Saturday, February 23, 2013

Books for Boys: The Joys of Mythology

Mythology is just good fun. Great stories packed with heros and villains and gods and giants and monsters and angst and humor and all kinds of weird names.

I think reading myths can provide a good opportunity to talk about faith perspectives with your kids: comparing their beliefs with beliefs held by others. And certainly there is a cultural perspective that can be learned by reading the myths of a particular group of people. Add to this the fact that many fantasy stories seem to connect to characters and themes that appear in mythologies (Joseph Campbell, anyone?) and you've got some pretty strong reasons to try and hook a middleschooler on myths.

Because the stories are so great--battles, monsters, good & evil--I've found that these stories readily hook many boys. My favorites are D'aulaires' books; both the Greek Myths and the Norse Myths are excellent!

Of course, there are lots of other collections of mythologies from around the world, and D'aulaires' aren't the only ones around. But I think pretty highly of them--perhaps nostalgically, since I loved them as a child--and they've stood the test of time...still great today. Classic stories, classically told.

For a more contemporary take on the Greek myths, I might recommend the Percy Jackson series. Here mythology takes a turn into fantasy. Imagine a world where the Greek gods are real, and the monsters and heroes from Greek mythology are also quite real and hiding just out of plain sight. And then imagine that you are a young adolescent who has to come to terms with the fact that his absent father is actually one of the Olympians and you have a pretty good introductory plot summary to The Lightning Thief. Engrossing stories--Rick Riordan is a fantastic storyteller!--that pull the drama and comedy of the classic myths into contemporary society. A great series!

And if you give the Percy Jackson books a shake and enjoy them, you might go on to Riordan's take on Egyptian mythology--similarly told, translating classic stories into contemporary society--the Kane Chronicles. I've only read the first book in the series, The Red Pyramid, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would definitely recommend it for the middle school (5th-8th) crowd. Action-packed storytelling that teaches you quite a lot about ancient Egyptian culture, society, and mythology. I'm hoping to read the next two books soon.

Do you have other mythological favorites? Please share!

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