Ancient Greece: An Incomplete & Rather Hasty Bonny Glen Roundup

June 20, 2011 @ 4:44 pm | Filed under: , ,


I’m still answering questions in the Open Thread comments (and will continue bumping longer answers to new posts, like this one).  Stephanie wrote:

I would love some suggestions for my 2nd grader – we are going to be covering Ancient Civilizations (Greeks, Romans, China) this coming school year and I’m wondering what read-alouds or chapter books you would suggest to her. She is an advanced reader so I’m looking for both books that would challenge her plus ones I could read to her with younger siblings. I’ve never tackled Greek myths before and need some age appropriate guidance! : )

I replied with a list of things we’ve read & enjoyed. I know there are lots and lots of other good books on these topics; this is just a sort of top-of-my-head collection of standouts from my family’s experience. And linking things nicely takes more time than I have this afternoon, so pardon the dashed-off character of this post.

UPDATED 6/21 to add a book I forgot—possibly Rose’s favorite besides the D’Aulaire. Adventures of the Greek Heroes by Mollie McLean & Anne Wiseman, a book she read so often I had to buy a second copy to replace the tattered, brokenbacked, page-shedding first copy.

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths is the main one, the book that has enchanted every single one of my girls from age four on. (Neither of my boys are ready for chapter books yet; see this comment for more on that.)

(D’Aulaire’s Norse Myths is another tremendously and enduringly popular book in these parts. Also the Trolls collection.)

Mary Pope Osborne has a lovely Greek myths collection as well. (And I’ll add, though off topic, a cheer for her Favorite Medieval Tales, a book I myself adore.)

A bit older, of course, and my kids go nuts for all things Percy Jackson.

Jim Weiss has several Greek myth cds—they + D’Aulaire are what sparked my Rose’s interest in Ancient Greece at age five, a passion that endures to this day. (Though lately she’s more into Egyptian mythology.)

Odds Bodkin has an Iliad storytelling CD—we checked it out once years ago after hearing many rave reviews, but I think I jumped the gun; the graphic snakes-eating-the-daughters-of-Laocoön part in the beginning terrified my tiny girls. I’m sure they would listen with relish these days, bloodthirsty lasses that they are. ;)

Oh, another big hit has been Famous Men of Greece by John Haaren (you can read it for free at That one focuses more on historical figures (some legendary) than gods & goddesses.

Also, the Ancient Greece chapters of A Child’s History of the World.

As I said, there are oodles of other good books on Greek myths & historical figures, but these are the ones I can vouch for as having engaged my own children across a wide age span.

Oh, and for a while, they were crazy about this website where you can follow the adventures of some cartoony Athenians and Spartans.

Here’s a post I wrote in 2006 about Rose’s passion (age seven at the time) for Ancient Greece: What the Tide Brought In.

And one from another round of enthusiasm in 2009: This Week in Ancient Greece.

(That post reminded me, duh, of Padraic Colum’s The Children’s Homer, which Rose devoured that year. And that was the year I read huge chunks of The Iliad and The Odyssey to the girls—my college texts, not children’s translations, and they were so into it! Ages eight, ten, thirteen, roughly, I think? I can’t be bothered to do the math. Anyway, I mention this not at all in a braggy sense but quite the opposite: there’s a reason those cracking good tales have endured for centuries. They GRAB you, even if you’re little.)

I know the original question asked for Ancient Rome & China suggestions too; will tackle those in separate posts.

**UPDATE! Be sure to see the comments for great suggestions from other readers!**

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8 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Love2learn Mom says:

    I love these book list posts. We also love String, Straightedge and Shadow (not just Greek, but mostly Greek) by Julia Diggins and Stories from Herodotus by Glanville Downey.

    My kids are also gaga over Percy Jackson – partly because of your blog posts! On our recent California road trip, many of our sight-seeing stops were Percy Jackson inspired (especially Hoover Dam – had to see the bronze angels and make Dam jokes). 😉

  2. Love2learn Mom says:

    Oops – forgot to mention that Bethlehem Books has a children’s biography of Herodotus that fits rather nicely with the Glanville Downey one (which is sadly out-of-print).

  3. Melissa Wiley says:

    Ooh, you are right, we LOVE String, Straightedge, and Shadow! And the Bethlehem book is the Jeanne Bendick one, yes? Herodotus and the Road to History? Jane loves all the Bendick books but I don’t think the others have read them yet. I’m planning on working the Galen & Archimedes ones into our current sciency rabbit trail. So glad you chimed in!

  4. Lisa says:

    I agree with EVERYTHING here!
    For slightly older kids (4–8 grade) my daughter still passionately loves “Black Ships Before Troy” by Rosemary Sutcliff. The Egypt Game by Snyder, but many parents will want to carefully preview this one. We also loved “Lifting the Lid on Mummies” a “toy” but one that teaches and is fun.

  5. Lisa says:

    Forgot the Diane Stanley book on Cleopatra!!

  6. navhelowife says:

    Usborne books has some good ancient greece/rome fact books. My kids LOVED a book (out of print) called _The Golden Age of Greece_ by Olivia Coolidge and Adventure with the Gods by Catharine Sewllew. We also read the series Myth O Mania – Greek tales written with tongue in cheek – “Have a Hot Time Hades”, etc…Kate McMullan wrote these. I haven’t used this one specifically but the others are really good “Classical Kids; An Activity Guide to Life in Ancient Greece and Rome”. I second the Jim Weiss CD’s – we really enjoyed these. Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff.
    OH, Theras and His Town – out of print, available used, and a GREAT read aloud book. This was my FAVORITE thing to study and teach.

  7. patricia says:

    I’m late to the party! My 9-year-old has been obsessed with the Greeks for quite a while now. He also loved Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus.

    And every other Greek book I can get my hands on. We’ve loved so many, that I can’t recall any particular ones right now. Kinda pathetic.

    But here’s one I love, for project ideas. An Elementary Odyssey. Picked it up at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles. It has great ideas for exploring The Odyssey with younger kids.

    Oh, and you might want to check out the duct tape hoplite armor that we made together.

  8. Kimberlee Conway Ireton says:

    Thank you, Melissa! My kids have loved reading (and hearing) Greek and Roman myths this year, so I’m glad to read about more books I can share with them. Woot!

    (P.S. We all loved The Bat-Poet, which we read on your recommendation. My son, age 7, said he loved the poems in it because they were so beautiful. My daughter, age 4, wanted to know if the bat really wrote those poems.)