It seems unlikely that any retelling of Homer’s Odyssey would fail. It is a tale that has entertained and enlightened Western civilization for more than 2500 years. In The Adventures of Odysseus, Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden succeed in creating a fast-moving story that hits the highlights of the Odyssey in about 100 pages, divided into sixteen chapters.
Christian readers should be aware that ancient Greek gods and goddesses play important roles in this story. There is a visit to the mythological underworld and some dream interpretation. Also, be warned that the adventures of Odysseus are often violent.
The reading level is probably geared toward the typical sixth grader. However, to test the book’s narrative appeal, I read it as a serial over a period of two weeks to my five-year-old son. He loved it!
First, we enjoyed the vibrant illustrations. My son wanted me to identify every character depicted in them. A slogan of Barefoot Books is “Celebrating Art and Story,” and the book does have exceptionally rich and beautiful ink-and-watercolor illustrations on the cover and inside. This is in keeping with the statement on the Barefoot Books web site that “At Barefoot, we are convinced that introducing high-quality images to children at an early age . . . plays a critical part in their emotional and intellectual development.”
We also enjoyed the writing. The book was a pleasure to read. Descriptions of characters are vivid, dialogue is lively, and the story allows for much discussion about human limitations and fallibility. I was pleased to see that the authors did not omit the moving story of Odysseus’s reunion with his dog Argos when he returned to his hall. My only significant complaint about the text is an overuse of pronouns.
The book could have included a map of Greece and western Turkey for a general idea of where this story is supposed to have taken place. Looking at an atlas, my son and I identified the possible locations of Troy and Ithaca and noticed the many islands in the Aegean Sea. Also, I sometimes wished for a pronunciation guide for the characters. One should have been included.