Author Joan Holub talks about how to turn Greek myths for adults into “Mini Myths” for preschoolers.
Greek and Roman myths are all about the gods delivering justice to wrongdoers. Kids like to see justice served, same as adults. What could be more satisfying, right?
There’s a lesson in every ancient myth. Usually, they’re about behaving properly to avoid trouble. The Pandora myth is a literal example of that. If she hadn’t been so impatient to open that box, all those troubles wouldn’t have escaped it to plague the world. Paying tribute to core, admirable traits like patience makes mythology perfect fodder for preschool-age board books.
But ancient myths were serious stuff written for adults. So how to translate them into relatable situations set in the world of kids today?
What are the first things you think of when you hear the name Medusa? Snake hair and turning people to stone? That’s what I thought of, too. So I considered how hair troubles might figure into the lives of preschoolers. Many of them do have a thing about their hair. Some don’t want it shampooed or cut. I didn’t want mine brushed. That became the spark for the plot of the Mini Myths board book, Brush Your Hair, Medusa!
It goes like this: Company’s coming. Dad repeatedly asks the preschool-age Medusa to brush her hair, but she’s got other ideas. First, she needs Dad to look at her somersaults! Then she says, “Okay, I’ll brush . . . (turn the page) . . . my mermaid doll’s hair.” (Ha-ha! Tricked you, Dad!) Grandma comes over. When she sees how wild little Medusa’s hair has become, she momentarily freezes like a stone statue.
Remember that justice that kids like to see? In ancient mythology, it can be cruel. For the crime of stonifying people, Medusa’s head was cut off by Perseus. Yikes!
In the Mini Myths version, that brand of justice is softened. It translates into the preschool-age Medusa being taken to get a haircut. In the end she munches a lollipop from the salon, appearing pleased with her new look. There’s a funny twist as Dad remarks, “Now it’s time to brush your teeth!”
Unlike a typical character in adult mythology, Mini Myths characters are allowed to make mistakes and still come out okay in the end. Kids like to see other kids facing the same problems they face, and dealing with the same extreme emotions they experience as they develop social skills. The notion that it’s not the end of the world if they trip up on the way to growing up is reassuring.
As a refresher for parents and an introduction for kids, a short summary of the original ancient myth is provided on the final page of each of the Mini Myths.
Stay up to date on the latest in children's books while discovering ways to advance kids' reading skills by signing up for our children's newsletter. These monthly newsletters for ages 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 highlight new releases, learning resources, exclusive author content, deals, and more.