Hit the Road, Helen! by Kate McMullan

Hit the Road, Helen!Reading level: 4.3
Lexile: 540
Series: Myth-O-Mania book 9
Genre: Myth, humor
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Middle school

Goodreads summary:

When Paris and Helen decide to hit the road together, it means more trouble than they can imagine for both themselves and the people of Troy. But who says Helen is entirely at fault? Sure she had a face that launched a thousand ships . . . but she also had a little interference from the meddling god of love and his mother, Aphrodite. Think you know the truth behind the Greek myths? Think again. Hades is here to set you straight once more on the true story of the Trojan War.

So yes, here is yet another Greek myth book. With a reading level of 4th grade, it is a good (not to mention fun) alternative to the more challenging Percy Jackson series. This book is actually more of a parody of the Greek myths. Although we get the “real deal” with who’s fighting whom in the Trojan War, and who all those gods and goddesses are and how they are related, we get another, far more light-hearted version with this story.

While the reading level is low and it’s generally fine for ELLs, there are lots of gods, goddesses, and mortals. Even though we get a list at the beginning of the book of who’s who on both the Greek and Trojan side, it doesn’t list all the characters. I was feeling a little lost at times, but McMullan does a great job of reminding the reader who these people are. The spellings and pronunciations of these characters would also be hard for struggling readers, although there is a pronunciation guide and glossary in the back of the book.

The one and only aspect of Hit the Road, Helen! that I dislike is the lack of female agency, mainly Helen’s. I’m no expert on the actual myth, but I am assuming that the original Helen was pretty useless, which is how McMullan wrote her in this story, too. As the myth goes, the Trojan War begins because Paris steals Helen away from Menelaus. The war continues for ten years because Helen is so in love with Paris that she doesn’t care about the thousands of people who are dying to win her back for her first husband. Helen is nothing more than a pawn. Now, life in ancient Greece was probably kind of lousy for women (although I hear they was more gender equality than we would think), but I hoped that McMullan would have written Helen to be at least kind of cool.

While Myth-O-Mania is a series, the books don’t seem to build on each other. I have only read this book out of the whole series and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

Hit the Road, Helen! is my fourteenth book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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