O’Connor, G. (2010). Olympians, Zeus: King of the Gods. New York, NY: First Second.
O’Connor’s first installment of the Olympians series entitled “Zeus: King of the Gods” starts at the beginning with Kaos and the introduction of Gaea, or Mother Earth. It takes readers through the reign of the Titan gods and goddesses to the birth and coming-of-age of King Zeus. It does leave readers in anticipation of the rest of the series by mentioning Mother Earth’s disappointment in how everything stands at the beginning of Zeus’s reign.
APPROPRIATE TARGET AUDIENCE:
School Library Journal suggests that O’Connor’s Olympians series is suitable for grades 4 and up, while Scholastic suggests the books for grades 3 through 5. The graphic novel is a fairly easy read with the exception of the various names introduced and, in my opinion, is something that anyone in middle to late elementary and up could potentially enjoy.
Pages 68-77: Myths and legends serve as a sub-genre of nonfiction, so the final pages of O’Connor’s book help reassure the reader of some level of his expertise on the subject of mythology. His Author’s Note, background of Zeus, Greek Notes, background on the Cyclopes, list of Discussion Questions, background on Metis-the Ocean’s daughter, Bibliography, Recommended Reading Lists and background on Kronos certainly add to the credibility of the author.
Artwork: The illustrations O’Connor provides in the novel are fierce–they have bold colors, strong lines and definitely add to the understanding of the storyline(s). The way he presents the pictures, too, add to the conflict. For example, the beginning pages are bland and virtually blank, much as the Earth was in its origin state. Once Kronos takes power and begins devouring his children, the pages are full of excitement, following the path of the story.
Plot structure: I really wanted to love this series, as I loved learning about mythology growing up; however, the way O’Connor presents the storyline in this opening graphic novel seems disjointed…it definitely needs to flow better for an easier, more enjoyable read. The bouncing back and forth from Kronos to the growing Zeus is abrupt and, at times, hard to follow if it weren’t for the varying color schemes for each god.
In the classroom:
Mythology: This book could serve as a great introduction into a mythology unit, especially since it begins with Kaos. There are discussion questions at the back of the book that could help engage young readers and students in the unit, as well, as there are silly ones (Has YOUR dad ever tried to eat you?) and more thoughtful ones (Why do you think it is important that we still learn about them?).
Family tree/Storytelling: Students could do a pre-reading activity where they have to create a family tree of their own, going back to at least grandparents and up to themselves. Once they read this first story and get a sense of the family trees for both the Titans and the Olympians, they could create stories/scenes with their own family trees based on the stories from Greek Mythology. It would engage students in an imaginative way that still requires them to understand what a myth is, as well as understand how to mimic style.
Out of the classroom:
I was at a loss for how to incorporate this particular series, but after some research I found that School Library Journal has some AWESOME ideas, including a Toga Party, a Triathlon, Hero Quest Scavenger Hunt and a Trivia Contest, as well as many crafts and other creative ideas! Check it Out Here!!
This series has not won any awards; although, a few others from the series (Hades, Poseidon and Aphrodite) have put O’Connor on the New York Times Bestseller List!
IF YOU LIKE FUNNY BONES, YOU WILL ALSO ENJOY:
- O’Connor’s Olympians series comes with many books on many of the different gods and goddesses, including Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Aphrodite and Ares. If you enjoy O’Connor’s first installment with the introduction to the new King of the gods, Zeus, then the others are surely going to entice you with their bold illustrations and references to various people and events in mythology.
- Donna Napoli’s book Treasury of Greek Mythology would be a fun choice to add to the graphic novel series by O’Connor. This book, sponsored by National Geographic, has won many awards and adds more to the stories of each god and goddess. It is complete with illustrations, lists of information on each mythological character, and adds embellishments to their stories, as well. This one is a fun read for readers of all ages!
- Heather Alexander’s and Meredith Hamilton’s A Child’s Introduction to Greek Mythology is another great introductory book to Greek Mythology for children. This one could serve a younger audience, so it could be a great starting point with an older audience, as well. It is more of a fun picture book (though a little longer) with a poster of the family tree of the gods and goddesses, as well as stickers for use throughout a potential unit.