Flashback Fridays: It’s all Greek to me . . .

Today’s a day for another collection that was part of my childhood.  It was a book I checked out incessantly from the library and pored over the pages.  To this day, the images and the stories from that book color my knowledge imagination when I read or refer to Greek mythology.

Do you remember:

D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (Doubleday and Company, c1962)

Whenever my middle grade students come into the library with the words “Greek Mythology” on their lips, this is the first book I will point them to.  I honestly don’t think there’s a better introduction for young readers to the world of Greek myth than this collection of myths.  From the very creation of the world, to the Olympians, to the heroes and finally to the dwindling of the time of the gods and goddesses, this book offers a hefty overview that will give any child a grounding in the basic Greek myths and references.

greek-mythology-characters

This is not easy to do.  I admit, I took for granted the fact that I had this book to read as a child, and I really didn’t appreciate how amazing it was until I became a librarian.  If you look through the Greek Mythology books on offer for kids, there are picture books of singular stories, such as Pandora or Pegasus.  There are books that outline the basic pantheon of the gods and goddesses, or the monsters, or the heroes for younger readers.  There are meatier collections of stories, though few offer them in a sort of time-line overview.  And there’s another issue with mythology that gets a bit dicey to handle when it’s rewritten for kids.  Just about everything those gods and goddesses did seemed related to someone hooking up with someone else–or taking revenge for those hook-ups.  You can’t avoid it and still have the stories make sense.  D’Aulaires didn’t avoid the issue, but they also approached it in such a way in the text that it was appropriate for the younger reader.

02aphr

I so absorbed the stories in this form, in fact, that when I first started digging into the adult mythology side of things I was a little shocked at just how racy things were! Like some of the speculation on just how Aphrodite may have been actually brought into being . . .images (18)

Not only do we have the origin myths of the world, the Titans, and the Olympians, but we have the story of Persephone, Narcissus, Pandora, Endymion . . . almost all of the notable stories are mentioned here.  The art is not so much fancy as simply accessible, glowing and evocative.   I still see the art from this book when I hear these stories.  Published in 1962, there is still no collection that rivals it in my opinion.  Readers ready to break into The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, The Goddess Girls by Joan Holub or Myth-O-Mania by Kate McMullen can get the original stories through d’Aulaires’ book first.

Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaires were a husband and wife artistic team.  Edgar was originally born in Germany, Ingri in Norway.  They both emigrated to the US in and worked on their art careers out of a flat in Brooklyn in 1929.  According to the wiki biography, the director of the New York Public Library at that time saw their work and convinced them to collaborate on children’s books.  (Yay NYPL!) They won the 1940 Newbery for their illustrated biography of Abraham Lincoln and published over 30 books for children throughout their lifetimes.

While their book of Greek Myths is by far my favorite, The d’Aulaires also created D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths (1967)–one of the few cohesive collections of Norse mythology for children.  I’d recommend these as a must for any parent or library that wants a good reference for myths.  Reading through the wiki has made this children’s librarian interested in finding the rest of their works!

So do you have fond memories of this collection?

Comments welcome!

 

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on April 4, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I loved this one too, and it was a huge influence on me. It was a lovely surprise to take a course on Greek sculpture in college and find that I was already familiar with many of the depictions of the gods and myths, because so many of the images in the book are taken from real Greek art (and of course with Aphrodite rather later art….).

  1. Pingback: My 400th Post: What Brought Me This Far: 100 Books in my Blood | Views From the Tesseract

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