Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey

This book brings two of ancient literature’s classic tales together for young readers. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Gillian Cross retells these two enduring tales, bringing them to life with the help of Neill Packer’s vivid illustrations, in the classical style. Cross achieves the almost impossible by making these heroic and sometimes gory tales come to life for a contemporary audience of young readers in deceptively simple storytelling without ever compromising the iconic tales. Each chapter ends in a cliff-hanger making you want to read on. We learn about the strengths and the flaws in human nature and how resilient human beings can be and about the enduring nature of love through Odysseus’s epic journey.

There is a comic element to these stories too, as the men, full of their own importance, take to the battlefield to sort out their differences. Prepared to die rather than lose their honour, they don’t see how powerless they are as the gods have already decided their fates.

Greek mythology firmly upholds the values of the patriarchy with the power, the fighting and the so-called heroic deeds being performed by men. Women are largely relegated to supporting roles and often seen as manipulative and interfering. Even the goddesses have less power than their male counterparts.

Nevertheless, above all, these are simply great stories, full of suspense and adventure. It will be interesting to see how they are viewed by today’s children, especially as they provide another opportunity to introduce the discussion of gendered roles.