Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Grecian Urns (& Myths) for Children!

My favorite museum here in Southern California is The J. Paul Getty. The main museum, "The Getty Center", in Los Angeles, contains a wonderful collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present.  

But it was my recent visit to the smaller - original - "Getty Villa" in Malibu, which houses ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, that inspired today's post (book recommendations at the end)...

I spent a glorious, sun-filled afternoon at the Getty Villa with my sisters, my daughter, and baby grandson.  They treated me to a birthday lunch at the outdoor cafe, and then we explored this wonderful museum that sits on a high hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The Villa is surrounded by Roman-style gardens. It's the only full-scale reproduction that we have in North American of a Roman villa!  Check out this guided video tour about the history of the Getty Villa.

The best part?  The "Family Forum" gallery - we stopped in, with my grandson asleep and strapped to his mommy in his baby carrier (watch what ensued - my daughter used to be in Musical Theatre, and she was not shy with the Shadow Box Activity!)

The Family Forum offers activities for kids such as decorating Greek urns using a rub-off marker to create your own illustrations between permanent patterns along the sides.

Kids can also go behind a large screen representing a Grecian urn, as their shadows are projected onto the screen for everyone to see in silhouette. There are fun props behind the screen for kids (or silly Mommies) to hold and use to cast shadow pictures...
Ahem - my lovely daughter, with her version of "Ode on a Grecian Urn".  We laughed so hard (notice the baby carrier?)  It reminded me of that wonderful scene from The Music Man... 

The Music Man 37
"One Grecian urn...two Grecian urns...and a fountain!"
The fun activity room also had a tabletop with raised patterns that you could go over with a crayon and paper to "rub" a design onto an outline of an urn... 

And of course, a real Grecian Urn for inspiration was on display in a glass case...

Today's Book Recommendations:

I cannot recommend these two books highly enough: Padraic Colum's The Children's Homer and The Golden Fleece - look for editions with exquisite pen and ink illustrations by Willy Pogany. (Ages 9-12) My kids were entranced by Colum's beautiful, easy to understand re-telling of the Iliad and the Odyssey and the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts.  My daughter got so into Greek mythology, she wanted a Greek party for her ninth birthday! (and she got it: her friends came in togas, we put little Greek columns on her cake, and played Freeze-Greek-Statue-Tag)

I recently came across this gorgeously illustrated picture book, Greek Myths, re-told by Ann Turnbull, with artwork by Sarah Young. (ages 8 and up)
This is not a comprehensive book on mythology but an introduction to the Twelve Olympians: Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Hermes, Athena, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Ares, Apollo, and Artemis.
"Fresh take on some of the most important Greek myths, illustrated in a very modern way in tones of grey and green with occasional flashes of colour and the glow of gold. We are entertained by tales of the Greek gods and heroes, the relationship between which is clearly set out in the foreword, where we are told of the history of the Titans, the twelve Olympians and the Muses. The book is divided into three sections: the earth, the heavens and the underworld; monsters and heroes and, finally, gods and mortals." source - historicalnovelsociety.org

My daughter remembers pouring over this book by Aliki (there is a "browse inside" feature here).  She loved the colorful, detailed illustrations.  It's a good introduction to the gods and goddesses of Greece. (ages 6 and up)

I've mentioned Jim Weiss before.  His storytelling style is perfect for Greek Mythology!  And now his recordings are available to download here.  Or you can order a CD or listen to a sample by clicking here. (ages 6 and up)

I hope you liked my little tour of the Getty Villa and some of my favorite books on Greek Mythology.  Have any of you read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympian books?  I'd love to hear what you think of them!


  1. Sounds like such a fun day! What a beautiful place!~

  2. The museum looks amazing, and the family room has some really wonderful activities! As it happens my husband and I are currently watching Michael Wood's search for Troy on DVD - just as wonderful 25 years after it was originally made. Can I also recommend this graphic novel: http://www.garethhinds.com/odyssey.php It one of our favourites!

    1. Thank you! I'll look into both of those!