Posts tagged the olympians

Uncle Bigfoot by George O’Connor: A Mysterious Branch on the Family Tree.

Uncle BigfootUBcover

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By George O’Connor

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2008

Out of Print

 

 

Uncle Bigfoot was George O’Connor’s fourth picture book. He has since gone on to create several graphic novels, including the New York Times best selling Olympians Series about the Greek gods and goddesses of Olympus. I reviewed the first book in the series, Zeus: King of the Gods, here. The sixth book in the series, Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, is due out later this year.

O’Connor’s fifth picture book, If I Had a Raptor, will be published in 2014 followed shortly thereafter by If I Had a Triceratops. O’Connor’s picture books have an irrepressible humor and immense appeal to both kids and adults, which is very important to parents who find themselves coaxed by little ones to read a book again and again.

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In Uncle Bigfoot, our spirited narrator, a nameless young boy, is intrigued when he learns his Uncle Bernie is coming to visit. He doesn’t recall ever hearing about this uncle before so he asks his father if there are any photos of this mysterious person. The only picture they find is of Bernie, back to the camera, running away.

‘“Uncle Bernie’s a little shy around cameras,” said Dad.’

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The young boy imagines a multitude of scenarios as to why his uncle would not want to be photographed and when his uncle finally arrives, the answer is obvious.

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Stupefied, the boy runs to consult his book on Bigfoot. He’s quickly able to confirm all the telltale signs, but each time he tries to convince his parents of his findings they have perfectly reasonable responses, which negate the boy’s pronouncement.

Uncle Bernie is hairy, really hairy, just like Bigfoot.  When the determined boy points this out to his father, his response is no comfort, “Just wait until you get older, you’ll be hairier too.”

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Uncle Bernie has big feet, just like Bigfoot but Mom tells the persistent boy that lots of people have big feet.

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However, the guidebook also says that Bigfoots are mean and scary and Uncle Bernie is neither of those things. He just seems different from the people our inquisitive narrator knows. Maybe Uncle Bernie is just a little more different than most.

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Relieved of his suspicions, the boy and his family enjoy a wonderful visit with Uncle Bigfoot. The newly won-over boy confesses that he misses his uncle (he left last Tuesday) but he’s excited about a pending visit from his Aunt Nessie!

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O’Connor’s sardonic humor is coupled with cartoon-y illustrations, further highlighting the absurdity of the boy’s suspicions. Visual nods to various mythical creatures and unsolved mysteries—UFO’s, Mothman, aliens, Atlantis, to name a few—will amuse older readers and O’Connor’s knack for depicting expressions adds yet another level of amusement and charm to the art. Uncle Bigfoot is a lighthearted, joyous picture book and an enjoyable read for parents and children alike.

 

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The 2013 Kiddo Awards: Vote for your favorite books!

Many people know James Patterson as a ridiculously prolific adult author, and some readers may know that he also writes books for children. I’ve just learned about his website, ReadKiddoRead.com, which is dedicated to children’s literacy AND which honors the books that are the best at turning kids on to reading with a KIDDOS Award.

“The KIDDOS honor those books published in the last year that were the best at turning kids on to reading, the strongest at lighting the spark that takes a young reader from one book to the next and the next and the next.”

Voting is now underway for the 2013 recipients. There are five categories to vote on, including best series in which Hades: Lord of the Dead, the fourth book in George O’Connor’s Olympians series, is nominated. (Read TurtleAndRobot’s review of Zeus: King of the Gods, the first book in the series here.)

Click here to Vote in the 2013 Kiddo Awards!

In honor of the nomination, O’Connor created this fantastic comic which he has forced allowed me to share here.

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Zeus: King of the Gods, Book One of The Olympians

Zeus: King of the GodsZeus

 

Book One of The Olympians

Graphic novel

Ages 8 and up

By George O’Connor

80 pages

First Second

2010

 

 

George O’Connor has published several books, including picture books, graphic novels and middle readers. He’s also another talented Books of Wonder alum. Zeus: King of the Gods is the first in a planned twelve book series, one for each of the Greek gods who lived on Mount Olympus. Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory, Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess and Hades:Lord of the Dead have already followed, and Poseidon: Earth Shaker will be released in March of this year.

O’Connor used multiple references and went as far back to original source material as possible to create his own text for these books. He had this to say in an interview in October 2011,

“When I was researching Olympians, not just reading the ancient sources, but also traveling around Greece and Italy and other places where people had worshiped the gods, I began to get a much different version of how the gods should be depicted and perceived. . . .By shining some light on these very old stories, hopefully I’ll help to expand our understanding of these old gods.”

A long fan of superhero comics, O’Connor has referred to the Greek gods as the original superheroes, “Muscley heroes, beautiful women, fights to the death, tragic love stories, evil villains, scary monsters… it’s all in there.”

His passion for Greek mythology is palpable; his perfectly paced, finely tailored text and rich, energetic art make that passion infectious. O’Connor is careful to leave the original stories intact while also making them age appropriate but without dumbing them down. His original retelling in this accessible form is a tremendous service to young people; his design of the characters is inspired and captivating.

The book opens, “In the time before time, there was nothing, Kaos. From out of Kaos, came Ge, or Gaea, our Mother Earth.”

Mother Earth was lonely so she created Ouranos, the sky.

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Together they had many children; the first were the twelve Titans, the gods of time. They also had three Cyclopes (each with only one eye) and three Hekatonchieres (each with fifty heads and one hundred hands). Ouranos was disgusted by these monstrous children and cast them deep within the earth in Tartaros. Mother Earth was unhappy; she wanted all her children to be free. She encouraged the Titans to exact her revenge and created an adamantine sickle. Kronos, the youngest of the Titans, took the sickle in his grasp and slashed open the sky, rendering his father impotent.

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From the blood of Ouranos many arose: gigantes, nymphs, the fates (sometimes called the furies) and humans. Kronos, now the ruler, took his sister, Rhea, as his wife; it was their children that would be the first Olympians. They’d had five children and Kronos, fearing a fate similar to his father’s, ate his children whole upon their births. Then Zeus, their sixth child, was born. Rhea could not bear to lose another child; she wrapped a stone in a blanket to trick her husband and Kronos was none the wiser.

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The bulk of the story picks up twelve pages in, at the start to Zeus’s life. (Yes, the entire above story is told in a beautifully concise twelve pages.) Zeus grows up in a cave on the island of Crete, hidden away from his father, and raised by nymphs.

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He was one of a new race of gods; a race of gods that was not only ageless and immortal but also able to transform.

At night, when Zeus laid his head on the ground, his grandmother, Earth, would tell him stories of his ancestors. She told him of the fate of his siblings and instructed him to free his brothers and sisters from their father’s belly. Metis, a nymph, helped Zeus form a plan to free his brethren. The plan was successful; Kronos was helpless as each of his now grown children was expelled from his stomach.

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A great and lengthy battle ensued, changing the face of the earth, but Zeus and his siblings could not defeat the Titans, who had come to the aid of their brother. Zeus turned to Grandmother Earth for advice; she sent him deep below the earth to breach the gates of Tartaros and claim his birth right. Zeus returned from Tartaros and challenged Kronos once again, but this time he had the help of the Cyclopes and the Hekatonchieres, Tartaros’s recently released prisoners.

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Zeus and his siblings were the victors of this battle. There was a new world order and a new race of gods. They made Mount Olympus their home, and Zeus was their king.

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O’Connor includes many resources; there’s a family tree on the inside cover and suggestions for further reading, notes and a bibliography at the back. Zeus: King of the Gods is not only an excellent way to introduce your young readers to Greek mythology but also a perfect graphic novel for those already interested.

Visit O’Connor’s website, OlympiansRule.com, for more information, activities and teacher’s guides!

 

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