Great Illustrated Books

Gilgamesh the Hero

By Geraldine McCaughrean, Illustrated by David Parkins

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2003
Pages : 96
Suggested Ages: 11 and Up
ISBN: 0802852629

Wow! WHAT a heart-thumping adventure I had the day I read this spectacular collection of twelve adventures of Gilgamesh. Based on seventh century B.C. Assyrian clay tablets that recorded the legend of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) sometime between 3200 B.C. and 2700 B.C, this epic is actually the oldest recorded story in the world. It is also the first Flood story, ultimately told in the Bible and other ancient texts.

The testosterone flows in this first of all buddy stories. Not content with the excitement of waging constant war and building new towers in his glorious city of Uruk, the mighty King Gilgamesh dreams of a friend, sent to him by the gods, someone like himself. That man is the Wild Man, Enkidu, formed out of clay by the goddess of beginnings. First, Gilgamesh and Enkidu wrestle for dominance, and then they declare their devotion to each other. The two set out to kill the monster Huwawa, Guardian of the Cedar Forests. When Gilgamesh spurns the advances of Ishtar, the goddess of love, she is furious, and sends down to earth the Bull of Heaven, which Gilgamesh and Enkidu also kill. In revenge, Ishtar sets out to eliminate Enkidu, an action so monstrous that it sends a grief-torn Gilgamesh into the wilderness to seek the secret of immortality. His journey and final acceptance of his own mortality is told so brilliantly, with such humor and true insight, that it will get you and your kids discussing the true meaning of life.

Bold, colorful, full-page illustrations, outlined in fuzzy black lines, are full of energy and heart. While the story is a bit racy in spots, that can be a good thing. Get those boys reading! They will be fired up to compare and contrast the life of Gilgamesh with other legendary larger-than-life heroes, such as Hercules, Odysseus, or King Arthur.

Reviewed by : JF


If you love this book, then try:

Curlee, Lynn. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Atheneum, 2002.

Fisher, Leonard Everett. Cyclops. Holiday House, 1991.

Fisher, Leonard Everett. Theseus and the Minotaur. Holiday House, 1988.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Bronze Cauldron: Myths and Legends of the World. McElderry, 1998.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Crystal Pool: Myths and Legends of the World. McElderry, 1999.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World. Simon & Schuster, 1996.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. Roman Myths. McElderry Books, 2001.

Moore, Christopher. Ishtar & Tammuz: A Babylonian Myth of the Seasons. Kingfisher, 1996.

Philip, Neil. The Adventures of Odysseus. Orchard, 1997


Pinkney, Jerry. Noah's Ark. SeaStar, 2002.

Sabuda, Robert. Arthur and the Sword. Atheneum, 1995.

Sutcliffe, Rosemary. Black Ships Before Troy!: The Story of the Iliad. Delacorte, 1993.

Sutcliffe, Rosemary. The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of The Odyssey. Delacorte, 1996.

Critics have said

McCaughrean employs her supple style in this version of the oldest recorded story in the world.