November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

From Dracula to the Tooth Fairy: Mythology | Series Nonfiction

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SMS1511-MythVampires, zombies, werewolves, witches, and other familiar topics are covered yet again in this season’s selections. But a few new figures also appear, sometimes seeming like an odd fit. Several approaches are common to both the mythology and paranormal series. Sensational appeal is reflected in gory picture choices and in the phrasing of titles. Several series play on the idea of mystery, both in their titles and in posing a central question: Might these creatures or events be real or have existed in some earlier time?

Elementary

Capek, Michael. Unsolved Archaeological Mysteries. ISBN 9781491442623.

Lassieur, Allison. Unsolved Historical Mysteries. ISBN 9781491442647.

Montgomery, Heather L. Unsolved Mysteries of Nature. ISBN 9781491442654.

Price, Sean Stewart. Unsolved Crime Mysteries. ISBN 9781491442630.

ea vol: 32p. (Unsolved Mystery Files). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. websites. Capstone. 2015. lib. ed. $27.32.

Gr 3-6 –Cavelike tombs in Ireland, green children found in England, deserted ships, fish falling from the sky, and people poisoned from taking Tylenol are among the world’s wide variety of unsolved mysteries. Each volume introduces five to seven mysteries, some well covered in other children’s books and others less familiar. These selections include basic overviews of the situation, evidence, the major question or mystery, some of the past search for answers, conclusions, and the remaining unanswered questions. Some descriptions are a bit sketchy or vague. Some photographs, such as the tattooed corpse of the Siberian ice maiden, add a bit of information or intrigue. The discussion of the work of scientists is a bit of a bonus in Archaeological Mysteries. Some of the short bibliographies feature books from this publisher’s other series, but others include recent, more informative titles. VERDICT This is a crowded field, but these quick reads are useful additions where more materials are needed.

Chambers, Catherine. Bigfoot. ISBN 9781410979612.

––––. Count Dracula. ISBN 9781410979636.

––––. The Loch Ness Monster. ISBN 9781410979629.

––––. The Tooth Fairy. ISBN 9781410979643.

ea vol: 32p. (Autobiographies You Never Thought You’d Read!). illus. Heinemann-Raintree. 2015. lib. ed. $29.32.

K-Gr 2 –“Do I really exist? What a question! Some people say it is a grown-up who takes the tooth from under the pillow, plucks it from the roof, or digs it up.” In cheerful tones, legendary characters patter, describing themselves and offering bits of history and assorted beliefs held about them in different parts of the world. Pleasant tones of aqua and orange dominate simply sketched cartoon-style scenes, adding to the light tone. The cleverness of the series title will elude this age group. Three of the books serve the classic question, “Do you have a book about monsters?” VERDICT These interesting folklore tales may appeal to readers making their first forays into nonfiction.

Felix, Rebecca. Ghosts: The Truth Behind History’s Spookiest Spirits. ISBN 9781491442494.

Goldsworthy, Steve. Zombies: The Truth Behind History’s Terrifying Flesh-Eaters. ISBN 9781491442524.

Klepeis, Alicia Z. Vampires: The Truth Behind History’s Creepiest Bloodsuckers. ISBN 9781491442500.

McCollum, Sean. Werewolves: The Truth Behind History’s Scariest Shape-Shifters. ISBN 9781491442517.

ea vol: 32p. (Monster Handbooks). further reading. glossary. index. maps. websites. Capstone. 2015. lib. ed. $27.32.

Gr 3-6 –Through four chapters of straightforward description, these volumes demystify the fearsome qualities of each well-known monster. A bit of preface is followed by information on ancient beliefs in assorted countries, medieval folklore from Europe, tactics supposedly used for hunting and killing the cursed creatures, and continuing appeal of these subjects in popular media. Grisly details, both on the part of the monsters and of the fearful citizens, are provided matter-of-factly, and widely selected illustrations include quaint and fairly tame images, as well as a few that are gory. Highlighted words that appear in the closing glossary are also defined right within the chapter. The vampire and werewolf volumes each include a crude worldwide map locating different beliefs, and all the books have a nice chart of related film, TV, novel, and game titles. The three books in each bibliography are small samples of the many available on these popular subjects. VERDICT Any or all of these will be useful for libraries needing more titles.

Griffin, Ingrid. Story of Cassiopeia. ISBN 9781482426632.

––––. Story of Hercules. ISBN 9781482426717.

––––. Story of the Great Bear. ISBN 9781482426670.

Roesser, Blanche. Story of Leo the Lion. ISBN 9781482426755.

––––. Story of Pegasus. ISBN 9781482426793.

––––. Story of Perseus. ISBN 9781482426830.

ea vol: 24p. (Stories in the Stars). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Gareth Stevens. 2015. lib. ed. $22.60.

Gr 2-4 –Constellations serve here as springboards for abbreviated stories from Greek and Roman mythology. These simplified versions of complex tales becomes fragmented and sometimes confusing, as many characters with odd names are briefly mentioned or covered in only a few short sentences. No explanations are given for the angry, hateful actions of the Greek gods, such as Juno attempting to kill baby Hercules by putting snakes in his crib. Hercules kills “the terrible Nemean (NEE-mee-uhn) Lion” in two different books; Leo the Lion offers a clearer, fuller account. Perseus is featured quite frequently, appearing in Pegasus and Cassiopea as well as in his own volume. The Great Bear Story begins with a Greek episode but then mentions bear-in-the-sky tales from other cultures. This book, in the end, invites children to consider what animal the constellation Ursa Major might look like and also to look for pictures in the stars. The other titles mention months when readers should look for those constellations without explaining their likely location in the sky. Constellation drawings open and close each volume, and handsome pictures of characters and events face each small page of text. VERDICT The interesting idea gives short shrift to storytelling, but these will do if all that readers require is a bare-bones overview.

Harasymiw, Mark. Legend of Rip Van Winkle. ISBN 9781482427462.

McDonnell, Julia. Legend of Robin Hood. ISBN 9781482427509.

Ponka, Katherine. Legend of the Pied Piper. ISBN 9781482427424.

Sabatino, Michael. Legend of Dracula. ISBN 9781482427349.

Saxena, Shalini. Legend of King Arthur. ISBN 9781482427387.

––––. Legend of Sleepy Hollow. ISBN 9781482427547.

ea vol: 32p. (Famous Legends). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Gareth Stevens. 2015. lib. ed. $25.25.

Gr 2-4 –Simple retellings threaded with explanation present the folklore roots of these assorted literary works. The examinations vary somewhat in approach, but all offer material for book reports or class discussion. King Arthur’s entire life story, told in short sentences, introduces Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, and others, with text boxes providing additional information. These boxes appear in all of the books in this set, but most of the others blend history and background material. Washington Irving’s two short stories are presented differently. Sleepy Hollow focuses on the story in question, while Rip Van Winkle sums up the tale and then compares it to an earlier German account that also includes a biography of Irving. An introduction to the Brothers Grimm, life in the Middle Ages, and modern tourist attractions in Hamelin, Germany, accompany the Pied Piper’s tale. Dracula is the star here: the book clearly explains the character’s place among other vampires, the content of Bram Stoker’s novel, the possible parallel with Vlad Dracula of Wallachia, and his continuing popular appeal. VERDICT Good material for literature lessons.

Kallio, Jamie. Aliens. ISBN 9781634070683.

––––. Bigfoot. ISBN 9781634070713.

––––. Haunted Houses. ISBN 9781634070744.

O’Keefe, Emily. Crop Circles. ISBN 9781634070690.

––––. UFOs. ISBN 9781634070751.

Richard, Orlin. The Bermuda Triangle. ISBN 9781634070706.

––––. Ghosts. ISBN 9781634070737.

Streissguth, Tom. The D. B. Cooper Hijacking. ISBN 9781634070720.

ea vol: 24p. (Unsolved Mysteries). ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. 2015. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 3-5 –Popular beliefs, skepticism, and scientific study all receive their due in three or four chapters in these brief, informative accounts. Each begins with a particular episode and its subsequent investigation, followed by additional information, including history. Covered are sightings, appearances and disappearances, the work of investigators, and some hoaxes, too. In most cases, there is scant evidence for these phenomena, but it’s noted that some scientists and a great many citizens consider the existence of these phenomena to be possible. Some of the subjects overlap, particularly in the books on aliens and UFOs, as well as those on ghosts and haunted houses, though there are enough differences among the volumes to hold readers’ attention. Though the D.B. Cooper highjacking is an unsolved mystery, it seems a slightly odd fit with the rest of the paranormal line-up. Attractive photographs and small “Myth or Fact?” sidebars complement the well-paced writing. VERDICT Slim and well crafted, bound to appeal to both doubters and believers, these are good introductions to the mostly popular phenomena.

Lassieur, Allison. Are Crop Circles Real? ISBN 9781607538042; ISBN 9781681520452. LC 2014038739.

––––. Is Atlantis Real? ISBN 9781607538028; ISBN 9781681520438. LC 2014033283.

––––. Is the Bermuda Triangle Real? ISBN 9781607538035; ISBN 9781681520445. LC 2014033261.

––––. Is the Loch Ness Monster Real? ISBN 9781607538059; ISBN 9781681520469. LC 2014038740.

ea vol: 32p. (Unexplained: What’s the Evidence?). ebook available. bibliog. index. maps. photos. Amicus. 2015. lib. ed. $28.50. pap. $9.99.

Gr 3-6 –Do legends and myths hold any truth? Is there real evidence for phenomena such as the Loch Ness Monster and the Bermuda Triangle? Or are these tales simply the result of a whole lot of imagination and even some hoaxes? Through five simply stated chapters, these titles introduce legendary phenomena to younger or less-skilled readers. Color photographs of varied quality face pages that include a basic introduction, history, evidence, and final questions about the actual existence of each subject. Occasional questions and answers add bits of explanation. There are few maps, and some examples are a bit vague when it comes to location. For instance, where in the world was the crop circle in farmer Tim Carson’s cornfield that was discovered in 1990? And why does the text say there was one circle while the photograph shows several? Though there are intriguing aspects to this set, some details will be beyond the grasp of the audience, and the text is occasionally choppy and flat. VERDICT Adequate introductions for libraries needing further materials on these topics.

Peebles, Alice. Demons and Dragons. ISBN 9781467763417.

––––. Giants and Trolls. ISBN 9781467763400.

––––. Mighty Mutants. ISBN 9781467763431.

––––. Monsters of the Gods. ISBN 9781467763424.

ea vol: illus. by Nigel Chilvers. 32p. (Mythical Beasts). ebook available. illus. index. Lerner/Hungry Tomato. 2015. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 3-6 –How gory and repulsive are the beastly creatures of the world’s mythology? The 10 bloodthirsty giants in each of these slim sets appear in a ranked scheme and ascending order. They’re scored “from 1 to 10 for each of five categories: Strength, Repulsiveness, Special Powers, Ferocity and Invincibility.” Two-page entries on each creature, which lead up to the score, include a short anecdotal story, suggested ways to defeat the beast, and an orange inset describing origins of the myth. Bold, digitally created visuals feature plenty of fangs and claws, blood and guts, and horrific mixes of human/animal figures. Sixteen of the 40 monsters are from Greek mythology, and another eight are of Norse origin. Others span the world widely. These titles lack some of the customary nonfiction features. Sources aren’t listed, and there are no bibliographies or websites recommended. Each book ends with a “Rogue’s Gallery” that depicts and briefly describes each of the characters, arranged in reverse order from top to lowest score on the beastly scale. Three bits of added discussion on related topics appear on the final two pages. VERDICT Probably most interesting to readers of horror, these might occasionally spark interest in mythology.

Tieck, Sarah. Aliens. ISBN 9781624037634; ISBN 9781629695952. LC 2015002629.

––––. Bigfoot. ISBN 9781624037641; ISBN 9781629695969. LC 2015002630.

––––. Ghosts. ISBN 9781624037658; ISBN 9781629695976. LC 2015002628.

––––. Mummies. ISBN 9781624037665; ISBN 9781629695983. LC 2015002208.

––––. Vampires. ISBN 9781624037672; ISBN 9781629695990. LC 2015004213.

––––. Werewolves. ISBN 9781624037689; ISBN 9781629696003. LC 2015004204.

––––. Witches. ISBN 9781624037696; ISBN 9781629696010. LC 2015004212.

––––. Zombies. ISBN 9781624037702; ISBN 9781629696027. LC 2015004215.

ea vol: 32p. (Creepy Creatures). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. 2015. Tr. $28.50. ebk. $28.50.

Gr 2-4 –“Werewolves have appeared in books, stories, plays, television shows, and movies. But are they real, or the stuff of legend?” Each book in this series starts off with a similar introductory question and ends with others that invite readers to think further and write stories. Students will find quick discussions of history, beliefs, and practices, but the author spends little time discussing whether any of the creepy creatures could be real, emphasizing instead their well-known gory traits. Selected photographs vary in creepiness and also highlight books and movies popular over the past several decades. Though further reading, usually with fiction titles, is suggested, no bibliography of specific titles is included. The single website is from the publisher. VERDICT These popular subjects are all widely covered elsewhere, but the sketchy information presented here will interest readers if more introductory works are needed.

Middle to High School

Bankston, John. Hercules. ISBN 9781612289960; ISBN 9781612289977.

Gagne, Tammy. Apollo. ISBN 9781680200102; ISBN 9781680200119.

––––. Athena. ISBN 9781612289984; ISBN 9781612289991.

––––. Thor. ISBN 9781612289946; ISBN 9781612289953.

ea vol: 48p. (A Kid’s Guide to Mythology). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mitchell Lane. 2015. lib. ed. $29.95. ebk. $29.95.

Gr 4-8 –Serious students will find substantial information packed into these slim packages. Hercules, which begins with a bit of Roman history, is the most coherent. The other books each start with an anecdotal account of contemporary children engaged in an activity that leads to an encounter with a mythical character. These books are weighed down by quotations from subject authorities and other explanations. The busy format combines dense text, occasional one-page essays, and plentiful decorative elements. All the volumes end with a discussion of the subject’s lasting influence. Evidently intended to serve Common Core goals, these offerings include extensive lists of adult resources in author’s notes for each chapter and long lists of “Works Consulted” along with short bibliographies of childrens books and some Internet sources. VERDICT Not heavy on kid appeal, this set might serve for teaching purposes and offer material for report writing.

Croy, Anita. Myths and Legends of Ancient Rome. ISBN 9780716626350. LC 2015014766.

––––. Myths and Legends of Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands. ISBN 9780716626299. LC 2015014759.

––––. Myths and Legends of Central and South America. ISBN 9780716626282. LC 2015014761.

Leonard, Scott A. Myths and Legends of Africa. ISBN 9780716626312. LC 2015014758.

––––. Myths and Legends of Ancient Britain and Ireland. ISBN 9780716626374. LC 2015014760.

––––. Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt. ISBN 9780716626336. LC 2015014763.

––––. Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece. ISBN 9780716626343. LC 2015014764.

––––. Myths and Legends of China. ISBN 9780716626329. LC 2015014762.

––––. Myths and Legends of North America: The Southwestern United States and Mexico. ISBN 9780716626275. LC 2015014769.

––––. Myths and Legends of Scandinavia. ISBN 9780716626367. LC 2015014767.

––––. Myths and Legends of South Asia and Southeast Asia. ISBN 9780716626305. LC 2015014768.

O’Brien, Cynthia. Myths and Legends of North America: Canada and the Northern United States. ISBN 9780716626268. LC 2015014765.

ea vol: 64p. (Famous Myths and Legends of the World). bibliog. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. reprods. websites. World Book. 2015. Tr. set price $299.

Gr 5-8 –History, geography, and culture form a nice web with the selected stories in these attractive, carefully prepared collections. Each introduction begins with the same general discussion of differences among folktales, legends, and myths and then goes on to explain some characteristics of the myths and beliefs of the featured region. Each volume contains nine to 11 matter-of-factly told stories (mostly myths), all of which are followed by two-page explanations of related cultural practices and history. No authors are named here, and no specific sources are cited for the stories. A note to readers mentions that all such tales were retold orally for long periods of time and often appear in many written versions. Africa receives a bit less attention to history, culture, and actual mythology. Though these volumes are introductions to very broad subjects, they are all rich in content with versatile possibilities for use, handsome illustrations, concluding lists of the featured gods, and substantial bibliographies. VERDICT These titles will have lasting appeal and value.

Kallen, Stuart. Do Aliens Exist? ISBN 9781601528520; ISBN 9781601528537.

MacKay, Jenny. Do Haunted Houses Exist? ISBN 9781601528582; ISBN 9781601528599.

Marcovitz, Hal. Do Ghosts Exist? ISBN 9781601528568; ISBN 9781601528575.

Netzley, Patricia. Do Vampires Exist? ISBN 9781601528605; ISBN 9781601528612.

––––. Do Witches Exist? ISBN 9781601528629; ISBN 9781601528636.

Snyder, Gail. Do Dragons Exist? ISBN 9781601528544; ISBN 9781601528551.

ea vol: 80p. (Do They Exist?). bibliog. index. notes. photos. ReferencePoint. 2015. lib. ed. $28.95. ebk. $28.95.

Gr 9 Up –“What we have here is people trying to make sense of something that, to them, is unexplainable.” Each volume contains four chapters of extensive discussion with numerous examples of encounters, as well as a wide variety of theories about why people believe in each of these phenomena. One chapter per title is devoted to past and present scientific studies. Though actual evidence tends to support the doubters, these books also respect believers and cover remaining questions and future possibilities. There are just a few photographs in each fairly dense book, and long lists of chapter resources along with the final bibliography and list of websites offer plentiful material for further exploration. VERDICT Carefully assembeled and even handed, these titles could be included in adult or academic collections but will serve teens who are skilled and patient readers with serious interest in the subject.

To believe or not to believe. That is the question. Two series stand out this season for balanced treatments that will please both believers and skeptics alike. Child’s World’s “Unsolved Mysteries” is a strong set that will clarify many topics, especially crop circles for those who haven’t ever seen a cornfield. This series also raises the possibility that Bigfoot might actually be on the endangered creatures list: an intriguing notion. ReferencePoint’s “Do They Exist?” distinguishes itself for its top-notch inclusion of firsthand accounts. Mythology is the stuff of belief, too, and here World Book’s “Famous Myths and Legends of the World” wins high marks for its rich, global coverage. Though there is some repetition among the series, there is also plenty of new material on these perenially popular topics.

Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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