachers, and gossipy frenemies. Your daughter may not learn much more than the names and basic attributes of the Greek gods from reading this series, but she will have a great time.
The Mythlopedia series is a brilliant take on traditional mythology books. Designed for today's tween, the books are fairly short, filled with colorful cartoons and illustrations, and not a little snarky. The text is broken up into manageable chunks, so kids don't get bored reading long encyclopedia entries. The best thing about the Mythlopedia books, though, is that they get the stories right. If your child has any questions about a character in one of these series, these books will give him the skinny. Each book also includes a family tree of the Greek gods and goddesses, so your child will easily be able to tell the Titans from the gods, and which demigods are related to whom, and which gods favor which heroes (or have it in for them!).
Brainy Bunny (author) from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on January 23, 2012:
Thanks, Nate. I'm a "classically-trained" classicist myself, but I'm really glad my kids enjoy these books. They're a good introduction to the majesty of the mythology of the ancient world, without trying to force-feed the kids.
Nate Ahern on January 23, 2012:
Great stuff. I like it. Though I like the old-style E. Hamilton et al, I'm also glad there's new stuff out to make the myths current today.
Brainy Bunny (author) from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on January 12, 2012:
Please let me know when you publish your versions; I'd love to read them, and I bet my daughter would, too! She has also started asking about the originals, and I gave her a copy of Gods and Heroes by Gustav Schwab that I had gotten as a teenager, but it was a little daunting. (A 764-page book translated from German? I can't imagine why she'd be scared!) To read aloud to my five-year-old, I have found that the DK version of The Odyssey is great -- a reasonably authentic translation, with a lot of background information in the sidebars, and beautiful artwork. Check it out from the library; your daughter may enjoy it, because the grade-level is 3rd through 5th.
Anahi Pari-di-Monriva from Massachusetts on January 12, 2012:
Every point you've made about each series (and my daughter has them all, in complete sets!) is very true! But these modern series have prompted her to ask for the "real" - i.e. the original - versions. I've begun telling them to her orally and now am in the process of writing them down and publishing them as e-books but in thematic tomes. You're right, too, that Edith Hamilton is too dusty and dry for the 10-12 year old set!