I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
In The Children???s Homer Padraig Colum weaves The Iliad into The Odyssey to make a single narrative in two parts. He begins the first part with the scene from the Odyssey where Athene recommends Telemachus to embark on a voyage to search for news of his father, and then has a minstrel, Nestor, Menelaus, and Helen narrate to Odysseus??? son the major causes and events of the Trojan war. In the second part Colum closely follows the sections of The Odyssey from Odysseus??? leave-taking from Calypso to his arrival back home at Ithaca. As the subtitle of Colum???s book reveals (The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy), Odysseus here becomes the focal point of both The Odyssey and The Iliad.
Colum keeps many of the humorous insults, terrible battles, moving conversations, cultural textures, vivid similes, fantastic elements, and epic flavors of Homer???s epics in his 4.5 hour book. Perhaps due to his young audience or limited space, he also leaves out many impressive things, like Achilles repeatedly dragging the body of Hector around the walls of Troy, Odysseus visiting Hades, and Odysseus executing his serving women after having them clean up the gory remains of his slaughter of the suitors. The English translation seems faithful and strong, though it does favor thee, thy, and thine, as well as ???archaic??? forms like hast and spake.
I believe that although any reader (from child to adult) should really listen to the unabridged Homerian epics (of which there are many excellent translations and readings available on audible), if kids would be daunted by their length or more graphic gore, this would be a good choice, for although much shorter than the originals, it is not dumbed down and retains their grim view of mortality and vibrant view of life. And Robert Whitfield (Simon Vance) gives his usual elegant and assured reading.
This is an entertaining, fresh take on the pseudo-Icelandic saga fantasy genre, filled with believable and very human characters (even the "villains"), unexpected plot developments, suspenseful and yet funny scenes, and a well-realized world. Author Stroud deftly adapts that genre to the young adult market, depicting an appealing young underdog protagonist struggling to find his place in his world: short, stubby, swarthy, homely, brave, clever, resourceful, and witty Halli. The relationship between Halli and his girl friend Aud is wonderful, for they are well-matched and feisty with and loyal to each other. Aud is a great female character: independent-minded and at least as intelligent, spunky, and humorous as Halli. The interplay between the scary, comical, and imaginative heroic legends that begin each chapter and the real world heroism that Halli must learn and attempt is fascinating. I listened to the book with a delicious sense of not knowing what would happen next but being sure that whatever did happen would be interesting and just right. There is at one point, for example, a brilliant showdown featuring a fever, a lost voice, a revelation, and a fight to the death with a poker, crockery and food-stuffs, a pair of skewers, a fireplace, and tapestries that is worth the price of admission alone.
Reader David Thorn is perfect, reading the story with a rich, dry, almost tongue in cheek tone that makes it feel as if a favorite uncle were telling you exciting legends by the fireplace. All in all a pleasurable and rewarding audiobook.
I got this book because I love E. H. Gombrich's The Story of Art. I found A Little History to be an excellent introductory history book for children (and adults), because it is filled with Gombrich's deep humanity, curious mind, wide-ranging knowledge, disarming candor, charming humor, avuncular voice, and passionate commitment to history and learning. His writing is clear and engaging. He presents complicated situations and difficult concepts in simple terms without over-simplifying, as when he explains Buddha's enlightenment or the Protestant Reformation. He effectively tells both the positive and negative sides to the famous historical figures and cultures he describes. He also does a fine job of demonstrating the subjectivity of history by showing the different sides people have taken of the same events (as in the aftermath of World War I). He also vividly expresses the vast scale of pre-history and the small scale of human history to make readers appreciate their bracingly tiny places in the big scheme of things.
The last chapter is fascinating and moving, covering as it does Gombrich's changing awareness of the history he experienced as a Jewish citizen of Austria who had to emigrate to England, the aftermath of World War I and the horror of World War II. And the introduction by his granddaughter interestingly recounts how Gombrich came to write A Little History and The Story of Art.
This is a concise book! There are many absences! England and America and Asia are not given nearly as much coverage compared to Europe. However, it is so well-written and so engaging and so humane that reading it will make readers think more about what it means to be human and will inspire readers to become interested in history.
Ralph Cosham does his usual fine reading here: nothing fancy, just an appealing and accurate and fluid manner and voice. I easily imagined that I was a child listening to Grandfather Gombrich telling me history stories at bedtime