Helping Hercules

by Francesca Simon, first published 1999

“I wish,” said Susan, closing her eyes and rubbing the coin between her fingers, “that I could meet Hercules.”  Next moment the bed seemed to give way and she fell heavily to the ground… Susan blinked. She was in the corner of an immense room, with stone columns…

Helping Hercules - Children's BookBritish authors of children’s books have a long tradition of weaving magic, daily life, and adventures together, beginning with E. Nesbit, and continuing with Edgar Eager. Now contemporary writer Francesca Simon weighs in with a new twist – integrating a magic coin with visits to the heroes of the Greek myths. A contemporary young girl finds herself at the crucial point of seven Greek myths, including  Orpheus visiting the underworld, Paris judging the beauty of the goddesses, and five other well-known Greek tales. While the outcome is the same, the route to success is humorously manipulated with the aid of Susan.

The stories in this children’s book work well even if you don’t know the original mythology. However, they are even more enjoyable when you know the characters. Since studying the Greek gods and goddesses is a major part of the fifth grade curriculum in Waldorf schools, this book would be a lovely addition to the fifth grade classes. One could imagine the fifth grade plays based on some of the stories in this very readable children’s book. Also a nice addition to homeschooling classes.

This unique children’s book is a nice new offering for elevating literature for children. It was reissued in a new paperback format in 2013.

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