November 17, 2017

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New Mythology Series To Engage Reluctant Readers

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This fall’s selections explore the many explanations behind unexplainable phenomena. Urban legends appear here with names, dates, and tips for avoiding a similarly gruesome fate. Readers will enjoy the depth and detail given to the paranormal findings often scoffed at by the scientific community. Traditional mythology and fantasy characters are given a lighter treatment, but they will serve those who are building new collections or replacing dated volumes.

Elementary

Bodden, Valerie. Caves. ISBN 9781608188055.

––––. Cemeteries. ISBN 9781608188062.

––––. Ghost Towns. ISBN 9781608188079.

––––. Haunted Houses. ISBN 97816 08188086.

––––. Old Jails. ISBN 9781608188093.

––––. Tombs. ISBN 9781608188109.

ea vol: 24p. (Creep Out). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Creative Education. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $29.95.

Gr 2-5 –This series stands out more for design than content; readers will be unable to forget the many creepy images featured within each title. A typewriter-style font and gloomy, high-contrast photos contribute to the spooky if not sensational tone. There are a few inconsistencies to be noted; for instance, French catacombs are included in Cemeteries, but Italian catacombs are discussed in Tombs. The author does not make the distinction that the term ghost town has more to do with deserted ruins than actual ghosts (young readers can be quite literal). The question “Does this creep you out?” is asked repeatedly throughout each volume, underscoring a disappointingly surface treatment of fascinating subjects. The included further reading and suggested websites will be necessary to satisfy curious paranormal enthusiasts. VERDICT An adequate starting point for kids new to the genre.

Braun, Eric. Athena. ISBN 9781680721362.

––––. Hercules. ISBN 9781680721379.

––––. Loki. ISBN 9781680721386.

––––. Odin. ISBN 9781680721393.

––––. Thor. ISBN 9781680721409.

––––. Zeus. ISBN 9781680721416.

ea vol: 32p. (Gods of Legend). bibliog. chart. chron. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. websites. Black Rabbit. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $31.35.

Gr 2-4 –Designed for emerging or reluctant readers, this series is an introduction to Greek and Norse mythology’s characters. The layout includes a variety of eye-catching digital illustrations, infographics, and maps in an easy-to-follow format. The author has culled basic facts about each character’s major life events, leaving room for critical thinking (e.g., how could Athena have stepped out of Zeus’s head fully formed and wearing armor?). Additionally, readers will appreciate that gods Odin and Loki are given equal time with Thor. Each volume ends rather abruptly with a variation of the succinct but unsatisfying sentence “The stories are old but still important today.” However, the back matter does provide options for further inquiry. VERDICT A well-packaged series that only scratches the surface. Consider for collections in need of mythology-lite.

Brooke, Jasmine. Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Take the Temperature Test and Solve the Porridge Puzzle! ISBN 9781538206737; ISBN 9781538206805.

––––. Jack and the Beanstalk: Chart Your Magic Bean’s Life Cycle! ISBN 9781538206744; ISBN 9781538206799.

––––. The Princess and the Pea: Pass the Pea Pressure Test! ISBN 9781538206751; ISBN 9781538206782.

––––. Rapunzel: Let Down Your Zip Wire! ISBN 9781538206768; ISBN 9781538206775.

ea vol: illus. by David Pavon and Anita Romeo. 32p. (Fairy Tale Fixers: Fixing Fairy Tale Problems with STEM). further reading. glossary. index. websites. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $26.60. pap. $10.50.

Gr 2-4 –Could Goldilocks have avoided burning her lips on papa bear’s porridge by applying scientific principles? How might have Jack’s beanstalk grown under different weather conditions? This clever series may provide the answers. Embedded within the narrative of these well-known fairy tales are related STEM-centered experiments. The author has taken care in the retellings, sprinkling them with vocabulary words to add interest for readers tempted to gloss over the narrative and skip right to the activities. Bright, 2-D cartoon illustrations provide added interest for pre-readers listening and learning with an adult; however, the majority of characters are white. The books explore measurement (length, weight, and temperature), plant life cycle, strength/pressure, and simple machines, all using the familiar characters’ predicaments. The step-by-step experiments require adult guidance or could be used in class or small group instruction. All of the investigations use household items and could be introduced as young as kindergarten, but the reading level skews higher. VERDICT Primary grade teachers and home-schooling parents eager to get a jump on STEM concepts may want to consider.

Kenney, Karen Latchana. Mysterious UFOs and Aliens. ISBN 9781512434064.

––––. Spine-Tingling Urban Legends. ISBN 9781512434057.

Maurer, Tracy Nelson. Chilling Ancient Curses. ISBN 9781512434033.

––––. Eerie ESP. ISBN 9781512434040.

––––. Spooky Haunted Houses. ISBN 9781512434019.

Roland, James. Frightful Ghost Ships. ISBN 9781512434026.

ea vol: 32p. (Searchlight Books: Fear Fest). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Oct. 2017. lib. ed. $30.65.

Gr 4-6 –An appropriately named series that features just the right mix of history, mystery, and contemporary references for newly curious and seasoned skeptics alike. Chilling Ancient Curses covers the string of bad luck that followed those that disrupted King Tut’s tomb, the owners of the Hope Diamond, and the recent lifting of the alleged curse from the Chicago Cubs. The series is accessible in length, depth, and interest level. Stock photographs and digital embellishments (backgrounds, borders, etc.) do nothing to make the volumes stand out visually, but the information and back matter make the series a solid introduction to informational text for reading groups or individual interests. VERDICT Purchase where elementary collections are lacking paranormal subject matter that covers a range of ages and reading abilities.

Sautter, A.J. Discover Dragons, Giants, and Other Deadly Fantasy Monsters. ISBN 9781515768395; ISBN 9781515768432.

––––. Discover Gnomes, Halflings, and Other Wondrous Fantasy Beings. ISBN 9781515768388; ISBN 9781515768425.

––––. Discover Harpies, Minotaurs, and Other Mythical Fantasy Beasts. ISBN 9781515768364; ISBN 9781515768401.

––––. Discover Orcs, Boggarts, and Other Nasty Fantasy Creatures. ISBN 9781515768371; ISBN 9781515768418.

ea vol: 32p. (All About Fantasy Creatures). glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65. pap. $7.95.

Gr 1-3 –This set covers myriad fantasy creatures, providing dimensions, facts, and artist renderings. In each book, subjects are grouped into thematic sections (“Deadly,” “Wondrous,” “Mythical,” and “Nasty”), with each receiving a fact box that outlines the creature’s size, home, diet, and life span followed by a description of its appearance and behavior, a color illustration, and vocabulary definitions. Some of the beings may be unfamiliar (e.g., the two-headed ettins, which never bathe and stink of sweat and rotting food—and you thought ogres were disgusting?). Design elements and the simplicity of the texts provide early readers with an introduction to the foes they may discover later in series like “Harry Potter” and Rick Riordan’s selections. Readers will appreciate the detailed artwork where weaponry is given added attention. A quiz with basic questions is included to test knowledge after reading. VERDICT A fine purchase where younger kids are clamoring for more fantasy options.

Middle to High School

Bougie, Matt. Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Unexplained Creatures. ISBN 9781502628473.

Kelly, Dave & Andrew Coddington. Aliens, UFOs, and Unexplained Encounters. ISBN 9781502628459.

––––. The Bermuda Triangle, Stonehenge, and Unexplained Places. ISBN 9781502628435.

Klepeis, Alicia Z. ESP, Superhuman Abilities, and Unexplained Powers. ISBN 9781502628497.

Newsome, Joel. The Hope Diamond, Cursed Objects, and Unexplained Artifacts. ISBN 9781502628510.

Shoup, Kate. Ghosts, Possessions, and Unexplained Presences. ISBN 9781502628534.

ea vol: 64p. (Paranormal Investigations). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $34.21.

Gr 6 Up –These volumes are for the future cryptozoologist or paranormal investigator who is tired of gimmicks and whose drive to discover the unknown has moved beyond the level of the hobbyist. The books address a cross section of evidence that has been collected over decades as well as the counter evidence, equally scientific, from naysayers. Both archival and contemporary-looking stock photographs are included, but this series relies heavily on complex yet readable text. Some of the information contained is interesting but irrelevant (e.g., the lengthy description of how diamonds are formed though “there is nothing geologically unique about the Hope Diamond”). Details surrounding the disturbing topic of demon possession/exorcism are best left to mature readers. The titles are each indexed and include source materials for further study. VERDICT An excellent series of higher level, reader-friendly informational text for research or pleasure reading.

Hoena, Blake. Cleansing the World: Flood Myths Around the World. illus. by Silvio dB. ISBN 9781515766278; ISBN 9781515766315.

––––. End of Days: Doomsday Myths Around the World. illus. by Felipe Kroll. ISBN 9781515766261; ISBN 9781515766308.

Yomtov, Nel. Dawn of Time: Creation Myths Around the World. illus. by Dante Lividini. ISBN 9781515766292; ISBN 9781515766339.

––––. Warring Gods: Immortal Battle Myths Around the World. illus. by Ray Dillon. ISBN 9781515766285; ISBN 9781515766322.

ea vol: 48p. (Universal Myths). glossary. index. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $30.65. pap. $7.95.

Gr 4 Up –A graphic novel format is used to retell various myths from different world cultures. Many of the traditional stories included lack specificity in regard to what version is being retold. Furthermore, generalizations abound; for example, in End of Days, “In Native American legends, animal spirits play important roles.” In Cleansing the World, the entry “Manu and the Fish: An Indian Myth” is introduced with the sentence “In the folklore of India, there are three main Gods,” without any substantial mention of Hinduism. Critical thinking questions at the end of each title add some usefulness to the series, but educators will have to provide a large amount of context for students to gain any benefit from reading. VERDICT Skip it.

Johnson, C.M. Close Encounters. ISBN 9781629206110.

––––. Creatures. ISBN 9781629206080.

––––. Hauntings. ISBN 9781629206097.

––––. Superstitions. ISBN 9781629206103.

ea vol: 48p. (Origins: Urban Legends). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. Full Tilt. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $27.99.

Gr 5 Up –With this four-volume, in-depth exploration of urban legends, readers will never disbelieve a tale told around the campfire again. The author has aptly captured the historical and modern-day origins of famous hauntings, superstitions, close encounters, and mythical creatures using facts, speculation, and inquiry. To appease the most skeptical readers, Johnson uses headings like “Best Recorded Sighting” and “Evidence For and Against.” If yet another rumor of a Sasquatch sighting seems cliché, in Creatures readers are also introduced to the Snallygaster, a dragonlike monster first spotted in rural Maryland; Canada’s lake-dwelling Ogopogo; and the Jersey Devil. True-life tales of hauntings and exorcisms contain frightful details even horror buffs will wish to forget. At first glance, the series resembles many other similar titles on these subjects, with its reliance on stock photos and nonfiction text features, but the strength of these books lies in the fast-paced, question-driven text that is well organized and makes for a riveting read. VERDICT Entertaining and informative, a recommended addition to mythology collections.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Bermuda Triangle. ISBN 9781534100749; ISBN 9781634728966.

––––. Bloody Mary. ISBN 9781534100732; ISBN 9781634728959.

––––. Bunny Man Bridge. ISBN 9781534100794; ISBN 9781634729017.

––––. Green Man. ISBN 9781534100800; ISBN 9781634729024.

––––. The Hookman. ISBN 9781534100787; ISBN 9781634729000.

––––. Mary Celeste. ISBN 9781534100770; ISBN 9781634728997.

––––. Roanoke Colony. ISBN 9781 534100756; ISBN 9781634728973.

––––. Roswell. ISBN 9781534100763; ISBN 9781634728980.

ea vol: 32p. (Urban Legends: Don’t Read Alone!). glossary. index. photos. Cherry Lake. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $29.93. pap. $14.21.

Gr 4-8 –A curious mix of fact, fiction, and science awaits intrepid readers. Though some names and scenarios may be familiar to kids from a sleepless night at a slumber party (Bloody Mary; Bunny Man Bridge; The Hookman), others highlight historical events (Roanoke Colony; Mary Celeste; Bermuda Triangle). Designed as a hi-lo series, the narratives are made up of staccatolike sentences that do tend to detract from the overall appeal (“They were training. Training means practicing. They practiced flying. They practiced dropping bombs.”). Scientific explanations and tips for further investigation are interspersed within the story lines. Some of the related biography features may confuse distractible readers trying to keep the original characters straight. Creepy photos and compare-and-contrast activities throughout the series make this great as a reading group purchase. VERDICT Consider for middle school libraries where hi-lo informational texts are needed.


These topics are the perfect gateway for readers reluctant to tackle nonfiction series. The scare factor is an excellent disguise for the history, science, and more complex text structures contained within. Cavendish Square’s “Paranormal Investigations” is particularly thought-provoking for older readers. Beyond informative, these stories of unexplained mysteries, past and present, are just good fun.

Jane Miller, Nashville Public Library

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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