Out of the way, The Odyssey. Greek mythology is getting a massive makeover with Zeus the Mighty, a new fact-based fiction series from National Geographic that’s sure to please even the most meticulous of middle schoolers.
If you think of Zeus, you think of a big, brawny god, right? After all, Zeus is the Greek God of the Sky who rules Mount Olympus, and the King of the Gods. Well, the title character in Zeus the Mighty is slightly smaller — in fact, he’s a golden hamster. But when he’s not snoozing or spinning around on his hamster wheel, he’s just as mighty and powerful as his namesake. Just like the real Zeus, Zeus the Mighty also resides at Mount Olympus in Athens… Georgia, that is. He and his group of god friends who all reside together at the Mount Olympus Pet Center fight foes and go on magical (and mythological) quests.
And what an eclectically quirky cast of characters they are. All named after a god or goddess, there’s Ares the pug, who is the strongest animal at the Center. Joining the gang is Poseidon the Pufferfish, a white-spotted pufferfish who lives in the Aegean Sea (err, the fish tank at the Pet Center), wears a gold crown (aww), and totes a trident, too. Demeter the Cricket, Athena the gray tabby cat, and Phineus, an old gray hamster, complete Zeus’ colorful crew.
Together, they join forces to help Zeus in the first title of the seven-book series, Zeus the Mighty: The Quest for the Golden Fleas ($13). Zeus’ mission: find the golden fleas so he can become king of the gods. Of course, the name is a riff on the Greek myth of Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, which belonged to a golden ram owned by Zeus. It is a quintessential quest story — and in Greek mythology, there sure are a lot of those.
Which is why Zeus the Mighty is so awesome. Since it’s inspired by Greek mythology and ancient Greece, it makes the stories easier to understand (if you’ve ever read Homer’s The Odyssey, you know what I mean). As you might imagine when you have a hamster as a hunky hero, the book series is fun — but it’s also educational, too.
The book series hits all the major likeable factors: it has leading animal characters, which kids love. It also has mythology, history, and really, who doesn’t enjoy a mighty quest? And for kids who are clamoring for more after finishing the book, there’s a supplementary “Truth Behind the Fiction” section that has accurate info about mythology and ancient Greek life.
But if you thought that Zeus the Mighty just stopped at the books, think again. The new book series, which is being published under National Geographic’s new Under the Stars imprint, will also include a “Greeking Out” podcast on Kids Place Live as well as an online game.
Penned by Crispin Boyer, the first installment of the Zeus the Mighty book series will be available on October 22 and will be followed by a new book every six months. Getting kids to like mythology and read more, too? That definitely isn’t a Greek tragedy.