Saturday, October 10, 2009

How many versions of the Odyssey could there be?

And which is the "right" one for me?

We've gone through about 7 versions so far!  Not all from start to finish, of course... lots of hopping around as library books are due, one wants to read ahead, etc.  Here are a couple of reviews:

The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum is a good, solid retelling of both the Illiad (the Trojan War) and the Odyssey (wanderings of Odysseus).  Publisher says it's for ages 9-12, but I think most 9 year-olds would stumble over the King James style English.  But, it's pretty thorough, doesn't leave out any of the adventures, and has a handful of black and white illustrations throughout.  Good for middle grades to read independently.

I find Mary Pope Osborne's (of Magic Tree House fame) version, Tales from the Odyssey, the most... interesting.  Broken into three volumes, the books are highly readable by the younger set - probably those that are used to reading her Magic Tree House series.  However, just because the language is relaxed and there are fewer words per page does not change the content.  The cyclops Polyphemus still bashes the brains out of the skulls of Odysseus' men, etc.  So while you may be able to hand these books over to your second grader, you may not want to.  The Odyssey has some scary stuff in it.  I like it better as a read-aloud, and I find these books on the "light" side for our read-aloud tastes.  I would recommend it for older elementary students that are still having reading difficulty.

So far my favorite version has been right in the middle.  The Adventures of Odysseus by Hugh Lupton, Daniel Morden and Christina Balit is an excellent picture book version that still has a complete text.

This book is just under 100 pages, and is broken into 16 stories including a prologue (Trojan War story) and epilogue.  Each page of text is surrounded by gorgeous watercolor, gouache and gold ink illustrations that really bring the story to life.  I find the narration to be beautifully lyrical (and this story was a poem, right?), neither too antiquated nor simplistic.

"The next morning, when dawn took her golden throne, we said our last farewells to Circe.  She gave us a wind to fill our sail.  When the wind failed us, when the sail sagged, we knew we were approaching the enchanted regions of the Sirens."

I've renewed this book from the library twice already!  Almost time to turn it in for good, so I think this weekend we will read the last few stories and put Odysseus to rest for a bit.  But if we ever get the hankering again, this book is available in full text, for free, on Google Books.

Highly recommended as read aloud for all ages, and independent reader for ages 9 & up.

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