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Greek Heroes Paperback – 4 Jan 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (4 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192742027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192742025
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 476,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

It's 35 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 160 books now, there are all manner of books in among that number - gorgeously illustrated 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 Hospital 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 (good at continuity and spelling) and a daughter who is an excellent editor. But she's 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. The only way you can find out which ones you like and which you don't is to read them, I'm afraid.
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.

Geraldine McCaughrean has written 167 books and plays for both adults and children. The books include Peter Pan in Scarlet, one of the most talked about and successful children's titles of 2006.

Geraldine McCaughrean has won the Carnegie Medal, the Whitbread Children's Book Award (three times), the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Smarties Bronze Award (four times), the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award and the Blue Peter Special Book to Keep Forever Award. She has also had more titles short-listed (six, including one winner and one Highly Commended) for the Carnegie Medal, than any other author, the latest being The Death Defying Pepper Roux.

Product Description


Powerful stories told with great panache that will keep readers gripped to the very end . . . Myths and legends are required reading for the curriculum, and you'll be hard-pressed to find better, more dramatic, more complete versions of the Greek epics than these. (Manchester Evening News )

Retellings of the Greek myths and legends are many: this collection is one of the best. (School Librarian )

The Greek heroes may have had supernatural conceptions but they were men not gods and it is on their human aspect that Geraldine McCaughrean concentrates in her latest retellings . . . The style and assurance of the writing brings a smile of pleasure on every page. (Jan Mark, Times Educational Supplement )

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Mrs B. on 20 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this book for my son (Year 10) and he absolutely loved it. Great story. Easy to read. Thank you
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"I Shall Thank the Gods Chiefly for You..." 26 July 2009
By R. M. Fisher - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an omnibus book that contains Geraldine McCaughrean's four retellings of ancient Greek myths, all centered around legendary heroes Perseus, Hercules (Heroes), Theseus (Heroes) and Odysseus (Heroes). These books can be brought separately, but why would you, when they're all conveniently collected here?

McCaughrean writes in distinctive, stylish prose that vividly captures the life and times of ancient Greece, and brings its characters to life. Although many of the comedic characters can seem amusingly contemporary, there is an archaic elegance to the prose that lends the stories weight and resonance. These stories aren't aimed at children; they are chapter books that often contain fairly grisly, bloodthirsty scenes (which children of a certain age will no doubt enjoy immensely) and subtle allusions to sex throughout. They are excellent books to introduce middle-school readers to the Greek myths, and are well suited to being read aloud.

"Perseus" is the comedic, light-hearted and most upbeat installment in the series. Perseus and his mother have lived in poverty but happiness, until the day that the tyrannical king demands Danae's hand in marriage. In order to fend off his advances, Perseus foolishly makes a vow to travel to the ends of the earth and rid the world of the gorgon Medusa; a ghastly creature with snakes for hair who can turn men into stone by just looking at them.

In "Hercules" the strongest and most famous hero of them all willingly becomes a bond-slave to a cowardly king in penance for his sins, and is sent out to accomplish twelve labours. Fighting a variety of monsters, as well as his own personal demons, Hercules struggles with the dangers of his supernatural strength and his gradual realization that the gods he serves are callous, disinterested beings.

"Theseus" is perhaps the most tragic of all four stories, in which the hero in question starts out optimistically enough, but is eventually defeated by the consequences of bad decisions brought on by his own arrogance and pride. Theseus successfully fights and defeats the terrible Minotaur, the terrible half-man, half-bull creature that haunts the labyrinth of Knossos, yet his inability to show empathy or understanding of his fellow man (and woman) leads to his downfall, in what is certainly the darkest of these four tales.

Finally "Odysseus" draws on the story of Homer's Odyssey and the adventure-filled voyage home that the hero makes. Interspersed with scenes of his wife and son attempting to fend off interlopers to their king's throne, Odysseus's journey takes him through the various islands and obstacles that line his ten-year voyage home.

The defining feature of this collection is McCaughrean's technique of fleshing out the heroes of legend; keeping their original aspects of their characters (Odysseus's cunning, Theseus's pride, Perseus's innocence, Hercules's and yet putting a contemporary spin on their personalities. Although the characters themselves are very much products of their own time, age has made many of their defining attributes potentially off-putting. McCaughrean uses this to her advantage to create well-rounded heroes with as much emphasis on their foibles as their virtuous deeds. These are very much *human* heroes, and whether they are struggling with the concept of destiny, or simple domestic issues, they are always sympathetic, realistic and relatable.

For more information on the individual stories, I'd recommend clicking on the included links, where more detailed reviews can be found for each book. But if you are looking to buy, then the most sensible thing to do is to invest in this edition, which contains all the stories at a more reasonable price. As I said in the review for Hercules (Heroes), McCaughrean remains faithful to the myths, whilst writing with her own distinctive voice, softening some of the harsher aspects of the tales whilst never pandering to the lowest common denominator. These are thoughtful, well-told, bittersweet looks at the world's most famous heroes.
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