Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Poseidon: Earth Shaker

Poseidon, brother of Zeus, son of Kronos and Rhea, ruler of the seas and creator of storms, tempests, and tsunamis that shake the earth, is back in live action and color thanks to George O'Connor and First Second Books. This book has breath-taking art, great story-telling, a detailed Greek god family tree to help us mere mortals follow their royal lineage, Greek Geek notes, discussion points, and links for extra reading. Aside from O'Connor's continuing to bring the Greek Gods to life rivaling  D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myth's mantle, this book belongs in home and school libraries.  Let's take a closer look why:

This fifth volume of the Olympian series is absolutely AWESOME as George O'Connor tells his story through a powerful combination of image and text story-telling.  In telling Poseidon's story, O'Connor focuses on a few themes, all of which serve as vehicles for further discussion and learning, and all of which can be used in integrating Common Core State Standards:
  • Throughout the book Poseidon questions his "choice" to rule the seas and whether it was a choice at all.  Was Zeus' idea to draw lots the best way to divide the cosmos? This, in turn, can lead to discussions for readers of all ages about decisions and decision making, and whether our decisions are as 'free' as we think they are. For example, on pages 4-7 O'Connor relays how Zeus and his brothers divided the spoils of the battle of the Titans.  He notes that, "Zeus was awarded the sky. He alone of us grew up knowing it...there could be no other way...I of course, drew the sea. As with my brothers, this was the only way it could be... Or was it?"
Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O'Connor Image courtesy of First Second
  • O'Connor also relays Poseidon's role in  Odysseus' story from Poseidon's perspective.  As a result this book can be used for classroom or independent reading on Greek mythology as well as a preview for Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and James Joyce's Ulysses. This is also a way to introduce 1st-person versus 3rd-person narratives and the value of perspective (complying and integrating Common Core State Standards).
Poseidon Earth Shaker by George O'Connor  image courtesy of First Second Books

  • To introduce Poseidon's son Theseus, O'Connor relays Poseidon's regret that "my children have always tended to be monstrous (Polyphemos the cyclops, Triton, Otus and Ephialtes, to name a few), and his reflection (on page 26) that "The desire to produce a suitable heir drives so much of what we do." This theme is found throughout history and literature and can be used, for example, when discussing the lengths Henry VIII took to have a son or  Shakespeare's King Lear's quest to find the right child to inherit his kingdom(to name a few).  This clearly fits the new Common Core State Standards integrating literature, non-fiction and history with multi-modal story telling. This can also be used as a writing theme (creative or analytic) on parenting roles and perspectives.

Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O'Connor image courtesy of First Second Books
  • Visual literacy -relates to our ability to use and understand images to tell emotional, meaningful and memorable stories. This is especially evident in the vivid images and story O'Connor presents as Poseidon wrestles with his 'choice' of being god of the seas.  As Poseidon gently falls to the bottom of his realm, for example, he begins to wrestle with this 'choice.' While he feels the seas aptly reflects his temper and moods, his tempestuous nature builds as "the waves slide from my dark hair...from the roaring deep my voice thunders...I am Poseidon, earth shaker, ruler of the boundless sea, creator of storms, swallower of ships." This building of emotion is done brilliantly through the use of image and page/panel design and begs deeper analysis. O'Connor's portrayal of Thesues' role in mastering the labyringh and slaying the minotaur is also a classic example of how image can tell a story.  Here are some discussion points to consider when critically reading and evaluating any portion of this book:
    • Point out the use of color, lines and shading to build the story around the text
    • Discuss how emotions are relayed in the images (especially in pages 5-12)
    • Discuss the use of panel arrangement to help tell the story.  On pages 37-42 O'Connor tells the story of Theseus and the Labyrinth.  Here in particular O'Connor playfully uses panels to help tell the story.
      Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O'Connor image courtesy of First Second Books

Thank  you for your visit.  
Please leave your reactions and other teaching point in the comments.

And, please check out the links below for more on Poseidon.

More links for Poseidon and for Poseiden Earth Shaker by Geroge O'Connor, First Second Books:


  1. It's sad but true: I know more about the characters in Norse mythology from the Thor comic book than reading it in books...

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  2. Great artwork, I'm just always amazed when I read about the exploits of mythological "gods" they seem a lot more like corrupt politicians than any concept of god that I can grock :)

  3. Hi Meryl! Thanks for linking your posts up for WW :))

  4. I've read a few graphic novels, and they really aren't my thing, but the kids LOVE them. This would be a great thing to have in the classroom for kids to browse through.


    1. You are so right, but I'd take it even further. These are great to link up with other texts. Why not start with this to whet appetites and imaginations and then read Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, or read about Poseidon's quest for an heir and then read about Henry VIII's warped solutions, or read this and then discuss Joseph Campbell's definition of the "hero's quest"! Graphic novels like this one help motivate students AND because of their images, they create very strong memory associations not only bringing 'history' or 'story' to life, but committing it to more memory paths and associations.