Kids love Greek mythology– and what’s not to love? They’re action-packed, drama-filled, funny, and adventurous stories, albeit occasionally inappropriate, but not if you read middle-grade books like Percy Jackson or Myth-O-Mania.
The Greek Patheon encourages growing readers to read both nonfiction and fiction books, which build skills and background knowledge.
The Greek mythology books on this list often motivate kids to challenge themselves to read more difficult texts than they normally would. Watch how much vocabulary they’ll learn doing this.
Myths also give readers foundational literary context for future stories and books they’ll be reading.
I consider myths part of the canon of common stories which incidentally, is becoming less common… but that’s a whole different blog post for another day.
Many classical myths have common tropes which often repeat themselves in literature today. Both my kids are glad they had a foundation from childhood to help them with high school classes where they read about Ancient Greece, the Trojan War, the Odyssey, and the Iliad. Their background knowledge helped them to comprehend Homer’s epic poem (which is tricky) and to understand its cultural impact.
Here are my top recommendations to get your kids hooked on Greek myths and build their background knowledge.
The Best Greek Mythology Fiction Books for Kids
I Am Pan! by Mordicai Gerstein (ages 5 – 9)
Echo & Echo by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Massee
Marilyn Singer skillfully writes the most amazing, want-to-read-again, reverso poems about Greek myths. Reverso poems are poems that are flipped upside down, more or less, and still make sense! I especially love the “Pandora and the Box” and “King Midas and His Daughter” poems. All the poems are beautifully illustrated, too. This is a must-own poetry book for classrooms and homes.
Middle Grade Books
Get to Work, Hercules! (Myth-O-Mania) by Kate McMullan
This book got us hooked on the Myth-O-Mania series. It’s so hilarious! Hades, god of the underworld, narrates the TRUE stories with panache. (Apparently, his younger brother Zeus is a big fat liar and edited all the myths to make himself look good.) In this story, Hades watches over his young, not-too-smart nephew, Hercules whom Hera has it out for — since he’s the son of Zeus from another woman. Start with this book or the first book in the series, Have a Hot Time, Hades! My teenager was just reminiscing about these books — and is even considering a reread just for fun. See all the books in the series here.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson, a 12-year-old boy with ADHD and dyslexia and a pattern of getting kicked out of school, learns that not only are the Greek gods alive and well, and living in the United States, but his own father is Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. That makes Percy a demi-god. He spends the series of funny, action-packed adventure books escaping from monsters, training at Camp Half-Blood, and trying to save the world from the Titans. Boxed set here.
Also, the Percy Jackson & the Olympians Ultimate Guide is a handy guide so you can quickly look up characters while you’re reading the narrative books. It’s a compact, glossy book that both my kids frequently used.
Oh My Gods! by Stephanie Cooke and Insha Fitzpatrick, illustrated by Juliana Moon (ages 8 – 12)
I’m not a fan of the title but the story is enjoyable and engaging, not snarky or cliquey like the title implies. Karen moves in with her dad, Zed, on Mount Olympus. The kids at her new school are very different — she wonders if they’re into LARP but they’re not, she learns that they’re actually gods and goddesses! When her friend Apollo gets turned to stone, Karen and her new friends have to clear Karen’s name and save Apollo. They meet a lonely girl named Medusa who is responsible for the stone statues. Will they be able to fix things for both Apollo and Medusa?
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco
My kids can’t stop reading and rereading this enormous volume of Greek myths, retold Riordan style — I’m talking laugh-out-loud writing. Remember all the hilarious chapter titles in Riordan’s Percy Jackson books? And the witty, sarcastic voice of Percy? Yup. All here. My youngest daughter’s favorite chapter title is Ares, the Manly Man’s Manly Man. My favorite chapter is: Hephaestus Makes Me a Golden Llama (Not Really, But He Totally Should). The writing is engaging, funny, and accurate. Love this hefty tome!
Greek Myths retold by Ann Turnbull, illustrated by Sarah Young
This is hands-down the best, most well-researched book on Greek Mythology out there. Thankfully, it doesn’t mix up the Roman names with the Greek names like so many other books do. It took my 9-year-old daughter only half a day to devour and it’s 167 pages; she gave it the thumbs up. “NO mixing up of the myths, mom!” She’s been pretty annoyed that so many other books don’t get this right. Turnbull gives us the ultimate guide of Greek locations, monsters, heroes, gods, and mortals. This is a must-own book.
From National Geographic Kids, this book is dense, colorful, and info-packed. It’s almost too busy for my tastes but I’m old — kids like this style. I like the writing a lot — it’s kid-appropriate while sticking to the basics of each myth. Because know that much of the Greek myths aren’t always g or pg (think violence and sex) so I really appreciate the lack of TMI in this book!
Gift From the Gods by Lise Lunge-Larsen, illustrated by Gareth Hinds
This isn’t really a picture book or a chapter book. It’s an illustrated volume of Greek and Roman Mythology with stories as well as the words which originate from them such as words like fury, muse, panic, and echo. Although this isn’t my favorite of the books listed, if your kids like mythology (and Percy Jackson,) give this book a try.
Hera: The Goddess and her Glory by George O’Connor
Both my kids love O’Conner’s graphic novels because they immerse kids in the traditional myths. O’Connor brings them alive with his illustrations and adventurous plotting. This is the story of Hera, the queen of the gods and goddesses and of women and marriage. If you want to read Greek mythology, this is a fun way to do it. Also, check out the rest of the books in the series including Athena (goddess of wisdom and defense) and Zeus: King of the Gods but be aware that these stick to the actual myths –and the Greek gods weren’t models of purity and morality. See ALL his Olympian Greek god and hero graphic novels. Boxed set of Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Aphrodite here.
Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis is a fierce and often vengeful woman. Her stories are filled with conflict which O’Connor makes Artemis more understandable by capturing her motivations and emotions as well as making the stories memorable. Just ask my 14-year old who just aced her English exam thanks in part to this graphic novel series and Rick Riordan’s books.
The muses narrate Apollo’s origin story, his tragic love story with Daphne and Hyacinth, the story of his son Askepios raised by Chiron, and other classic tales. Parents: these are not watered-down versions of the original stories.
Gods & Heroes by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda
Cool pop-ups plus a lot of different mythologies (patheons), not just Greek mythology. Open the page to reveal a large 3D illustration but don’t miss smaller lift-the-flaps with more info and illustrations. Absolutely incredible.
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