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Gilgamesh the Hero Hardcover – June 20, 2003

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (June 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802852629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802852625
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 7.7 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9-Long before Homer, Sumerians were creatively tackling the human condition. Their epic, preserved by other Near Eastern cultures, focuses especially on themes of friendship and mortality. Gilgamesh is overactive and oversexed (McCaughrean handles this, and a later seduction scene, discreetly), and his status affords plenty of opportunities to act out. The gods balance his personality by matching him (jaded, cultured) with Enkidu (innocent, wild). The pair finds socially constructive outlets-and then Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh suddenly understands his own vulnerability, and sets out to seek immortality. His journey echoes in the Odyssey and in the biblical flood story. McCaughrean's retelling is superb. Faithful to the fragmentary originals, her adaptation adds inspired details, similes, dialogue, and description. It enriches readers' understanding without violating the source. Unlike David Ferry's spare, poetic redaction in Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse (Farrar, 1992), McCaughrean grippingly and tenderly elaborates. Her language is both vernacular and classic, her pace unslacking, her characterizations deft. This volume will add luster to the author's glittering reputation. The illustrations recall Charles Keeping's bold style; Parkins's thick, dark line gains energy from its rough, unfinished edges. Unframed vignettes seem to emerge out of the text; full-page pictures spill over to the facing page. The somber palette evokes the desert setting, and the style is slightly archaic and wholly vigorous. It would be a pity if the single instance of a bare bottom in one vignette discouraged purchase: this fabulous introduction to the epic tradition deserves a wide readership.
Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-9. McCaughrean employs her supple style in this version of the oldest recorded story in the world. Gilgamesh was a real king around 3000 B.C.E. in the Sumerian city of Uruk (now in Iraq). This tale, originally engraved on 12 stone tablets whose thousands of pieces are still studied and puzzled over, is rendered with simplicity and power. Gilgamesh finds a kindred spirit in Enkidu, the wild man, and the two of them together conquer the guardian of the forest and the bull of heaven. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh overwhelmed with the loss and terror of his own dying, goes on a long quest to find the secret of everlasting life, undergoing many trials and learning lessons. He hears the story of the flood--not much different from the biblical version. Siduri the innkeeper tells Gilgamesh the joys of life: "Children. That's the shape of happiness . . . Cherries in bed . . . Someone to sit with in the shade." Parkins' muscular images, inspired by Assyrian art and reminiscent of Leonard Fisher's art, are a fine foil for the text, which begs to be read aloud. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

It's 30 years now since I first got published, and 50 since I found out how writing let me step outside my little, everyday world and go wherever I chose - way back in Time, to far distant shores, towards my own, home-made happy ending. Not that all my books are an easy ride. I write adventure, first and foremost, because that's what I enjoyed reading as a child. But since I have published over 150 books now, there are all manner of books in among that number - gorgeously illustated picture books, easy readers, prize winners, teenage books and five adult novels.
The White Darkness won the Printz Award in the USA, which, for as Englishwoman, was the most amazing, startling thrill.
Then there was Peter Pan in Scarlet - official sequel to J M Barrie's Peter Pan, written on behalf of Great Ormond Street Hopsital for Sick Children. I won the chance to write that in a worldwide competition, and because Peter Pan is loved everywhere, my book sold worldwide too. I can't say I expected that when, as a child, I dreamed of being like my older brother and getting a book published one day.
These days I have a husband (who's good at continuity and spelling) and a daughter who is an excellent editor. But she's at the Royal Academy of Dramtic Art now, studying to become an actor. So, naturally, I have turned my hand to writing plays. (So many actors, so few plays!)
My Mum told me, "Never boil your cabbages twice, dear," which was her way of saying, "Don't repeat yourself." So I have tried never to write the same book twice. You'll find all my novels quite different from one another. I have also done lots of retellings of myth, legend, folk and fairy tales, and adapted indigestible classics such as El Cid, the Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, Moby Dick, Shakespeare and the Pilgrim's Progress.
Something for everyone, you see, my dear young, not-so-young, eccentric, middle-of-the-road, poetical, sad, cheerful, timid or reckless reader.
All they have in common is that they all contain words. If you are allergic to words, you'd best not open the covers.

Customer Reviews

The language is beautiful.
A. B. King
The illustrations are done in a somewhat primitive style that works well and leave much to the imagination while still adding some interest to the story.
Rachael Carpenter
My class was studying Mesopotamia, 3rd grade by the way, and we needed a reading group book.
Regina L. O'connor-waller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We believe Gilgamesh was a historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Eurphrates in what is now Iraq, who lives around 2700 B.C.E. "The Epic of Gilgamesh" is the oldest recorded story in the world, having been originally carved on twelve stone tablets, which have broken apart in the past four thousand years. These twelve tablets, written in the Akkadian language by an author named Shin-eqi-unninni, were found in the ruins of the library of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria (668-627 B.C.E.) at Nineveh (the library was destroyed by the Persians).
In "Gilgamesh the Hero," Geraldine McCaughrean creates a free adaptation from a variety of translations of those tablets. Each chapter reflects what is found on one of the twelve tablets (the order of which is still open to interpretation). Young readers will learn over how Gilgaemsh, the hero who saw all, became friends with Enkidu the wild man, slays the Bull of Heaven, survived the Great Flood, and seeks the secret of immortality. The chief narrative thread is the friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and how the latter's death teaches Gilgamesh to be a kinder, better ruler who "walked through darkness and so glimpsed the light."
McCaughrean is able to have it both ways with her retelling of these ancient myths. She maintains the classic nature of the epic while telling the story in a way that makes the ancient story accessible to young readers in today's world. The illustrations by David Parkins are in this same mode, complementing the stories nicely.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written version (with illustrations that really capture the ancient ambience of the story) of the oldest written story in the world. It deals with the themes common to all great literature (friendship, mortality, aspirations, love) in a way that makes sense to young people. The struggles and achievements of Gilgamesh, an ancient Sumerian king, illustrate the enduring concerns of mankind over time and lend perspective to man's search for meaning today.
This is also a wonderful read-aloud book that would make a great introduction to a unit on philosophy, comparative religion or humanities for the home-schooling parent. My children (11 and 12) loved this book as much as I did.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Edward Hume on January 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am grateful to Ms. McCaughrean for her distillation of this story. I have been reading various translations and a couple of retellings of the Gilgamesh story for the past thirty years or so, always enjoying the story but always with a sense that I was missing something. Finally, with this retelling I "get it." The elements of the story finally fall into place. Excellent.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Regina L. O'connor-waller on April 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
My class was studying Mesopotamia, 3rd grade by the way, and we needed a reading group book. This was the obvious choice. In the end we had at least five versions of Gilgamesh. None compared to this. We loved it. We had as many lessons on writing style as on the book's content. The writing is eloquent/poetic. It's not dumbed down at all. My students' parents said they liked this version better than the one you're forced to read in highschool. We had discussions on the book's themes: friendship, heroism, quality of life and immortality. We tried to decide if Gilgamesh was a tragic hero. These discussions just flowed. They weren't in my lesson plans. We discussed metaphors, similies, repetition and rhyme, all of which are used with such brilliant style, we cried and laughed and debated and we were late for lunch each day, reading this book. Students began to compare Gilgamesh to Hercules and even MACBETH (as last year we read the Shakespeare for kids series, during our Renasissance study.) They are still quoting this book, i.e. "Never to have met Gilgamesh, that would have been never to have lived at all." It was full of everything good writers do, superb foreshadowing and we even wrote character analysis and essays on friendship, etc. We loved it so much , we made a webpage. Check out [...] I put stickers over the singing lady's butt, but I can't recommend this book highly enough, especially for children aged 10-12. I purchased 25 copies!
Ms. Waller , Montclair, N.J./Edgemont Montessori School
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Terri J. Rice TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I teach my children at home and we are currently covering ancient literature. I had read Gilgamesh before and knew it would be a bit too much for a younger reader (prostitution for example), and yet I didn't want to cut and paste the story to make it acceptable for a young reader. Enter Geraldine McCaughrean's version.

We read Geraldine McCaughrean's version and were very thrilled with it.

Her writing is vivid and captivating, "A single scream of terror hung in the air: it had the color of red dust, and settled on Gilgamesh like blood. At the third stamp, the walls of Uruk wavered like sheets of water. Enkidu was forced off his feet and struck his head against the parapet. Pain paralyzed him. It seemed to sing through his skull and unstring his spine."

McCaughrean covers the entire story even including the prostitute, but tells it in such a way that you might understand without the details of the encounter.

This is by far the best introduction to Gilgamesh for a young audience that ever there was. It will be easy to encounter the more complete version of Gilgamesh at a later time and not be intimidated by the story.
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