Bigger than life characters, epic battles, good versus evil, outlandish monsters and over-the-top family strife are just a few reasons Greek myths are now — just as they have been for generations — absolutely irresistible for middle grade readers. And while no kid wants to hear this now, getting a grounding in Greek tales will serve these young readers well the rest of their lives. So many references in literature (Shakespeare, for one) and pop culture have roots in these myths, and they’ll also provide fodder for kids’ own stories and interpretations.
If Percy Jackson and the Olympians first reeled your reader to Poseidon, Zeus, and Athena, you may be wondering what books to grab next. Or maybe your reader likes the idea of Greek myths, but isn’t really sold on the whole Percy Jackson thing. Either way, here are some ideas for what to read next:
Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ Goddess Girls series is pure delight. Readers can start with any in the series (and then devour all others); one of my favorites is Athena the Brain, which is also first in the series. Athena, 12, is ordered to go to Mount Olympus Academy (where Zeus is principal) where she juggles academics, her social life, and proving her intellect by ending the Trojan War.
Have a Hot Time, Hades! is a one of the many greats in Kate McMullan’s Myth-o-mania series. In this story with a modern twist, Hades tells his own version of how he became King of the Underworld and Zeus became King of the Gods.
Speaking of Hades, new this year in Lucy Coates’ Beasts of Olympus series is Hound of Hades. Having proven himself capable of caring for the mythical creatures that dwell on Olympus, eleven-year-old Demon is summoned by the great god Hades to the Underworld to tend to Cerberus, the three-headed dog Guardian of the Underworld, which has been beaten by Demon’s nemesis, Heracles.
In The New Olympians (Pegasus series) by Kate O’Hearn, Pegasus and Emily investigate a series of incidents back on Earth, and discover that the CRU has been cloning Olympians. Science (STEM) and myths!
One more don’t miss series is The Chronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu (where one of the doors to the Underworld is located under the Mall of America). The Shadow Thieves is first in the series: After her cousin Zee arrives from England, 13-year-old Charlotte and he must set out to save humankind from denizens of the underworld, Nightmares, Death, Pain, and a really nasty guy named Phil.
There are many nonfiction guides, but the gold standard is still D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. It was published in 1962 — not quite as old as the myths themselves, but another one that stands the tests of time and interfering Greek gods and goddesses. And if you can get your hands on this spectacular audio book version, it’s read by Sidney Poitier, Kathleen Turner, Paul Newman, and Matthew Broderick. Best yet, use your local library card to get the downloadable version via OverDrive. Listen to a sample here.