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Odysseus in the Serpent Maze (Young Heroes) Hardcover – February 20, 2001


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 630L (What's this?)
  • Series: Young Heroes (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (February 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060287349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060287344
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,528,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The team behind last year's The Queen's Own Fool launches the Young Heroes series with a rollicking adventure starring a 13-year-old Odysseus, prince of Ithaca, who meets his match (and future wife) in Spartan captive Penelope. Drawing on the Iliad, the Odyssey and "what archeologists have told us about the [Greek] civilization," Yolen and Harris imagine the youth's formative quest. No previous knowledge of ancient Greece is necessary, and readers may well be entertained by the fast-paced and sometimes slapstick antics of crafty Odysseus (who develops a crease between his eyebrows when he's "about to come up with an outlandish excuse lie, fib, wile for doing something he'd already decided to do") and his cautious friend, Mentor. Together they do battle with pirates and inadvertently rescue Penelope and her cousin Helen of Troy; form an alliance with Silenus, the amorous satyr; and organize a perilous rescue mission against Ladon, the serpent with 100 heads in Crete's infamous labyrinth. The authors weave in legends, such as Siren and Daedalus, as well as surprising tidbits (e.g., the Greek nobility's illiteracy). The new spin here is that Penelope accompanies Odysseus on his adventures, often acting more heroic than he; by giving this champion a worthy heroine who complements his strengths and even compensates for his weaknesses, the authors may well draw boys and girls in equal numbers and send them clamoring for more Greek myths. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7-Drawing on scant details of Odysseus's childhood available in Greek mythology, Yolen and Harris have created an adventurous story of the young hero. He is visiting his grandfather, along with his friend Mentor. When it is time to return to Ithaca, the 13-year-olds encounter a storm at sea, which forces them to abandon ship, only to be picked up by pirates who have kidnapped the famed Helen and her cousin Penelope. Odysseus escapes, landing on an island inhabited by a lonely centaur. The pirates land here as well and Odysseus finagles a rescue. The young escapees then end up on Crete, where they are captured and thrown into the Serpent's Maze. The background details of mythology are woven into the tale without overpowering the action, and the setting is deftly created. The young characters are developing the habits and dispositions that will define their roles in future tales. Odysseus is a wanderer, loves adventure, and arrogantly acts without thinking. Helen is self-centered and pampered but finally shows some moral fiber. Penelope is the unsung heroine, guiding Odysseus and remaining faithful to him throughout. Mentor, a lesser-known character, is true as well. The authors have done a fine job of placing this original tale firmly into the Greek literature tradition. For fans of myth, it will be a welcome addition; use it to introduce adventure enthusiasts to mythology as well.
Angela J. Reynolds, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Aloha, OR
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. Active in several organizations, Yolen has been on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988, is on the editorial board of several magazines, and was a founding member of the Western New England Storytellers Guild, the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Bay State Writers Guild. For twenty years, she ran a monthly writer's workshop for new children's book authors. In 1980, when Yolen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the citation recognized that "throughout her writing career she has remained true to her primary source of inspiration--folk culture." Folklore is the "perfect second skin," writes Yolen. "From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world." Folklore, she believes, is the universal human language, a language that children instinctively feel in their hearts. All of Yolen's stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding. Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille. With a versatility that has led her to be called "America's Hans Christian Andersen," Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: "I don't care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told."

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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The book was a gift for our granddaughter.
Allan Glinski
This is a delightful and thrilling story for children about Odysseus, Penelope and Helen's adventures as youngsters.
bookjunky
A true test of a children's book is that it is interesting to adults, which this book is.
A reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When you think of Odysseus, you think of the big wooden horse, lots of blood and mayhem, and a mild-mannered Penelope who assumes that her suitors are as dumb as she is. But you may not see him (or her) quite the same way after reading this book. It's a fun romp for kids, and may also be for adults with knowledge of Greek mythos.
Thirteen-year-old Odysseus and his best friend Mentor want to be heroes (actually, Odysseus wants to be a hero, and Mentor tags along) at the home of Odysseus's thief-king grandfather. After a partially successful hunt in which they help stop a monstrous boar, the boys are sent home across the sea -- except a storm washes them overboard, and leaves them stranded in a box in the middle of the ocean.
After they are captured by pirates, the boys find that they are not the only captives. There are a pair of princesses, the incredibly beautiful (but spoiled, petty and self-absorbed) Helen, and the less beautiful but clever Penelope. With the help of an incredibly smelly satyr and a self-rowing ship, Odysseus and his friends escape. But they inadvertantly stumble into more places full of things and creatures both astounding -- and terrifying.
This is a pretty fun read. It's a coming-of-age story/adventure story/mythological story, that takes up mythical threads and adds on to them as it skilfully shows the growth of the characters. The things such as Daedalus's lab and the boat that rows itself are done with exquisite atmosphere, as is the boar hunt and the semi-humiliating scenes that follow. Comedy, horror, adventure, and occasional awe are mixed in expertly.
Odysseus is reminiscent of Lloyd Alexander's Taran, with his brash eagerness to be a hero and a man among men, and his gradual maturation when he has to deal with actual danger.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
We all know Odysseus through Homer's epic rendition of his adventures, but this is a rollicking portrait of the hero as a very young man. In this absolute romp of a book we meet the future hero and crafty warrior in his early years, exploring the meaning of courage and loyalty, fighting most wonderful monsters, dealing with the gods of Greek mythology and with other characters from his own story. These secondary characters are as well-drawn as our hero himself, and Penelope gets to be a heroine in her own right, to my own personal satisfaction. The portrait of the other 'female lead' is absolutely classic and her signature phrase is a complete delight, the response to which the authors have nobly refrained from posing... but I refuse to spoil the surprise!
Odysseus in the Serpent Maze is terrific, page-turning fun, beautifully imagined by the ever-splendid Jane Yolen and her marvellous co-author Robert J. Harris. This team, who wrote The Queen's Own Fool (a highly-original tale revolving around Mary Queen of Scots), have now turned to Greek legend and have done a truly fine job. The sheer cleverness of the plot twists and turns never gets in the way of a really good story. The brief epilogue also, painlessly, helps younger readers sort the fact from the fiction.
One gets the impression that this is the first in a series, presumably entitled Young Heroes - at least I certainly hope so. Well done, Yolen and Harris, and the more Young Heros the better!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A reader on February 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm homeschooling my third grade daughter and have been having a hard time finding quality fiction about ancient history that is also appropriate for her reading level. This book has turned out to be perfect for my purposes. Yolen creates a fiction based on Odysseus' youth, but makes frequent references to classical tales and myths. Yolen cleverly includes Penelope and Helen of Sparta (later, of course Helen of Troy) as girls, so the reader gets a charming fiction about how Odysseus and his future wife meet. My daughter is enjoying the story and I find myself getting caught up in the suspense. A true test of a children's book is that it is interesting to adults, which this book is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on July 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
Some 3000 years ago, Greek poet Homer wrote two epic stories, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Together, these works told of the Trojan War, Helen of Troy, the Trojan Horse, and the 10-year journey of King Odysseus to get back home to Ithaca after the war. The epics also introduced Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, and told how she kept faithful to her husband while he was gone, even when 108 suitors --- assuming that Odysseus was dead --- fought for her hand in marriage. Well, even heroes were kids once, and ODYSSEUS IN THE SERPENT MAZE tells about Odysseus, Penelope, Helen, and many of Homer's other writing subjects when they were children.

All that we know of Odysseus comes from Homer's two stories and from some Greek folk tales. Authors Yolen and Harris built on what we know by researching the time when Odysseus would have lived, and writing a story backwards from that. This new tale is full of fabulous derring-do, with pirates, monsters, and satyrs (half men, half goats). It's a children's version of the Odyssey, an imagined first heroic adventure for Odysseus.

Prince Odysseus, age 13, drags his reluctant friend Mentor along on a boar hunt after "borrowing" the king's spear. The boys manage to come back alive, but just barely, as the hunt is pretty hairy. And Mentor would like to think the adventuring is over. But Odysseus doesn't believe that the Age of Heroes is finished yet; he thinks there is still room for him to grow up to be a great hero himself. The gods seem to agree with Odysseus, because the two boys soon face another adventure that scares even Odysseus. They fall off a ship, get picked up by pirates, meet up with Silenus (a smelly old satyr) find the magic workshop of the inventor, Daedalus, and get thrown into prison on the island of Crete.
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