If your kids love adventurous tales, then these novels inspired by mythology from around the world will get them reading.
What accounts for the enduring appeal of myths? Many kids go through a phase where they read as much Greek mythology as they can find; often they then move on to read Norse or Egyptian myths. But why stick to the big three? There is a wealth of dynamic mythology from all corners of the globe.
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I have blurred the lines between myth and folklore for the purposes of this list, but I'm sure the sticklers out there will forgive me. Mythology generally deals with gods, goddesses and grand, sacred and foundational stories, while folklore deals with smaller-scale stuff like animals, trickster tales and the like.
Side note: Your child has probably already heard of Rick Riordan's books, so I haven't listed them here. Just in case they haven't read all of his series (like Percy Jackson), yet, head to the "R" section in your library and you will find one zillion copies of each of his books. Read them all, but pick out a few from this list, too.
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Ages 7 and Up
These selections are great for mythology fans just starting out with chapter books.
Beasts of Olympus
series by Lucy Coats, illustrated by Brett Bean
Demon (short for Pandemonium) is the son of Pan, who sets him up with a job looking after mythical beasts on Olympus. Hera brings her injured Hydra to stables. Demon must find the cure, with the help of some dryads, or face Hera's wrath. There are eight books in the series.
Heroes in Training / Goddess Girls
series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, illustrated by Craig Phillips
I'm not a fan of the marketing of these two series as it appears one series is about/for the "boy gods" and the other is about/for the "girl goddesses." However... each book has lessons about becoming your own person and learning to assert your own special talents. They are light reads, kids will probably like them and there are twelve zillion books in each series so your kids will keep the librarians busy checking out books.
Ages 8 and up
For young readers ready to transition from early chapter books to longer mythology novels, these are excellent choices.
Zeus the Mighty
series by Crispin Boyer
Zeus, a mighty and tiny hamster, sits on the high shelf at Mount Olympus Pet Center. He, and Demeter (a cricket), Athena (a cat), and Ares (a pug) are convinced they are the actual Greek gods. The animals get caught up in hilarious hijinks, especially after Zeus hears a podcast of the Jason and the Argonauts story and decides to ramp up his rivalry with Poseidon the pufferfish.
Thundercluck! Chicken of Thor
by Paul Tillery IV and Meg Wittwer
If your life up to now has been missing semi-divine chickens fighting evil and saving Asgard, this is the book series to fill the gap. When an egg is hit by a thunderbolt, it becomes Thundercluck, the chosen one who is destined to save Asgard from the evil Under-Cook. Brilliant deadpan humor and an absurdly genius plot are a match made in Asgard.
Thor’s Wedding Day: By Thialfi, the Goat Boy
by Bruce Coville, illustrated by Matthew Cogswell
I will confess that I was not expecting to enjoy this book, but I liked it just as much as my son and we both laughed out loud as I read it. It's a very funny adaptation of a classic tale from Norse mythology in which Thor must dress as a bride in order to get back his stolen hammer. I highly recommend it as a read aloud.
Aru Shah and the End of Time
series by Roshani Chockshi
I love that the tale relies on Hindu mythology to take readers on a fantastical journey. Aru has a tendency to stretch the truth, and while she is spending the school holiday at Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture (her mother is an archeologist), her classmates dare her to prove her claim that the Lamp of Bharata is cursed. But what happens next involves frozen classmates, the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, a demon and the Kingdom of Death! There are three (so far) books in the series.
Odd and the Frost Giants
by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
In ancient Norway, a boy named Odd is in the middle of a spell of bad luck. In the forest, he meets a bear, a fox and an eagle who tell him a strange story that sends him on a journey to save the city of the gods from the Frost Giants. It's really quite delightful and will make a fun read aloud while sipping a mug of hot chocolate. It's a great choice for kids who love Norse mythology.
MORE: Scandinavian folktales
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin
This one of my favorite chapter books ever and I consider it a modern classic. Minli's family lives in poverty and Minli sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family's destiny. Along the way she is accompanied by the Jade Dragon and her journey is filled with twist and turns of fate. Lin deftly weaves together Minli's quest, her father's stories and wonderful illustrations to create a memorable tale. Don't forget the companion books, Starry River of the Sky and When the Sea Turned to Silver.
MORE: Books like Mulan
Ages 9 and up
Many of these mythology and folklore based novels make great read alouds.
Secrets of Selkie Bay
by Shelley Moore Thomas
Cordie and her three sisters live with their father on the coast of Ireland in a seaside town that profits off tales of the mythic selkies, seals who can shed their skin to become humans on land. Their father used to research the local pixie seals, who have now all mysteriously disappeared. Their mother has disappeared too. When Cordie spins a tale for her sister, Iona, the younger sister becomes convinced their mother is a selkie, returned to the sea. Be prepared for a surprise ending!
MORE: Fairy Tale Retellings
Lalani of the Distant Sea
by Erin Entrada Kelly
This book will capture your child's attention from the very first page. Rich vocabulary and imagery drawn from Filipino folklore take readers and listeners on a thrilling and utterly unique adventure. I adored this book and couldn't put it down. Lalani's mother falls ill and Lalani sets out on a voyage across the sea to the legendary Mount Isa in hopes of curing her. Themes range from the limits of personal responsibility, familial relationships and loyalty, and abuse of power and leadership.
The Storm Runner
series by J.C. Cervantes
In The Storm Runner, Mayan mythology is front and center. Thirteen-year-old Zane learns that the volcano in his New Mexico backyard is a actually a prison for a Mayan god. When Brooks, a mysterious shape-shifting girl shows up to help Zane fulfill his destiny, the adventure begins.
series by Tracey Baptiste
Baptiste draws on Haitian folklore to tell her tale. Corrine La Mer's aunt Severine is a "jumbie," a mystical creature of the forest. Severine is looking for humans to turn into jumbies and Corrine must find a way to stop her. In the second book, Corrine heads to the sea to get answers about the island's missing children from the sea jumbie.
The Serpent's Secret
series by Sayantani DasGupta
DasGupta's original story draws upon Bengali myths and folklore. Kiranmala, and Indian sixth-grade interdimensional demon slayer is concerned. A spell gone awry has sent her parents into another dimension and she is about to be eaten by a rakkhosh demon in her own kitchen. Thus begins a highly engaging and funny adventure in which Kiranmala rejects two princes' offer to rescue her, travels to a magical dimension full of fantastic beasts, battles demons, solves riddles and saves New Jersey.
When You Trap a Tiger
by Tae Keller
Lily, her brother and mom move in with her Korean grandmother. Halmoni (her grandmother) used to tell her bedtime stories based on Korean folklore and now Lily is seeing a magical tiger. Halmoni is in poor health and Lily makes a bargain with the tiger so her grandmother can heal. Marvelous and magical.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
series by Kwame Mbalia
Tristan Strong is grieving the loss of his best friend and reluctantly headed for Alabama to stay with his grandparents. While tussling with a strange creature he punches a tree, opening up a passage between his world and MidPass. Adventures and struggles follow as Tristan meets persons and creatures from African-American and West African myth and folklore. Young readers who love epic adventures, wily foes and heroic legends will love this tale. Highly recommended.