Product Reviews - The Old Schoolhouse


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Famous Men of Greece Review by Kris Price and Jill Hardy

John Haaren and Addison Poland
Memoria Press
4105 Bishop Lane
Louisville, KY 40218
4103 Bishop Lane
Louisville, KY 40218

Famous Men of Greece by Memoria Press would make a great addition to any study on the Ancient Greeks. This paperback book contains 32 chapters in almost 140 pages. The first chapter covers information about the gods of Greece. The next nine chapters contain stories from many of the Greek Myths; many of these popular stories are still well-known today. The reader will meet Perseus, Medusa, Achilles, Odysseus - these characters and more are introduced in stories about their adventures and heroics from the rise of Greece through the fall of this ancient era. Black and white maps, drawings and artwork enhance the stories and there is no nudity in the drawings (this is a major plus for a book covering this ancient culture!)

The next 21 chapters cover the time period of 825 - 221 B.C. beginning with Lycurgus and ending with Cleomenes III. Many of the names were not recognizable as I have not studied Ancient Greece before. However, I did recognize several names - Socrates, Alexander the Great, Aristotle and Ptolemy. Each chapter holds the child's interest because it reads like an interesting story. No boring textbook writing here! Each chapter is broken down into one to three sections, depending upon the length of the chapter. These disctinctions make it easy for mom to assign readings for the week.

The final chapter briefly touches on the fall of Greece. This is not a very detailed section, but covers the material in just over one page. This book is probably best geared for grades 1-6. Of course, anyone who hasn't studied Ancient Greece would benefit from reading this book, but the read-alone level is probably about 4th grade and up. Because Classical homeschoolers usually study Greece in grades 1 and 5 if they are following the typical 4-year rotation, this book could be used at both levels. The parent might want to use the book as more of a springboard for further discussion and research in grades 5 and up.

I would like to see the following additions in future editions - a timeline and a bibliography of more books to read on the subject matter in the book. This title seemed familiar to me when I first received the book and I realized that Greenleaf Press published a book under the same title. This issue is addressed at the website on the Famous Men of Rome page - "What is the difference between the new Memoria Press Famous Men of Rome and the old Greenleaf edition? The stories are essentially the same but with (Memoria Press') editing. In the Memoria Press Famous Men of Rome, we also have added a Glossary of People and Places, Improved Images, and New Maps of Rome, Italy, and the Roman Empire. The page numbers have also changed slightly." This series also includes a third title, Famous Men of the Middle Ages. At this time, the book retails for $16.95 and I believe that this is a good price for the book. I liked Famous Men of Greece and found it to be an informative and ejoyable read.

-- Product Review by Kris Price, Assistant to the Publishers, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2006



Famous Men of Greece

Memoria Press

4103 Bishop Lane
Louisville, KY 40218

The "Famous Men" books (Famous Men of Rome, Famous Men of Greece, et al.) were originally published in the early 1900s. They experienced a revival in popularity among homeschoolers when they were republished by Greenleaf Press. The Memoria Press website says that their edition (the one reviewed here) has been edited by them, although it does not say in what way.

If the language has been simplified, it has been done in such a way that has preserved the richness of tone. The narratives are descriptive enough to hold the attention of older students (or even adults who need to brush up on their Greek history), while still remaining understandable for the younger set. The details might be a bit much for elementary-aged students (at least my elementary-aged students); many of the readings get a little dry and just a tad long.

As an overview of the Greek "greats," this book represents a good summary. Not only does it offer character sketches of various "Famous Men" (as indicated by the title), it also touches on the rise, Golden Age, and fall of Greece. It includes some of the major myths as well as the most significant battles. I would say that the book's strongest point is that it is a wonderful example of history as biography that still gives an overview of the "big picture," the reason that the study of Greece is still meaningful today.

If I have a complaint about the content, it's that it seems to neglect the accomplishments of the Greeks in the area of science. Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Archimedes--I kept looking for these names and didn't see them. Eratosthenes is mentioned in a chapter about Ptolemy, but not by name and only in one sentence. Considering the debt that much of modern science owes to the Greeks, I found it surprising that their discoveries and thoughts weren't given equal footing with the battles and myths presented in the book. One other distraction for me was the way in which myths were not clearly distinguished from factual accounts. ("The early kings of Mycenae were descendants of Jupiter.") If a very young child is reading on his own, it might not be obvious to them what is true and what is legend. So you might have to help them distinguish between the two.

This book will probably appeal most to classical homeschoolers, who intend to delve deeper into ancient history. But as a primer on a big section of early Western Civilization, the book would be beneficial to anyone interested in learning a little more about the men of ancient Greece. If you use this book, definitely consider adding in a few biographies of the scientific men of ancient Greece to get a full picture of their contributions to the world.

Product review by Jill Hardy, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2006