Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Homer for Children

Last year we covered Greece and Rome in our homeschooling, so we looked at a number of books on the Illiad and the Odyssey. We were very pleased with the two books by Rosemary Sutcliffe,Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of The Iliad and The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of the Odyssey . Mrs. Sutcliffe retells the story well communicating the action, adventure and intrigue. Furthermore, Alan Lee’s illustrations are masterful resulting in two very compelling books that make it easy to introduce children to these classic stories of western civilization. I enjoyed reading them simply for myself, and my boys would beg us not to stop reading.
Now two issues might come up concerning these stories. First, there is some female nudity in the illustrations. I think it occurs once. When using books with young boys, I think this is a legitimate concern. The illustration would probably be considered mild, but we were able simply not to show that picture to the boys and move on.
The second issue is that some wonder about teaching their children about pagan gods. We did not introduce discussion of Greek mythology until our boys were clearly grounded in the biblical view of God. Now this can be done easily by age four or five (not that they are ready for a degree in systematic theology, but they are clear that there is one true God, and know His basic attributes). Then, with a proper view of God in mind it was not problematic to encounter old stories about “the gods other people believed in.” We have regularly encountered people (in books) who held other views of God, and my boys readily discuss how their ideas conform to or fail to conform to Scripture. For example in reading Black Ships Before Troy we came to the section where Zeus descended to assist the Trojans. Then thinking everything well in hand, he turned aside to pressing matters in Egypt. Then, while he was not looking the tide of the battle turned so that Zeus discovered later, to his chagrin, that his side had lost! At this, my boys scoffed, commenting on how poor their gods are if they can be turned aside and be duped! This led to a great conversation about how the One True God is far superior to the various imagined gods men have conjured up. It is a great joy to see one’s young children see the deficiency of man made religion and in essence say with the Psalmist, “For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens” (96:5).

So we would highly recommend these two books. Penelope Lively has also written a companion volume retelling the Aeneid, In Search of a Homeland : The Story of the Aeneid . We have used it as well and would recommend it though it is not as good as Mrs. Sutcliffe’s books.


At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad that I found your site. We are a very, very conservative family and your "cautions" on books have helped me so much. I select or avoid books based on your reviews. You have helped us weed through the garbage that we don't want to waste our money or time on. You have been a great resource! Thank you so much! There aren't many homeschool moms that are as conservative in our big town, so it's a blessing to find your site. May God bless you and your ministry!

At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Shanna Gonzalez said...

Thank you for your commentary on this book. I regularly use your site when I have a book just a little too old for my kids to engage, and I can't judge how will a book will resonate with them when they grow into it. I especially appreciate your biblical perspective on whether books are appropriate for Christian children.


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