Lady Hestia Evans is the original author of this book, which was written in 1825. She was highly inspired by Lord Byron, and wrote this book as she followed in his footsteps across the ancient Greek sites. She gave a copy to John Oro, an English nobleman as he did the same trip, asking him to collect treasures and artifacts to be placed in a museum another friend of hers is building in Greece. The edition that has been printed by Candlewick Press is a facsimile of the old damaged copy that John had used, including his personal notes and inserts. Unfortunately, poor Mr. Oro became selfish and met with a terrible fate…
The Ology books are a series of books geared towards children between 9 and 12 on a variety of subjects. One of the biggest appeals to these books is the inclusion of games, tokens and other “authentic” objects related to the book’s theme. Also of interest is the fact that all of the books are “written” by fictional experts.
I wanted this book from the first time I saw it in a bookstore. Even after I got a copy, I was not disappointed, and just wish the company had been able to turn this into the money-making gem that some of the other Ologies became. For a 32-page book, it is well-written and provides a fairly unbiased (although very brief, thus limited) view of the gods. It is not written like a textbook, but is a collection of brief snippets of information with many pictures and inclusions (what I’m calling the games, notes and supplemental material). I have to applaud the “editor” for maintain a fairly accurate description of Hades (both the God and Underworld), although the picture drawn of them leaves a lot to be desired.
No book on Greek mythology is complete without touching upon stories of the Hero’s, including Herakles, Theseus, and the battle of Troy. Again, the entire book is only 32 pages, so the 4 pages devoted to these myths only provides a brief look and can help guide the reader to learn more.
One of my favorite inclusions is a deck of Knowledge Cards, one for each of the Olympians plus Hades (this book follows the story that Hestia stepped down for Dionysos to become one of the Olympians). They have extremely basic information, but for an interested child, these cards make a great portable learning tool, or can even act as representations for worship if someone doesn’t have the money or room for statues. There is also a fun “oracle” made of paper oak leaves, with an explanation of Dodona and the oak tree found there (as part of the Zeus & Hera page–Hera as usual got a bad rap which sucks, but sadly expected). Some of the inclusions (like the “Golden Fleece) were hokey, although I can see the appeal to a child.
The fate of John Oro is sadly predictable, but it’s amusing the way his story was presented in the margins and to see how it was going to ultimately play out. This feature kept the book from reading like JUST an anthology and provided a plot to follow. The inclusions (some of which came out of the book entirely and some that were attached pop-up style) allowed the adult or advanced reader to slow down and really go through the book and experience it more than one might otherwise do.