Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reviewing Gareth Hinds' "The Odyssey" for Homeschool

Reviews are not commonly my thing, but I am sharing what we have done to supplement our history study of Story of the World, Volume 1, and this post is a review for using this book as a supplement:  Gareth Hinds' graphic novel, "The Odyssey".  My son is aged 6 and he really enjoyed this book.  But as a parent, there are some things you will want to be aware of, before buying this one for homeschooling younger here's an explanation of how we used it and my pros, and cons.

Any time you cover other civilizations, there is the potential to also come across information you may have wanted to shield your kid from.  For instance, the rape of Europa or the necrophilia of Isis will be held back for a number of years.  A big number.  Shoot, I'm not even sure I want to delve into the details of those, myself!

"The Rape of Europa" by Carl Maratta
How We Used It:  When I purchased "The Odyssey" by Gareth Hinds, I read it first myself privately and took careful note of the pictures I wouldn't be showing my son.   Then, I read it out loud and he looked at the pictures, but when we got to some pages, I shielded the images from him and he simply listened while I read and narrated (with some omitions) what was going on in the pictures.

Pros:  This graphic novel of Homer's ancient epic is breath-taking and a very well-written translation to how I remember the story.  Using it to explain the idea of Odysseus' long journey home is very helpful to getting the gist of what the tale is about. 

The beautiful drawings also help to establish a picture of what it would be like to live in the time period and the nation.  For one thing, you discover that Greece was heavily dependent on ships and the various parts of Greece were spread about on islands and land separated by the ocean.

You also can recognize how the Greeks were subject to the will and whimsies of scores of gods, goddesses, demi-gods, nymphs and a slew of half-beings. While the world appears to be a beautiful one, it was certainly risky, as well, especially if you ran foul of one or more of the gods. 
 Visually, this graphic novel brings the story alive in a whole new dimension.  While reading it, we also gained an understanding of the social interaction and war of the time period.   We get a sense of Greek clothing style, what mattered to them, and how their religious belief systems ruled their lives. 
Gareth Hinds is obviously a gifted artist and I really admire the way he utilizes color in his paintings.  I love the soft watercolor feel and it seems to fit the subject matter perfectly. 

I'm glad we had the opportunity to use it for supplementing our homeschool study of Greece.  

Cons:   I don't know if these are "Cons" considering the subject matter Gareth Hinds is working with.  Homer's "The Odyssey" is a story full of violence, lust, and ill-timed passion.  My cons list is more for you to be aware the imagery that is included with the story.  Some of it was a bit too well-illustrated.   By the way, all the pages I display here are pages that I did not show my son, but orally narrated, instead.

If you remember any snippets of "The Odyssey" from High School English, you will likely remember the tale of the Cyclops.  The story is gory, but essential, as it is the catalyst for Odysseus' years long return home, based on angering Poseidon.   Possible moral here:  whatever you do, don't tick off Poseidon.

Some of these pictures were just a little to intense and graphic for us.  And the picture of the Cyclops glaring down at the men is also on the back of the book, so I kept that one covered at my son's request. 

Odysseus gets it on with two gorgeous Nymphs or Goddesses (I can't keep them all straight!) on two different islands.  While I applaud the artist's use of a beautiful African looking gal for Calypso, I am not crazy about attempting to explain our hero's choices in this arena to my six year old.  Especially not when we keep seeing his wife Penelope waiting faithfully for him at home. 

Odysseus' tryst with the tricky Circe is also very clearly displayed, along with most of her lovely form.  And really, though I could almost forgive him for his unfaithfulness with Calypso (How do you turn down a goddess if you're a Greek?), he has absolutely no excuse for these interludes on Circe's island.  No excuse whatsoever. 

Once Odysseus finally does get back to his house, there is no shortage of violence as he brings bloody revenge to the houseful of his wife's suitors.  This was just a bit too much blood for us, realistic as it might be. 

It gets quite graphic and horrifying until Athena finally stops him from more bloodshed.  Again, tells the story very accurately, but we didn't need all of that at age six.

So, make your own choices.  Hopefully, you are geared with more information to make your choice.  We were able to use the book with great success and while we were reading the end of the story where Odysseus shoots his arrow through the twelve axe-heads, we remembered a studio logo that now makes a lot more sense to us.  It's kinda fun to rewatch, too.  I'll leave you with this.

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