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The Children's Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy    by Padraic Colum order for
Children's Homer
by Padraic Colum
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (2004)
Paperback, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I read Homer's Odyssey, Iliad and Aeneid as a teen, with great enthusiasm, despite the density of descriptions. Padraic Colum's simplified version of the tale of Troy and of the decades long wanderings of the great, wily hero Odysseus, makes the story accessible, and thrilling, for middle school readers and up.

The author's summary at the end tells it all ... 'So ends the story of Odysseus, who went with King Agamemnon to the wars of Troy; who made the plan of the Wooden Horse by which Priam's city was taken at last; who missed the way of his return, and came to the Land of the Lotus-Eaters; who came to the country of the dread Cyclopes, to the Island of Aeolus and to the house of Circe, the Enchantress; who heard the song of the Sirens, and came to the Rocks Wandering, and to the terrible Charybidis, and to Scylla, past whom no other man had won scatheless; who landed on the Island where the Cattle of the Sun grazed, and who stayed upon Ogygia, the home of the nymph Calypso'. Despite all thrown against him, the hero finally made his way back to 'a constant wife and a dutiful son and a father still alive to weep over him.'

Willy Pogany's classical illustrations put faces and figures to the reader's imagination, and Padraic Colum's text brings the epic to life. He begins with the point of view of Odysseus' son Telemachus, a youth whose home has been long beset by his mother's suitors (Penelope's made an art of procrastination, refusing to choose a new husband from amongst them). With some nudging from the goddess Athene, Telemachus sails off in search of his long lost dad. Along the way, he hears stirring tales of Odysseus' exploits at Troy - from Phemius the minstrel, King Nestor, King Menelaus, and from the beautiful Helen herself, now back with her husband. Telemachus hears of the deaths of Achilles and Hector, the fall of Troy, the treacherous slaying of Agamemnon on his return home ... and of the intervention of gods and goddesses on both sides of the conflict.

In the second part of the story, we see how Odysseus fared on his long voyage home to Ithaka - with help from Pallas Athene, and hindrance from Poseidon, god of the sea, who held a grudge against him. Odysseus lost all his men and finally returned to Ithaka in the guise of a beggar. With help from Telemachus, a swineherd, a cattleherd, and his old nurse, the hero slaughters the men who have leeched on his home's hospitality for so long - and finally poor Penelope is able to end her twenty years of weaving and unweaving! Enjoy The Children's Homer as a rousing account of Odysseus, his son Telemachus, and the tragedy of Troy.

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