I was first introduced to The Odyssey in the eighth grade, or at least to a translation of the Greek poem. Basically, Odysseus leaves his beloved island Ithaca to fight in the Trojan War. Staying behind are a wife and an only son. She spends most of her time fending off hundreds of suitors who assume Odysseus didn’t survive the war. Meanwhile her husband not only survived, but was a hero in winning the war. Problem is it took ten years and another ten for him to find his way back to the island and slay all the suitors.
This version tells the same story, but from the POV of Odysseus’s loyal dog, Argos. He stays on Ithaca to protect his master’s wife and son along with keeping an eye on their livestock. He is loyal and believes his master will return some day.
The choice to tell Homer’s original tale away from the action through the eyes and ears of Argos is a bold one. Argos learns of Odysseus’s journey through conversations he has with birds and a sea turtle. They are his only way to keep his hopes up and discover the fate of his master. The author could have had Argos going off with his master and experience first hand the horrors that await, but perhaps having him stay behind is more like a family waiting for a soldier to return from overseas.
Released in hardback two years ago, the paperback version is new this year. The length and complex language may be a bit much for most middle grade kids, but Percy Jackson fans will migrate here with their love of Greek mythology.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2016 PAGE COUNT: 405
THE PLOT (from AMAZON):
For twenty years, the great hero Odysseus struggles to return to Ithaka. After ten years beneath the walls of Troy, he begins the long journey back home. He defeats monsters. He outsmarts the Cyclops. He battles the gods. He does whatever it takes to reunite with his family.
And what of that family—his devoted wife, Penelope; his young son, Telemachos; his dog, Argos? For those twenty years, they wait, unsure whether they will ever see Odysseus again. But Argos has found a way to track his master. Any animal who sets foot or wing on Ithaka brings him news of Odysseus’s voyage—and what a voyage it is!
These tales bring hope that one day his master will return. Meanwhile, Argos watches over his master’s family and protects them from the dangers that surround a throne without its king. This rousing story of devotion and determination is an original take on one of the most beloved myths of all time.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: ARGOS by Ralph Hardy
- Argos’s courtship and starting his own family is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
- This would be a good introduction for a young person who knows nothing about The Odyssey. It would make their eventual reading of the original all that more compelling.
- The cover is often what gravitates readers to a book and this one is superb.
- Argos and his interactions with the son, Telemachos, are what make this story. Friendship, loyalty, and trust are the keys.
- There are touches of humor as Argos copes with understanding the ways of other animals and humans.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ralph Hardy graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in English and received his MFA from Columbia College, Chicago. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife and children and a dog named Harvey, who is nothing like Argos. He is the author of The Cheetah Diaries, Lefty, and a number of short stories.
For more Ralph Hardy’s author website.
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