February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Creatures of the Night: Mythology, the Supernatural, & Folklore | Series Made Simple Spring 2013

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While vampires and Greek myths remain popular, they’ve taken a backseat to some perennial favorites. Ghosts, aliens, and mythical monsters appear more than once in this season’s sets. Fairy tales, too, have a foothold. Across all topics, these books have a strong focus on the stories’ origins and on giving students the information they need to figure out for themselves what’s true and what isn’t and why people believe what they do. Of course, they also provide the thrills, chills, and laughs casual browsers will be looking for.

Preschool-Grade 4

BURGAN , Michael. The Unsolved Mystery of Bigfoot. illus. ISBN 978-1-62065-134-6; ISBN 978-1-62065-806-2. LC 2012028437.
, Michael. The Unsolved Mystery of Ghosts. ISBN 978-1-62065-136-0; ISBN 978-1-62065-808-6. LC 2012028472.
, Terri. The Unsolved Mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. illus. ISBN 978-1-62065-133-9; ISBN 978-1-62065-810-9. LC 2012028438.
The Unsolved Mystery of UFOs. illus. ISBN 978-1-62065-135-3; ISBN 978-1-62065-812-3. LC 2012028441.
ea vol: 24p. (First Facts: Unexplained Mysteries Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2013. PLB $24.65; pap. $6.95.
Gr 1-3
Readers may be confused after browsing through these introductions to mysterious creatures and phenomena. Short chapters offer definitions of each one and its role in history and legends, with unfamiliar words highlighted and defined in sidebars. The large photographs and illustrations are fittingly creepy, scary, and/or appealing. The tone is a bit at odds with itself, however. Each book includes “True or False” sections that lay out rational explanations for the phenomena or strange beings, but then follow them with ambiguous and/or misleading statements. For example, Loch Ness Monster ends with this sentence: “Until the mystery is solved, what swims in Loch Ness will remain unknown.” Rather than encourage kids to think for themselves, this set might leave them mystified.

DOEDEN, Matt. The Anatomy of a Dragon. ISBN 978-1-62065-145-2. LC 2012033236.
Dragon Behavior. ISBN 978-1-62065-144-5. LC 2012033235.
Dragons in Mythology. photos. ISBN 978-1-62065-143-8. LC 2012033237.
Real-World Dragons. photos. ISBN 978-1-62065-146-9.
ea vol: 32p. (Blazers: The World of Dragons Series). further reading. glossary. illus. index. websites. Capstone. 2013. PLB $25.99.
Gr 2-3
–These diverting but unreliable titles offer large images of monstrous and majestic creatures, small blocks of text, sidebars with additional “facts,?? such as  “Some dragons live in old, crumbling castles,” and vocabulary definitions. The narratives are heavily reliant on western dragons and the texts in Anatomy and Behavior are unclear whether they are presenting myths, legends, or historical accounts. The volumes strive for a scientific field guidelike feel, which might confuse children into thinking all the information is true. However, Mythology and Real-World do attempt to explain sources, making these titles essential to balancing the others. Not to be used for projects, but this set might make an entertaining browsing selection and will strike a chord with dragon fanatics.

FRISCH, Aaron. Ghosts. reprods. ISBN 978-1-60818-246-6. LC 2011051178.
Mummies. ISBN 978-1-60818-247-3. LC 2011051179.
Vampires. ISBN 978-1-60818-248-0. LC 2011051180.
Werewolves. reprods. ISBN 978-1-60818-249-7. LC 2011051181.
Witches. reprods. ISBN 978-1-60818-250-3. LC 2011051182.
Zombies. ISBN 978-1-60818-251-0. LC 2011051183.
ea vol: 24p. (That’s Spooky! Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Creative Education. 2013. PLB $25.65.
Gr 1-3
These image-heavy guides to monsters of myths and legends strike a delightful balance between creepy and cheesy. Large stills from movies and stock photographs are paired with pages of information on abilities and characteristics of these scary subjects. Each title gives a solid overview, with text that provides wide coverage in a short amount of space. The visuals are intriguing and grotesque but not too terrifying. Amusing features include a page that instructs readers in how to spot each creature (the vampire, for example, has notable “red eyes,” “pointy teeth,” “black cape,” “pale skin,” and “leftover blood” lingering on the corner of his mouth) and a guide to acting and/or dressing as a ghost, mummy, etc. Though the books lack consistency (historical significance is discussed for mummies, for example, but not for witches), overall they are satisfying additions, especially around Halloween.

OWEN, Ruth. Aliens and Other Visitors. ISBN 978-1-61772-723-8; ISBN 978-1-61772-770-2. LC 2012045264.
Ghosts and Other Spirits of the Dead. ISBN 978-1-61772-724-5; ISBN 978-1-61772-771-9. LC 2012039959.
Half-Human Monsters and Other Fiends. diags. maps. ISBN 978-1-61772-725-2; ISBN 978-1-61772-772-6. LC 2012039962.
Vampires and Other Bloodsuckers. ISBN 978-1-61772-722-1; ISBN 978-1-61772-773-3. LC 2012042198.
Werewolves and Other Shape-Shifters. maps. ISBN 978-1-61772-695-8; ISBN 978-1-61772-774-0. LC 2012038864.
Zombies and Other Walking Dead. maps. ISBN 978-1-61772-721-4; ISBN 978-1-61772-775-7. LC 2012039500.
ea vol: 32p. (Not Near Normal: The Paranormal Series). bibliog. further reading. glossary. illus. photos. reprods. websites. Bearport. 2013. PLB $26.60; ebook $26.60.
Gr 2-5
–Each volume introduces a different paranormal creature and focuses on the stories surrounding it. Some titles attempt to examine the origin of their supernatural subjects. For example, Ghosts asks, “If ghosts aren’t spirits of the dead, what are they?” which should prompt students to ponder the truth of the paranormal stories without providing hard and fast answers on whether or not these beings exist. Grotesque images and color and black-and-white photos (most look digitally enhanced) illustrate each page. The effect is often artificial and sometimes comical, but delightfully creepy anyway. Text boxes shaped like headstones deliver scary tidbits and anecdotes. Folklore is the main focus of the texts, but there are some notable exceptions for pop culture (e.g., Dracula and the “Twilight” series get nods in Vampires). Features such as “A Werewolf’s Diary” and “Ghosts Around the World” are silly, but nonetheless entertaining.

PIPE, Jim. Aliens. ISBN 978-1-4339-8747-2; ISBN 978-1-4339-8750-2. LC 2012038517.
Ghosts. ISBN 978-1-4339-8751-9; ISBN 978-1-4339-8754-0. LC 2012038518.
Monsters. ISBN 978-1-4339-8755-7; ISBN 978-1-4339-8758-8. LC 2012038516.
The Undead. ISBN 978-1-4339-8759-5; ISBN 978-1-4339-8762-5. LC 2012038519.
ea vol: 32p. (The Twilight Realm Series). further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2013. PLB $26.60; ebook $26.60.
Gr 2-4
–An appropriately eerie design (gray pages, shaky black headlines, etc.) sets the tone for this set about creepy creatures from myth and legend. Each title goes into what the beings are, where stories about them might have originated, and where these tales have been told historically. Large images of the monsters anchor the chapters (each a spread), which are made up of short paragraphs of text, sidebars, illustrations, and relevant captioned photos, creating a magazinelike feel. However, some of the books are too narrow in their approach (Undead, for example, focuses exclusively on vampires, missing an opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of zombies, at the very least), and others too broad (Monsters covers everything from Bigfoot to giant alligators in the sewers of New York City). Nonetheless, this series is great for browsing–especially for students who are reading together. Sections about unexplored terrain and quizzes posing questions about encounters with the supernatural will inspire imaginations and encourage kids to think critically about what they have read.

RIGGS, Kate. Enchanted Castles. ISBN 978-1-60818-240-4. LC 2011050867.
Fairy Godmothers. ISBN 978-1-60818-241-1. LC 2011050868.
Magical Creatures. ISBN 978-1-60818-242-8. LC 2011050869.
Princes & Princesses. ISBN 978-1-60818-243-5. LC 2012000802.
Spells & Potions. ISBN 978-1-60818-244-2. LC 2011051175.
Wicked Stepmothers. ISBN 978-1-60818-245-9. LC 2011051177.
ea vol: 24p. (Happily Ever After Series). further reading. glossary. illus. index. reprods. websites. Creative Education. 2013. PLB $25.65.
K-Gr 2
–Illustrations featuring classic reproductions and stills from famous movie adaptations (many of them Disney cartoons) make these short, bright volumes browser-friendly. Unfortunately, discussions of each featured fairy tale trope rely on only the most well-known tales, utilize flimsy definitions, or fail to describe some things at all. For example, Stepmothers does not explain what a stepmother is. The lack of captions for the images might leave readers who are not familiar with specific tales or films confused. In addition to the usual nonfiction elements, links to websites with games and activities are provided, and there is a Mad Libs-style exercise that allows kids to fill in blanks (though not in the books) to write their own fairy tales. Fine for fun, but don’t depend on these for factual information.

Grades 5 & Up

CHAMBERS, Catherine. African Myths and Legends. ISBN 978-1-4109-4971-4; ISBN 978-1-4109-4976-9. LC 2012017690.
, Anita. Norse Myths and Legends. ISBN 978-1-4109-4973-8; ISBN 978-1-4109-4978-3. LC 2012017719.
, Jilly. Roman Myths and Legends. ISBN 978-1-4109-4974-5; ISBN 978-1-4109-4979-0. LC 2012017720.
, Fiona. Egyptian Myths and Legends. ISBN 978-1-4109-4972-1; ISBN 978-1-4109-4977-6. LC 2012017692.
ea vol: 48p. (All About Myths Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Raintree. 2013. PLB $32; pap. $8.99.
Gr 4-6
–A nice range of cultures is offered in these overviews, though with only four titles, the set is far from comprehensive. The busy, bright design incorporates blocks of small-font text, plenty of relevant photos, reproductions, and numerous informative sidebars. The rich information will allow students to explore the ways history and mythology affect each other. Stories, clearly marked “RETELLING,” are interspersed throughout each volume, offering legends and tales such as  “How the world began” in Norse. The back matter is full of solid resources, including lists of “Characters, Creatures, and Places” (with pronunciation guides), reading suggestions, websites (which are annotated and focus on public television and museums sites), as well as “Places to Visit” and ideas for “Further Research.” Great choice for libraries seeking volumes that look above and beyond the pantheon.

Many of the best titles revolve around monsters, with Creative Education’s “That’s Spooky!,” Bearport’s “Not Near Normal: The Paranormal,” and Gareth Stevens’s “The Twilight Realm” all providing a great balance of information and entertainment for a wide age range. Raintree’s “All About Myths,” this spring’s guide to world mythology, is also full of information that is perfect for reports. This is a good year for the new standards, too, with many volumes fulfilling CCSS requirements. The strongest sets are written with beginners in mind, introducing concepts for those with no prior knowledge and encouraging kids to see both sides of the story and make their own decisions about the existence of monsters, ghosts, etc.

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