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Book Reviewed The Odyssey by Homer / Adrian Mitchell | 978-0789454553
Book Cover
Grade Level K - 3

Two Epic Poems

The Odyssey along with The Illiad, both most likely written by Homer, are two great epic poems of the ancient Greeks, many would say their greatest poems. They were used as the foundation for Greek education and have greatly influenced the culture and art of Western Civilization, so much so that today they have been called the “most important poems of the classical European tradition.” For the ancient Greeks the poems gave them a definition of heroism and a moral standard by which to guide their lives.

The Odyssey

The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus’ journey back to his home after the battle at Troy (made famous to us by the Trojan Horse). There are many familiar stories here that have entered into our culture: the Cyclops, the Sirens and the journey into the underworld overseen by Hades and Persephone. It takes Odysseus 10 years to reach his home where more troubles and trials await him.

This Dorling Kindersley Classics edition of The Odyssey for younger readers begins with a brief account of the Trojan War, has excellent illustrations and lots of added information throughout the text regarding the culture of the ancient Greeks.

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Planning to Use This Book?

Here are some additional resources for your students.


Sniffy (professor)

Sniffy Vocabulary: Pages 6-31

Sniffy is a hamster...a talking hamster who likes words. A hamster wordsmith, I guess you could call him. Read along (or just listen) as Sniffy defines and/or illustrates the following words from the reading.

siege

Help!! Help!! I'm under siege. My cage is completely surrounded by a pack of cockroaches. Their leader, the ruthless Wilbur Roach, says he won't let me out or any food in until I surrender. If I don't surrender they'll kick me out when I'm too weak to defend myself. I hate cockroaches. They've tried these siege operations in the past and it hasn't worked. They forget—I have a secret weapon—you want to hear it? Alllllright, here we go. "Uncle Sniffy pancakes without his syrup is like the spring without the fall there's only one thing worse in this whole universe and that's no Uncle Sniffy pancakes at allllllllll." Hee, hee, hee. Look at 'em go. The siege is over! They didn't even have a chance to throw beans at me. Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee.

tempest

Hello!! I'm not in my cage right now I'm on the high seas in a hamster ship. The tempest is terrible. There's rain and hail; lightening and thunder. You just wouldn't believe it. It's the worst storm I've ever been in. The ship is rocking up and down and up and down and up and down and—uh oh—I think— I'mmmm feeeeeling woooooooooooooozy. If this tempest doesn't stop soon—wait—wait—I see something. It's—it's—it's— Poseidon! God of the sea. He's huge! Hey, Mr. Poseidon would you please stop this tempest? If this ship keeps tossing I'm going to toss my breakfast—and my lunch—and my dinner—and the twenty-three bedtime snacks I had—please help me!!!!!!!!!

shroud

A shroud is like a big sheet. People usually use a shroud to wrap a body for burial. When my Uncle Gimbletree died he wanted to be wrapped in a green shroud with pictures of his favorite food on the outside. Here, I'll show you how to wrap someone in a shroud by wrapping myself in it. First, you take it like this—then you pull it over like this—then you try to wrap it around your tush—then once you get around your legs it's hard to keep your balance and if, somehow, you can wrap it around your head—well— you can't see anything—and the next thing you know—whoooooaaaaaaaah!—and once you wrap it around your mouth—iefkei eiekfie kdflsli dkkd eke kekwapeak eojieoldk kekoeao—wait— there. Okay, I can talk again. I'm gettin' rid of this shroud before it kills me.


Sniffy (professor)

Sniffy Vocabulary: Pages 32-63

avert

If you want to avert something it means you want to avoid it, you want to prevent it. In short, and I am short, it means you don't want it to happen. For example, it is my intention to avert all forms of exercise. I don't like exercise. I like my plump, round little belly and I'd prefer to keep my plump, round little belly. Yes, yes, I have a hamster wheel but I avert using it at every turn—ha, ha, get it? Every—ha, ha, ha, turn. You're not going to laugh? Should I have said, "At every rotation"? Are you averting laughter? That's it! I'm outta here!

tunic

A TunicSniffy Says: Tuna? What? These kids don't know what tuna is? This is too easy. Tuna. It's a big fish. Ever had tuna salad? That's a bunch of leaves with a big fish in it. Or how about a tuna sandwich? My momma—
Mr. Draeger Says: Sniffy? It's not "tuna," it's "tunic."
Sniffy Says: Tunic? That's crazy! I've never seen a tuna wearing a tunic. I don't even think tuna wear clothes—pajamas maybe, but not clothes and certainly not a tunic. Anyway, a tunic is this thing you wear under your clothes—well, that is if you're an ancient Greek like Odysseus. They even wore it over their clothes. See the picture? The tunic is the white part, not the cape—boy, if that guy is trying to look like Superman, he's in trouuuuuuuble.

trident

Poseidon with a tridentFirst of all, let's make one thing perfectly clear. I don't like tridents. They're like a spear and they've got three prongs on them. Some people use them for fishing and some hamsters—like my Uncle Peter Poseidon— likes to use them—hey, Uncle Peter—what are you doing here? I see you've brought your trident—looks like you've sharpened those three tips—now don't be pointing that thing at meeeeee—Ouch! Hey! Ouch! Hey! Ouch! Give me that thing! Ah ha! Now look at me. I'm the great Poseidon with my trident. That's right Uncle Peter. You better run. I'll be right back. Ta, ta.

hubbub

Hey! I'm trying to sleep! What's all this hubbub? Is anyone listening to me? Oh, hey. I'm supposed to tell you what hubbub is—what was that? Is there a submarine in here? Anyway, I'm supposed to tell you what hubbub is, but I just don't know if I can— do you hear that? It sounds like a—a—a—yikes! It's a train! This is crazy. Anyway, I'm supposed to tell you what a hubbub is—boy, I like that word. Hubbub, hubbub, hubbub. That's just a cool word. Hey, what are you doing? Hey! That guy just took my motorcycle! Hey, he's not wearing a helmet! Listen I was going to tell you what hubbub was, but there's just too much hubbub! So forget it! Odysseus gave me some earplugs and I'm going to use them. Good night!


The Iliad Revisited with Sniffy the Hamster

Listen to Sniffy and read along.

[whispering] I’m supposed to tell you the story of The Iliad. It’s a loooooong, loooooong Greek poem. It’s the story of what happens before The Odyssey, before Odysseus goes on his long journey back to his wife and son at Ithaca. It’s the story of the war at Troy between the Greeks and the Trojans. I don’t know the story very well so I just decided to travel into the book. Mr. Draeger has a time machine, The H. G. Wells, that can do that so that’s what I did.

[still whispering] Anyway, I’m at a meeting of god and goddesses, that’s why I’m whispering. The gods have asked Paris, the son of the King of Troy, to decide who is the most beautiful of the three goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite. He has an apple in his hand—he’ll give it to the goddess he chooses. It’s a tough choice. These women are gorrrrrrgeous—I mean, if you’re a man, for my taste they don’t have enough fur and absolutely no whiskers. But you should see them! Paris is looking them over. Wait, wait, I can hear Aphrodite saying something to Paris. Oh my gosh! She just told him if he chooses her she will give him the most beautiful woman in the world to be his wife. Look! He just handed her the apple.

Well, it’s a few days later and I’m in Mr. Draeger’s time machine, The H. G. Wells. Aphrodite helped Paris convince Helen, the wife of King Menelaus, to leave her husband to go back with him to Troy. Helen is the most beautiful woman in the world. Well, King Menelaus was not happy about this—in fact, he was so angry he asked his brother Agamemnon, the great warrior Achilles, Odysseus and others to help him get Helen back. The Greek armies traveled to Troy from Greece and that’s where I’m headed. The H. G. looks like a big granite rock so I’m going to land in the Greek camp just outside of Troy.

[whispering] Hello again. I’m inside the Greek camp and there has been some trouble. When the Greeks arrived they attacked some Trojan cities and captured two women. Agamemnon took Chryseis and Achilles took Briseis. This made Apollo, the god of poetry, music and prophecies angry—these gods are always getting angry—man, I’m glad I’m a hamster. Anyway, Chryseis is the daughter of a priest, Chryses, who serves Apollo. Well, he asked Apollo to make Agamemnon give Chryseis back. Agamemnon gave her back (never argue with a god), but since he’s the leader of the Greek army his heralds are right here in front of me asking Achilles—wait—no—they’re ordering Achilles to give them Breseis. Achilles doesn’t want to, but Agamemnon is in charge of the entire Greek army. Now the heralds are leaving—with Breseis. Wait, wait Achilles is yelling. He just told them to tell Agamemnon that he and his men are not going to fight. This is a terrible blow to the Greek army. Achilles is the greatest fighter the Greeks have.

[yelling over the sounds on a battlefield] Hello. I’m on the battlefield. Hector is Troy’s greatest warrior and the brother of Paris. Hector thinks his brother is a coward, so Paris agreed to fight Menelaus one-on-one and nearly got himself killed. Only the help of Aphrodite saved him. The fighting has been going on for days and weeks and months and years. Hector went back to see his wife, Adromache and his son, Astyanax, but then it was back to war, war, war. Man, I’m glad I’m a hamster. Hector is fighting the great warrior Ajax right here—whoa!—I almost got stepped on—anyway, they’re fighting, it looks like Hector is losing—wait—wait—all of sudden it’s getting dark, but it’s only one o’clock. The gods have shortened the day. Now the generals are agreeing to a truce so they can bury their dead. Frankly, I don’t know why they don’t just agree to truce period. Hey! You bunch of bloodthirsty warriors why—it no use—they can’t hear me.

[yelling over the sounds on a battlefield] I’m on the battlefield again. Hector and his armies almost defeated the Greeks. When Petroclus, Achilles’ closest friend, saw all the wounded he asked Achilles for his armour so he could go out and fight. And fight he did! He killed lots of people including Sarpedon, Zeus’s son. But then he met Hector and Hector killed him. Well, as you might expect this made Achilles very sad and angry. Hephaestus, the god of fire and metalworking, made Achilles some new armour. Achilles was still very angry about his friend’s death. That’s not good, let me tell you. Man, I’m glad a hamster. I’m watching Achilles right now. No one can stop him. He’s killing dozens and dozens of Trojan warriors. Here comes Hector—the greatest warrior of the Trojans is going to meet the greatest warrior of the Greeks. They’re swords are clashing, they’re circling one another—Hector looks afraid—they’re swords are clashing again—Ohhhhhhh! Hector is down. He’s dead. I don’t believe it. Achilles is tying his leg to his chariot. Now he’s dragging the body around the city of Troy. It’s terrible, just terrible.

[whispering] It’s a few days later. Achilles is still very sad. I’m at his camp. He’s burning Petroclus’ body on a funeral pyre (along with 12 Trojans, I told you it wasn’t a good idea to make him angry). I don’t believe this! Hector’s father, Priam, just arrived. He’s asking Achilles for the body of his son. Achilles is agreeing to give him the body of Hector. They’re taking the body back to Troy.

[yelling] Hello! I’m inside Troy. The Iliad is really over, but that’s not where the story ends. Odysseus devised a plan and the Greeks built a giant wooden horse. Then they pretended to leave. The Trojans saw the horse and decided, after some arguing, to take it back to Troy. Then in the middle of the night the Greek soldiers inside opened the secret door, signaled the Greeks who did not really leave and right now they’re destroying the city. Some of the Trojans are escaping but the city is burning to the ground. More war, more fighting, more death—man I’m glad I’m a hamster.

Well, I’m back. That was some trip. For World Literature Tonight this is Sniffy the Hamster signing off. Gooooooood night!


Homer Quotes

Winged words
The Illiad

Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who
hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.
The Illiad

It lies in the lap of the gods.
The Illiad

Whoever obeys the gods, to him they particularly listen.
The Illiad

The glorious gifts of the gods are not to be cast aside.
The Illiad

Young men’s minds are always changeable, but when an old man is concerned in a matter, he looks before and after.
The Illiad

There is a strength in the union even of very sorry men.
The Illiad

All men have need of the gods.
The Odyssey

We are quick to flare up, we races of men on the earth.
The Odyssey

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.
The Odyssey

I should rather labor as another’s serf, in the home of a man without fortune, one whose livelihood was meager, than rule over all the departed dead.
The Odyssey


Discussion Questions for The Odyssey

Pages 6-31

  • Why do you think the Cyclops is so mean? (pp. 14-21)
  • Why does Odysseus taunt the Cyclops? (p. 20)
  • Why do you think Odysseus taunts Polyphemus again and decides to tell him his name? (p. 21)
  • Why do Odysseus’ men think that he is hiding something from them in the bag? Why don’t they trust him? (p. 23)
  • Why does Penelope continue to wait for Odysseus even though he has been gone almost 20 years? (p. 29)

Pages 32-63

  • Why do you think Odysseus wants to hear the song of the Sirens? (p. 37)
  • Why do the men kill and eat the Sun God’s cattle even though they have been warned not to? (p. 39)
  • Why do you think Odysseus kills all the suitors? (p. 57)
  • Why do you think Odysseus says, “I think I’m going to enjoy peace.” (p. 61)

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