Encompassing the most compelling stories ever told, Greek myths are a literary source that flows through many popular books for older children including the Lightening Thief and the Harry Potter series. Award-winning author Jean Marzollo has written and illustrated appealing retellings of these myths just for children ages 4-8. In Marzollo's Little Bear You're a Star, Let's Go Pegasus (July 2006) and Pandora's Box (September 2006), younger children can get to know prominent mythological characters before they encounter them in the upper grades of the elementary school core curriculum.
"In my school visits, I found that young children recognize the names Zeus, Medusa, Pegasus and Hercules from movies and TV shows. What they know is not always faithful to the original tales of ancient storytellers Ovid and Hesiod, nor is it always coherent," says Marzollo, author of I Spy and former editor of Scholastic's kindergarten magazine, Let's Find Out. "By learning Greek myths when they are young, children will have a solid base to build upon when they reach upper elementary school grades."
Marzollo paints the vivid illustrations in her Greek myths series in separate pieces, scans them and uses Photoshop to compose the finished art. A Greek chorus, in the guise of a lively cartoon animal, comments on the action in the whimsical drawings that border each page. The chorus further explains the action and gives children their first experience with Greek myths as a literary form.
"I love being able to create both the words and the art for children. All of me goes into these books, my teaching background, my writing skills, and my experience with children," she explains. Marzollo's other works, http://www.jeanmarzollo.com, have won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, been featured on the Today show and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Her Shanna First Reader series has been adapted for television by Playhouse Disney.
Marzollo is eager to retell these myths because she feels storytelling is often short-changed in the classroom as schools continue to emphasize testing. Children read myths as pure entertainment because they are action-packed, suspenseful and deal with universal themes. For teachers and parents, reading these stories with children is an enjoyable way to foster a love of reading.