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20 Epic Books About Myths and Legends for Kids

From Anansi to Zeus, and from picture books to YA novels.

Erica Silverstein · 10 months ago

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The ancients knew how to spin a good yarn. Powerful gods, sneaky mischief makers, talking animals, and human heroes jockey for personal gain and glory across each culture’s myths and legends — often with an important take-home message still relevant today. Get your family hooked on reading with these irresistible tales full of heroes, monsters, goddesses, and beasts. Whether you prefer illustrated works or chapter books, run (don’t walk) to your nearest library to check out our favorite books about myths and legends for kids.

Young Zeus by G. Brian Karas

Best for: Ages 4 - 8

Much like “Young Sheldon,” this book looks at the origin story of a favorite character: in this case, Zeus, king of the Greek gods. Kids will love the crazy cast of monsters, gods, and goats — plus an epic burping scene ‚ and parents will enjoy a less-often-told myth about how the gods evicted the Titans and came to reign on Mt. Olympus.

Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott

Best for: Ages 4 - 7

This Caldecott Honor Book introduces kids to the lovable trickster god Anansi of West African folklore. If your readers take to the bold and blocky illustrations and rhythmic language in this story about adventure and family, they’ll want to check out McDermott’s other picture books that highlight a variety of mischievous gods and characters from cultures around the world.

Usborne’s Illustrated Myths From Around the World

Best for: Ages 4 - 7

Family-favorite Usborne offers several books of myths and legends, filled with beguiling illustrations and page-turner tales. For a snuggle-time family read aloud, start with Myths From Around the World, covering 18 myths from cultures as disparate as Ireland and Japan. If you’re hooked, Usborne also publishes books on Greek and Norse mythology, as well as tales from China and India.

I Am Hermes! and I Am Pan! By Mordicai Gerstein

Best for: Ages 5 - 9

Caldecott-winning author and illustrator Mordicai Gerstein has picked the most mischievous, fun-loving, and wild-spirited Greek gods to steal the spotlight in his two myth-based pictures books. Kids will relish this relatable introduction to Greek mythology as they laugh at baby Hermes stealing his brother’s cows and Pan wreaking havoc and pandemonium on Mount Olympus.

Dragons, Dragons by Eric Carle

Best for: Ages 6 - 9

The Very Hungry Caterpillar might slide down his leaf in fright if he ever encountered the collection of mythological beasts Eric Carle depicts in Dragons, Dragons. Carle’s unique collage style of illustration pairs with bits of poetry from a diverse group of writers (Anne McCaffrey, William Shakespeare) to create a spellbinding compilation that evokes the creatures — even if the poetry occasionally sails over little heads.

Heroes in Training Series by Joan Holub

Best for: Ages 6 - 9

Aimed at kids too young to tackle the Percy Jackson books, the Heroes in Training series of short chapter books follows the adventures of school-aged Greek gods as they battle those treacherous Titans. With a whopping 17 books in the series, the author guarantees many hours of happy read-to-self time. However, teachers should note that the stories take some liberties with the godly family tree.

Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs by Marcia Williams

Best for: Ages 6 - 9

Graphic novel fans know that supernatural adventures are often best told in comic book form, and author Williams agrees. She recounts nine legends of ancient Egyptian gods and pharaohs in Superman style, using Rami (the sun god’s pet) as her sidekick to weigh in on ancient Egyptian life and culture. Warning: Aspiring Egyptologists might be begging for a trip to the museum — or the Pyramids! — after this read.

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths and Book of Norse Myths

Best for: Ages 5 - 12

Many future writers and literary PhD candidates found early inspiration from the D’Aulaires’ tales of Greek and Norse mythology. First published in the 1960s, the illustrated tomes remain among the most popular and memorable children’s books about mythology. Your family will forever imagine the gods and goddesses in their minds just as they were drawn by the D’Aulaires years before they were born.

Gods And Heroes: Mythology Around the World by Korwin Briggs

Best for: Ages 8 - 12

This middle-grade Who’s Who of world mythologies showcases the most powerful gods from 23 cultures, from Japan’s Amaterasu to Greece’s Zeus. A brief bio of each immortal is followed by a recounting of their most acclaimed starring roles, including Anansi buying the power of story-telling and Yi killing the suns.

Percy Jackson, Magnus Chase, Trials of Apollo, and The Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan

Best for: Ages 8 - 12

Rick Riordan’s tales of modern-day heroes interacting with Greek, Egyptian, and Norse gods are so insanely popular that they’ve been turned into movies and musicals. Your family will eat up these action-packed tales of demigods with ADHD, young Valkyries, and fallen gods. For the real-deal myths told in Percy Jackson’s snarky tone and peppered with asynchronistic pop culture references, try Riordan’s books on Greek gods and Greek heroes as well.

Aru Shah Series by Roshani Chokshi

Best for: Ages 8 - 12

Cursed lamps, angry demons, and a 12-year-old Indian-American girl in Spiderman pajamas will introduce your family to Hindu mythology and the epic poem, the Mahabharata. Your mighty girls will love all the strong female characters, while legend lovers will eat up an ancient world of gods and monsters.

Both Aru Shah and Tristan Strong (below) are part of the Rick Riordan Presents series, focusing on PercyJackson-style adventure stories inspired by the mythology of various cultures. We recommend all the books, which include novels about Mayan, Korean, Cuban, Navajo, and Mesopotamian gods and legends.

Tristan Strong Series by Kwame Mbalia

Best for: Ages 9 - 12

Why write an adventure novel around one culture’s folklore, when you can combine legends from two? In this series, middle schooler Tristan Strong teams up with Black American folk heroes, such as John Henry and Brer Rabbit, to contend with Anansi and other West African gods. The vibrant characters and action-packed tale will make you forget you’re getting a cultural education and not just a thrilling ride.

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Best for: Ages 8 - 12

This multiple award-winning novel dives into Korean folktales to send readers on a fantastic quest. Your family will be hooked on this page-turner starring a strong female protagonist and a magical tiger. Unlike some of the other modern myth adventures, this story has a poignant message, and you might want to have a tissue box at the ready.

In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton

Best for: Ages 12+

Every culture has vastly different gods and cultural touchstones, but each has a story to explain how the world and its people came to be. Award-winning writer Virginia Hamilton explores 25 of these creation stories from around the world. Have everyone in your family read this compilation and host your own book club over dinner to discuss the various myths and the ways in which they’re similar and different.