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The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths, Retold

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  234 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Newbery Medal-winner Cynthia Rylant retells her favorite stories from Greek mythology, breathing fresh life into the tales of Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus, and Psyche. The writing is lyrical and understated, a perfect tone for stories that introduce young readers to themes of love and loss, pride and forgiveness. Carson Ellis's elegant black-and-white ...more
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published May 4th 2009 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published May 4th 2008)
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Jean Menzies
Jul 16, 2016 Jean Menzies rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens-books
If the goodreads' translation of 2 stars is 'this is OK' then I cannot give this collection any higher a rating. It is worth pointing out this is a children's book where the author puts in her own words 6 Ancient Greek myths - these are not retellings or adaptations. I am entirely on board with this concept, I love mythology and it was children's books that got me into it in the first place (I am now a PhD student conducting research in this field). I think accessibility and enjoyability is real ...more
Feb 17, 2010 Julianna rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Older Kids Who Like Fairy Tales & Fables; Fans of Greek Mythology
Recommended to Julianna by: Glendale Public Library
Reviewed for THC Reviews
Because of an adult fiction series I've been reading that is based on Greek mythology, I've recently rediscovered an interest in these myths, so when I saw The Beautiful Stories of Life on the featured shelf at the library, I decided to pick it up. It turned out to be a nice way to refresh my memory on the stories of Pandora, Persephone, Narcissus and Psyche, and I believe, get my first introduction to Orpheus and Pygmalion, as I recognized their names but don't recall re
Mar 04, 2010 Maeleah rated it it was amazing
The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths Retold by Cynthia Rylant. Illus. by Carson Ellis. Harcourt, 2009. 71 pp. ISBN:978-0-15-206184-5 $16.00 5th-8th grade

Rylant, a prolific, award winning writer, has succeeded once again in creating a work of art. In this collection she retells six Greek myths: Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus and Psyche. Although they could be read separately, reading the stories in order feels like a gentle, flowing river. No prior knowledge of Greek
Sam Grace
The thing is, this is the kind of book I usually really get into. The illustrations add very little, being scattered through the book )one per story), but they are nice and detailed pencil drawings. The short 9-20 page retellings of six carefully chosen stories is a great way to introduce people to the myths. They are told in a way that (I think) acknowledges both the history behind the story AND the person of the new storyteller. Rylant has her own very Rylant-y angle to these myths (although s ...more

Book 49 Bibliographic Citation:
Rylant, C. (2009). The beautiful stories of life: Six Greek myths, retold. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Age/Grade Level: (Ages 10–14, Grades 5—8)

What happens when Pandora opens the mysterious box? When Persephone is kidnapped? And when Pygmalion falls in love with a statue? Six class myths offering life stories of love, pride, courage, and hope are shared in this retelling by award-winning author Cynthia Rylant.

Awards/Reviewing Sources:
Horn Book st
Apr 02, 2011 Dolly rated it liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a short collection of six Greek myths by Cynthia Rylant. We have been enchanted by Greek mythology recently, reading everything we can get our hands on. Our girls are particularly fascinated by the Goddess Girls and the Myth-O-Mania series right now and we are reading through these books quickly.

We were fascinated with these tales, which are more traditional (though not entirely accurate) renditions of the classic stories. What never ceases to amaze me are the coincidences in my reading
Dec 11, 2014 Kristen rated it it was ok
This retelling of six Greek myths is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have quotes that outright offended me, such as, "And beautiful Pandora loved Epimetheus in return. Of course she would. She was the essence of femininity, and she instinctively gave her heart and soul to her husband. With her beauty, she pleased him. With her intelligence, she understood him. With her cleverness, she delighted him." On the other hand, some of the writing is gorgeous in its simplicity: "Life loves the truth. I ...more
Aug 18, 2009 Dayna rated it really liked it
Beautifully and simply told. A delightful quick read and nice review of those classic tales on a PG scale.
May 06, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
Recommended to Emily by: BookPage
Nice stories, pretty pictures (but I wish they'd been in color)
Jan 12, 2017 Kennedy rated it liked it
Shelves: en-8-bk-f
In this story six greek myths are told. Most of them contain stories about gods falling in love with mortal girls. Life as a god can be rough but they almost always can get their way. Read these stories and find the true meaning of life
Apr 01, 2016 ALB rated it it was amazing
CSULB 545 Class 3: Myth - Pandora

Rylant, Cynthia. “Pandora.” The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths, Retold. Illus. Carson Ellis. New York: Harcourt, 2009.

[May contain spoilers]

Target Audience: grades 1 - 9 [This is a vast age range; but merited. I read this to my seven-year-old and four-year-old neices, and is is used in our freshman mythology units]

Curriculum ties: Mythology units; transgressor units (i.e. Frankenstein)

The story of Pandora is the story of a transgressor, one who goes
Dec 19, 2016 Lauringui rated it it was amazing
Conozcan o nos mitos griegos, esta edición pocket preciosa los cuenta hilvanados de una manera muy mágica y ordenada. Ultra mega mil recomendado.
While I can see this as a good introduction of Greek myths for children, I can't see what else this retelling brings to the table. Nothing in particular stands out really stands out, the author got quite a few minute details wrong that change the entire story (e.g Persephone being a mortal) and it felt rather modern in the gender roles it portrayed.

All these women seemed to live for their husbands and absolutely nothing else, and that was portrayed as a good thing.
Lisa M.
Sep 24, 2013 Lisa M. rated it really liked it
I picked this picture book up from the library because it was one of the only books on Greek myth. I really enjoyed Rylant's writing-style. Instead of focusing on the plot of each myth, she also reflects on the message in each tale; each story begins with a reflection about human nature which will be exemplified in the following pages. This continued throughout the story. I think it added a "story-teller" tone which many young readers (and this older reader!) can enjoy.

The selection of myths for
Kaye Cloutman
May 25, 2009 Kaye Cloutman rated it it was amazing
Newbery Medalist author Cynthia Rylant brings the great Greek Mythology tales to life once more in //The Beautiful Stories of Life//. Readers will be enthralled and charmed with the brief yet in-depth narrative of the lives of Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus and Psyche. A great introductory read for children if you’d like to give them a start in embracing classic world literature, mythology and fiction. I am certain that they will crave to learn more about Greek and Roman Myth ...more
Jun 27, 2010 Jess rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Someone who wants a taste of myths (6th or so on up), someone looking for additional myth texts
Recommended to Jess by: browsing new audio's at CHN
Shelves: audio, z_10
A select of six Greek myths retold by Rylant: Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus, & Eros and Psyche.

Listened to most of this on my drive home from Champaign and found the narrator fine and the retellings satisfactory. Rylant added some, let's say, commentary into the stories. This focusing of key points* should be helpful for junior high or high school students.

I'm not sure why it's so short. Only 6 tales show up on the CD or in the book. Twice that or more would have made se
Kate  K. F.
Dec 17, 2012 Kate K. F. rated it it was ok
Six myths are retold in this book; Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus and Psyche, the beautiful Greek myths are simplified to a form that talks down to the reader and does a disservice to the myths. Clearly the author hopes that this will make them more accessible but instead its rather jarring to read the sort of repetition that would feel more comfortable in a picture book in a almost chaptered book. A disappointing read from a book that held a great amount of possibility since ...more
Destiny Dawn Long
Sep 11, 2013 Destiny Dawn Long rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
This collection of six stories from Greek mythology all deal with the interactions between gods and mortals. They also all address the central theme of love. Rylant's elegant prose is accessible and pleasurable, as she shares familiar Greek stories for a modern audience. Children will be introduced to Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus and Psyche, with all their strengths and flaws.

Rylant, a past Newbery Medal winner, is able to present these classic stories in a manner that a c
Nov 09, 2009 Barbara rated it liked it
Shelves: mythology
Cynthia Rylant retells these six Greek myths in her usual clear, lyric style. Though they are short, the myths are not simple because Rylant includes her own interpretation of the meaning behind the stories. She begins the story of Narcissus, for example, with these words: "There are those who fall in love with someone or something and are destroyed by the experience. This often happens because of obsession, of being consumed by a longing that is deadly to both the body and the soul." Of Orpheus ...more
Nov 10, 2009 Jenifer rated it liked it
This was very short (1disk) audio that I picked up at the library. The myths are told in their classic form and is a good overview for anyone loving Percy Jackson right now. My favorite story is Persephone. I love the imagery of her mother being so lonesome during the part of the year that her daughter has to spend in the underworld with Hades, that the whole world becomes cold, colorless and silent. But when Persephone comes back each spring color and happiness and warmth return to the earth.
Jan 06, 2015 Kalynda rated it really liked it
Put cultural stories high on my list--I love them! I also love the stories of myths and fables in particular, because of their timelessness and for their insight and even more for the honor they give to oral storytelling. These retellings gave more than other retellings I have read--felt the characters were more vivid, along with the connections between each other. Great for any ancient civilization class or language arts class...I can already see the modern times lesson being formed in my mind. ...more
Tamara Menninger
Easy to read myths perfect for grades 3-6 (or anyone needing a refresher in myths) with illustrations to go along with each story. The stories of Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus and Psyche are all recounted so likely most of these are myths younger readers will be introduced to for the first time. My major criticism of the book is that Persephone is referred to as a "mortal" with only Demeter as her goddess mother; in most Greek mythology references, she is the daughter of Dem ...more
Aug 31, 2009 Diana rated it did not like it
Shelves: zzz-2009, childrens
Illustrations that seemed to be trying to copy D'Aulaires' style, yet couldn't even get simple body proportions right, distracted me from the tales, which I should have been moved by, but instead found them written in stunted sentences that did not flow, and even misused words. There also was a misogynistic bent to the stories that left a bad taste in my mouth. I did not find them beautiful, but rather trite and antiquated instead. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.
Jan 21, 2011 Kelli rated it it was amazing
These ARE beautiful stories. Rylant makes the Greek myths come to life, exploring motivations and the oh-so human traits that make the gods so capricious. The story about Pandora, for example, contains these lines: "But Zeus was not only powerful. He was shrewd. He understood that true vengeance takes place quietly, intelligently, and with a plan." These stories made me slow down and reflect on the truths and absurdities we encounter every day. I will revisit this book again and again.
Aug 13, 2009 Terri rated it liked it
Rylant brings her simple, laid-back style of storytelling to the Greek myths of Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus, and Psyche in this slim collection. I can hardly wait to share this with my 6th grade World History teachers! Rylant chooses her words wisely and her slender works are often poetic. The same is true here where she presents the old tales in lean versions that will be ideal for filling short bits of time in classrooms.
Feb 28, 2011 Patti rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids
I am really enjoying this a lot. I'm reading it with my 7 year old, and I am very surprised that he keeps asking to come back to it. It's a lovely read-aloud, and although it's written above his comprehension level, it seems to be written in a way that he can understand it. Feels a little like magic.

I have very little experience with mythology, so I'm really enjoying the stories as well. Beautifully illustrated.
Bridget Fleagle
Jan 17, 2010 Bridget Fleagle rated it really liked it
I listened to the short audio book with this one. Without the experience in Greek mythology to pick this retelling apart, I enjoyed listening to these stories in the way they were presented in this book. It definitely sparked further interest into the mythological world. The narrator was easy on the ears and it's something my 3rd grader could enjoy.
Aug 28, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it
As always, Cynthia Rylant's writing is beautiful and her re-telling of these favorite Greek myths are great for anyone wanting to visit these stories or looking for versions that sound wonderful when read aloud! The illustrations add to the quiet, understated beauty of these enchanting and timeless stories.
Apr 05, 2016 Becky rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-books
I obviously took a long time with this one but I actually have been sharing many of the myths with classes for a few years now. I highly recommend this for anyone reading, teaching or just interested in Greek mythology. Rylant is an expert at creating a sense of time, place and character in these very short adaptations of ancient myths.
Apr 29, 2010 April rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids
The six greek myths (Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus, and Psyche)are retold in beautiful, modern English prose. While I have been required to read various Greek myths over my years in school, this is the first time that they seem to make sense and have something to say about life. Very enjoyable reading. My five-year old son even enjoyed them as bedtimes stories.
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An author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for children and young adults as well as an author and author/illustrator of picture books for children, Cynthia Rylant is recognized as a gifted writer who has contributed memorably to several genres of juvenile literature. A prolific author who often bases her works on her own background, especially on her childhood in the West Virginia mountains, she ...more
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