Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Athena the Brain 
My 8-year-old daughter has recently started devouring the "Goddess Girls" series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, so I picked up the first book to see what it was all about.  The series begins with Athena the Brain.  In this book, 12-year-old Athena gets an unexpected message with some shocking news: she is actually the daughter of Zeus, the king of the gods.  This is quite the shock.  She has been raised in a family of mortals as basically a sister to her best friend, Pallas.  In addition to revealing her parentage, Zeus has summoned her to attend Mount Olympus Academy, the school for the gods--where he is also the principal.

This is good news for Athena, because she has never quite fit in among the mortals.  It seems that she has some crazy talents, such as creating musical instruments and giving impromptu concerts.  So following a tearful goodbye to Pallas, off she goes to Mount Olympus Academy.  Over the next few days, she manages to make some good friends, particularly Aphrodite, Persephone, and Artemis.  Medusa, however, proves to be a jealous bully.

The book is very cute and provides some very simplistic versions of famous stories from mythology, such as as Medusa's serpent hair and freezing stare, the voyage of Odysseus, and the Trojan horse.  It also included some humorous puns, for example on the origin of the name of Trident chewing gum.  I liked that my daughter was learning basic mythology--even if it was in a very fictionalized format, she will have that background knowledge to call on when it's introduced in school later.

However, the book's actual storyline was very simplistic, so don't expect kids to get a lot of out that.  And if you're looking for some kind of explanation as to what kind of world these mortals live in, or what time period this is set in, or how the humans and gods interact... well, then you're out of luck.  There are no practical explanations given.  We're just to understand that characters come and go from Mount Olympus Academy at Zeus's whims, and they apparently age at whatever rate the gods desire as well.  The beauty of this series rests in the fact that there simply is no explanation given for anything--which may work for kids, but definitely didn't work for me.

Overall, I'm fine by my daughter reading this series--there's definitely nothing harmful in them, they're cute, and they do provide a good basis for later knowledge.  However, I wouldn't purchase the collection, and I will definitely try to introduce my daughter to other quality books to read in conjunction with these.

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