HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Twelve Labors of Hercules
Author: Marc Cerasini
Illustrator: Isidre Mones
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers, 1997
ISBN-13: 978-0679983934 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0679983937 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0679883937 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0679883932 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Cerasini, Marc. The Twelve Labors of Hercules (published in 1997 by Random House Books for Young Readers). When both of our boys were young, they liked Hercules, probably as a result of the Disney animated movie, so we had this Step into Reading book. Actually, Hercules was originally Heracles, a Greek hero and demi-god, but we tend to remember him by his Roman name. Although he is the strongest man in the world, Hercules must also use his wits to complete the tasks that the jealous king has in store for him. From giant ogres to fearsome Amazons, Hercules tackles his foes gamely. With the rollicking humor of a tall tale, this retelling is an exciting first step into Greek mythology.
This simplified version of Hercules’s adventures follows the myth accurately, but in a manner appropriate for young children, though the pictures are a bit lurid. The watercolor illustrations show a blond, muscular Hercules, sporting the skin of the Nemean lion. Generously featured on every page, the action takes place in these pictures. The traditional order of the labors of Hercules is as follows: 1. Slay the Nemean Lion. 2. Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra. 3. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis. 4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar. 5. Clean the Augean stables in a single day. 6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds. 7. Capture the Cretan Bull. 8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes. 9. Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. 10. Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon. 11. Steal the apples of the Hesperides. 12. Capture and bring back Cerberus.
Homeschoolers are divided on whether it is good to study the Greek and Roman myths or not. One group says no, that doing so gives credence and honor to pagan deities and may stimulate an unwholesome interest in the occult. The other group says yes, that they can be studied simply as myths in a historical setting, especially since so many concepts and terms in our Western Culture are derived from them, without giving them any credence. I happen to fall into the latter group. Of course, they must be sanitized for children because of the immorality. The Greeks and Romans were very adept at creating gods in their own fallen, lustful, unholy image. For example, Hercules was the illegitimate offspring of Zeus by an illicit affair with the mortal woman Alcmene, disguising himself as her husband, Amphitryon. The Disney film, of course, eliminates that angle. However, for parents who do want their children to be generally familiar with the myths, The Twelve Labors of Hercules by Marc Cerasini is a great book to help accomplish this aim.