March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Urban Legends and Ancient Tales: Mythology, Folktales, and the Supernatural | Series Made Simple Fall 2012

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The number of new titles featuring the Greek and Roman gods proves that they are just as popular as ever. Whether discussing mythology in terms of the stars, with biographies of the gods, or in a graphic-novel format, the classics remain current. North American folklore has also not been left behind, with several new titles on figures from tall tales and folk customs. Finally, urban legends, lost worlds, the paranormal, and tales of strange creatures round out the selections. In this season’s batch, the titles that really shine are geared toward the younger end of the spectrum.

Preschool-Grade 4

JEFFREY, Gary. Achilles and the Trojan War. illus. by Nick Spender. ISBN 978-1-4339-7507-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-7510-3. LC 2011045596.
. Hercules Fights the Nemean Lion. illus. by Terry Riley. photos. ISBN 978-1-4339-7511-0; ISBN 978-1-4339-7514-1. LC 2011050609.
. Jason and the Argonauts. illus. by Dheeraj Verma. photos. ISBN 978-1-4339-7515-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-7518-9. LC 2011045595.
. Odysseus and the Odyssey. illus. by Alessandro Poluzzi. photos. ISBN 978-1-4339-7519-6; ISBN 978-1-4339-7522-6. LC 2011045578.
. Perseus Slays the Gorgon Medusa. illus. by John Aggs. photos. ISBN 978-1-4339-7523-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-7526-4. LC 2012000226.
. Theseus Battles the Minotaur. illus. by Terry Riley. photos. ISBN 978-1-4339-7527-1; ISBN 978-1-4339-7530-1. LC 2012000225.
ea vol: 24p. (Graphic Mythical Heroes Series). reprods. glossary. index. CIP. Gareth Stevens. 2012. PLB $23.95; ebook $23.95.
Gr 3-6–
These titles deliver short portions of the myths of six heroes in graphic-novel formats. The prose introductions and conclusions, which are illustrated with reproductions and photographs, often hold the most interesting bits of the stories. Several artists offer different styles, with uneven results, and omissions and several errors trouble the set. In Hercules, it is not noted that the spelling being used is the Roman, rather than the Greek. Odysseus mentions 11 men facing the Cyclops with Odysseus (it should be 12), and Perseus states that all three Gorgons were sisters punished by Athena (only Medusa was ever mortal). The seemingly computer-generated cover images are off-putting and may drive browsers away. Only libraries with a need for mythology comics should consider them.

MEISTER, Cari, retel. Follow the Drinking Gourd: An Underground Railroad Story. illus. by Robert Squier. ISBN 978-1-4048-7375-9; ISBN 978-1-4048-7714-6. LC 2012000904.
. The Story of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: A Roman Constellation Myth. illus. by Gerald Guerlais. ISBN 978-1-4048-7374-2; ISBN 978-1-4048-7720-7. LC 2012001008.
Thomas Kingsley, retel. The Story of Cassiopeia: A Roman Constellation Myth. illus. by Robert Squier. ISBN 978-1-4048-7376-6; ISBN 978-1-4048-7716-0. LC 2012001247.
. The Story of Orion: A Roman Constellation Myth. illus. by Gerald Guerlais. ISBN 978-1-4048-7377-3; ISBN 978-1-4048-7718-4. LC 2012001006.
ea vol: 24p. (Night Sky Stories Series). further reading. glossary. websites. CIP. Picture Window. 2012. PLB $25.99; pap. $7.95.
–A strong choice for classroom read-alouds or lap-reading, this series has a perfect text-to-image balance. Three of the books are based on Roman mythology, with the fourth telling a legend of the Underground Railroad. The eye-catching artwork is consistent in style and tone, giving a uniform feeling to the set while still allowing the illustrators to showcase their talents. While the Roman names may give independent readers pause, the vocabulary is well-tailored to the age level. “Learn More” sections at the end of every volume provide more information. For example, in Orion readers learn that “In Hindu myth, Orion’s constellation is actually the god Prajapati, who became a deer.”

TEMPLE, Teri. Aphrodite: Goddess of Love and Beauty. ISBN 978-16147-32532. LC 2012932434.
. Apollo: God of the Sun, Healing, Music, and Poetry. ISBN 978-16147-32549. LC 2012932425.
. Ares: God of War. ISBN 978-16147-32556. LC 2012932426.
. Artemis: Goddess of Hunting and Protector of Animals. ISBN 978-16147-32563. LC 2012932432.
. Athena: Goddess of Wisdom, War, and Crafts. ISBN 978-16147-32570. LC 2012932433.
. Eros: God of Love. ISBN 978-16147-32587. LC 2012932431.
. Hades: God of the Underworld. ISBN 978-16147-32594. LC 2012932429.
. Hephaestus: God of Fire, Metalwork, and Building. ISBN 978-16147-32600. LC 2012932422.
. Hera: Queen of the Gods, Goddess of Marriage. ISBN 978-16147-32617. LC 2012932423.
. Hermes: God of Travels and Trade. ISBN 978-16147-32624. LC 2012932419.
. Poseidon: God of the Sea and Earthquakes. ISBN 978-16147-32631. LC 2012932397.
. Zeus: King of the Gods, God of Sky and Storms. ISBN 978-16147-32648. LC 2012932398.
ea vol: illus. by Robert Squier. 32p. (Greek Mythology Series). photos. map. further reading. index. websites. The Child’s World. 2012. PLB $29.93.
Gr 3-4–
Although Temple tries to summarize several myths in connection to each of the selected gods in a way that will hold the attention of readers, these complex tales are sometimes overly simplified. For example, in Hera, the author states that Heracles was brought to Olympus to live; most sources that mention a stay on Olympus give him only a brief stop there. Temple does offer insightful historical information about Greek rituals, worship practices, and architecture, and a helpful “Principal Gods of Greek Mythology” family tree will give readers new to the myths a handy reference to sort out the characters. Squier’s illustrations are eye-catching.

YORK, M. J., retel. Casey Jones. ISBN 978-16147-32099. LC 2012932261.
. Johnny Appleseed. ISBN 978-16147-32105. LC 2012932260.
. Paul Bunyan. ISBN 978-16147-32112. LC 2012932868.
. Pecos Bill. ISBN 978-16147-32129. LC 2012932869.
ea vol: illus. by Michael Garland. 24p. (American Tall Tales Series). The Child’s World. 2012. PLB $27.07.
K-Gr 4–
York introduces four American folk heroes with storytelling flair, accompanied by eye-catching illustrations. The highlights of the characters’ stories are recounted in a folksy vernacular, well suited to helping readers imagine the oral tradition from which the tales came. The lots of text to few images ratio makes them better choices for solo reading than classroom sharing, but their approachability may make them accessible for lap reading for those too young to manage the tales on their own. York’s excellent history and critical-thinking sections follow each story, helping students examine what parts of these stories are exaggerations and which might be based on fact. A great beginning set.

Grades 5 & Up

ARKHAM, Thomas. Black Cats and White Wedding Dresses: Folk Customs. ISBN 978-1-4222-2491-5; ISBN 978-1-4222-9256-3.
. Sirens and Smoke: Firefighter’s Folklore. further reading. ISBN 978-1-4222-2489-2; ISBN 978-1-4222-9254-9.
Gus. Celebrations Throughout the Year: Holiday Folklore. illus. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4222-2495-3; ISBN 978-1-4222-9260-0.
. Heroes, Fools, and Ghosts: Folk Tales and Legends. illus. further reading. ISBN 978-1-4222-2494-6; ISBN 978-1-4222-9259-4.
ea vol: 48p. (North American Folklore for Youth Series). photos. index. websites. Mason Crest. 2012. PLB $19.95; ebook $24.95.

Gr 4-6–This series does not live up to its potential. It is not quite a collection of stories or an explanation of folk traditions, and it does not truly cover North America. The books range from largely neglecting Mexico and Canada to covering folklore around the world in very general terms. Black Cats is the most successful of the volumes, with Arkham collecting regionally distinct folk customs across the U. S. and Canada. But even that title, with its long introductory prose section with few illustrations, struggles. Sirens is a helpful blend of history and legendary stories, but includes fewer elements of folklore than the other titles. Snedeker’s titles are more problematic, with less focus on the topics and a slight Christian bias in Celebrations. The color photos, reproductions, and illustration add little to the texts.

WEBB, Stuart. Alien Encounters. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4488-7172-8; ISBN 978-1-4488-7178-0. LC 2011052089.
. Atlantis and Other Lost Worlds. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4488-7173-5; ISBN 978-1-4488-7179-7. LC 2011043004.
. Bigfoot and Other Ape-Men. ISBN 978-1-4488-7174-2; ISBN 978-1-4488-7180-3. LC 2011052515.
. Ghosts. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4488-7175-9; ISBN 978-1-4488-7181-0. LC 2011052520.
. UFOs. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4488-7176-6; ISBN 978-1-4488-7182-7. LC 2011052522.
ea vol: 80p. (Paranormal Files Series). illus. photos. further reading. glossary. index. websites. CIP. Rosen. 2012. PLB $33.25; ebook $33.25.
Gr 7-9–
Overall, Webb handles his subjects with aplomb. Though the titles focus largely on eye-witness accounts, they also provide contrasting opinions from scientists and others who make it their business to debunk legends and myths. Sidebars contain information and anecdotes that complement the main texts as well as entries that ask students to ponder the likelihood of supernatural places and creatures. For example, Bigfoot raises the question, “Did Ray Wallace Fake All the Bluff Creek Footprints?” The two volumes on aliens are the most thought-provoking, in part due to their narrow scope. A few minor errors–the year being left out of accounts in Alien and UFOs, and a graphic display mistake in Alien–are not as serious as an oversight in Atlantis, which offers no counterpoint to the idea that cultures in the Americas may have had civilization brought to them by white people from Atlantis. Nonetheless, the writing is engaging and the topics creepy and entertaining.

Though all of these books look as though they would draw an audience, Picture Window’s “Night Sky Stories” and The Child’s World’s “American Tall Tales,” written for the youngest crowd, are by far the strongest offerings, featuring both appealing art and engaging texts that will encourage readers to find these stories in other retellings as they grow. Gareth Stevens’s “Graphic Mythical Heroes” and The Child’s World’s “Greek Mythology” might be useful for filling out a collection, but both could easily be skipped in favor of extant sets. Mason Crest’s “North American Folklore for Youth” is too problematic to recommend, while Rosen’s “Paranormal Files” fills a great niche if Atlantis is excluded. All of the sets (with the exception of “Night Sky Stories,” which works equally well as a read-aloud) are best suited for independent reading rather than classroom resources.