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Phaeton and the Sun Chariot - Geraldine McCaughrean

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Genre: Junior Books / Author: Geraldine McCaughrean, Tony Ross / Paperback / 48 Pages / Book is published 2001-11-29 by Orchard Books

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      02.10.2010 15:58
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      An okay book for a secondary school aged child with a good understanding of greek mythology

      On a recent trip to my local charity shop, I came across this book 'Phaeton and the Sun Chariot and Other Greek Myths' produced by Orchard Books for primary school aged readers for 30p. As I run a reading club in school, I always like to stock up on books for the children and I find the charity shop one of the best places to get these.

      Many of the books that I have in my reading club have been published by Orchard Books so I am very much aware of the quality of the material that they publish. It fact, it was because this was published by Orchard books that I even looked at it, because I knew it would be good. This book has been written by Geralsine McCaughrean and illustrated by Tony Ross (who illustrates the Horrid Henry books). This book is one of several from a range of myths that have been written, including 4 of the Roman myths including Romulus and Remus. This book contains three separate greek myths:
      Phaeton and the Sun Chariot
      Zeus Shining
      Dionysus and the Pirates

      Phaeton and the Sun Chariot
      The story starts with an introduction to the sun god Helios who rides his fiery chariot into the sky. He marries and has several children including a son named Phaeton. As Phaeton gets older he begs his father to let him drive the fiery chariot. It is only when his wife persuades Helios to let Phaeton have one go on the chariot that his father gives in very reluctantly and with strict instructions not to go too fast. This of course doesn't happen and as the young Phaeton races across the sky, those onlooking stare aghast as this sun god moves zigzagging around the sky. When Phaeton loses control thus meaning the sun disappears from the sky, the world is turned upside down as there is no longer any light, nor heat...plants die, animals starve etc etc. Then the mightly Zeus takes action and strikes a thunderbolt at Phaeton but does he live?

      Zeus Shining
      Zeus and his wife Hera are a quarrelsome pair. When Zeus falls in love with the Princess of Thebes Semele, things get complicated. When Hera finds out, rather than get back at her husband, she confronts the young princess and taunts her that she never really has see Zeus in all his glory shining. The young princess is now pregnant with the baby of Zeus and begs Zeus to let her see him in his full glory, but what she doesn't know is that when she, as a mortal cannot see him like this and live, and in fact that is just what happens. She is reduced to smouldering ash when Zeus reveals his full shining glory. The baby survives and Zeus names him Dionysus, his immortal son.

      Dionysus and the Pirates
      This story follows Zeus' son Dionysus, who is the god of wine, and thus he was always surrounded by parties and people, however Dionysus did not really drink much wine, and in fact was a good athlete. One say, as he sought peace and quiet on a cliff, some pirates spot him and kidnap him, but what they don't realise is that the prisoner is a god, who can change the winds to stop them from sailing or make giant waves out of wine. Some of the prisoners start to realise that this really is an immortal god, but others mock, that is until huge sea monsters come out of the sea and Dionysus returns home free from the pirates.

      As I said at the beginning on the book, I was expecting great things from a book published by Orchard books, but I was disappointed. It may at the level of a confident primary school reader, but I don't always know that some of the content, particularly in the middle story, is quite appropriate for children that age. Secondry school children may understand better but I still think they are stories that could easily be deemed inappriopriate. I think the stories themselves are too hard for primary school children, who may never have heard of greek myths before or of the gods that the greeks and romans worshipped.

      Don't purchase this for a primary school ages child, as although the text may be at their level in terms of decoding and reading, the comprehension will be a struggle, as well as some of the stories being a little too advanced for primary aged children. At times I even had to read over some of the stories to really grasp what was happening, and I think that is a very bad sign for a child;s book. I won't be putting this in my reading club unfortunately, as I just think it is too difficult to comprehend and not quite appropriate for that age group of children.

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