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Timeless Tales: Myths, Folktales, & Urban Legends Series Nonfiction

Beguiling series packed with great stories are forthcoming: ancient myths and gods’ exploits; literally haunting tales; descriptions of fanciful creatures; and odd, inexplicable experiences that plagued real people. While these stories are exciting and strange, what they really have in common is their humanity.

Did you hear the one about…? Many people enjoy telling stories; even more enjoy reading or hearing them. Beguiling series packed with great stories are forthcoming: ancient myths and gods’ exploits; literally haunting tales; descriptions of fanciful creatures; and odd, inexplicable experiences that plagued real people. While these stories are exciting and strange, what they really have in common is their humanity. Tales originating in the ancient past to those set in modern times are fundamentally about people and their need to make sense of the world. Not only do most stories have very old roots, but tales about legendary beings and unexplainable phenomena have been retold around the globe. There is a universality to many story themes and the act and art of storytelling. People are at the heart of stories—as readers, listeners, and tellers—and the series herein should enthrall audiences.

 

ELEMENTARY

Doeden, Matt. Dragons. illus. by Martín Horacio Bustamante. ISBN 9781515844433.
––––. Griffins. illus. by Martín Horacio Bustamante. ISBN 9781515844440.
Meister, Cari. Mermaids. illus. by Xavier Bonet. ISBN 9781515844426.
––––. Unicorns. illus. by Dan Whisker. ISBN 9781515844419.
ea vol: 32p. (Mythical Creatures). further reading. glossary. illus. Capstone/Picture Window. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.99.
K-Gr 2 –Written in present tense, these titles captivate with descriptive prose and quantity and depth of information. Students learn about how these creatures are born, their diets, powers, habits, life cycles, body parts (explained with diagrams), and physical differences within the same species, dependent on birthplace. Though texts identify the creatures as mythical, enough “realistic” details are provided as to seemingly root them in the real world, blurring lines between fantasy and fact. The sophisticated artwork in Dragons and Griffins is especially fine; some series illustrations depict women of color. There are references throughout to ancient and contemporary stories from non-Western, nonwhite cultures that incorporate these creatures. VERDICT Recommended for public and school collections for browsing and recreational reading. A popular, in-demand topic that can be useful in units on myths and folklore.

Giannini, Alex. Horror in Illinois. ISBN 9781642805154.
––––. Horror in Ohio. ISBN 9781642805178.
––––. Horror in Wisconsin. ISBN 9781642805161.
Kane, Sheryl. Horror in Texas. ISBN 9781642805130.
Markovics, Joyce. Horror in Florida. ISBN 9781642805116.
Marr, Ivy. Horror in California. ISBN 9781642805123.
––––. Horror in Georgia. ISBN 9781642805185.
Merwin, E. Horror in Michigan. ISBN 9781642805208.
––––. Horror in New York. ISBN 9781642805147.
Rose, Simon. Horror in North Carolina. ISBN 9781642805192.
ea vol: 24p. (Scary States (of Mind)). glossary. index. maps. photos. Bearport. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.79.
K-Gr 3 –Eerie accounts for armchair travelers, residents, and would-be visitors. Events are based on what was seen, heard, or felt by participants/witnesses; explanations are offered where known. Sometimes there aren’t explanations or resolutions, and snippets of legends are presented with meager details. However, even unresolved fragments are bizarre enough to pique interest. Spooky covers, photos, and illustrations enhance appeal. Fact boxes provide information about historical periods, places, and/or characters; occasionally, “what happened after” details are given. A back matter feature in each volume titled “Spooky Spots in...” displays a colored map of the state, highlighting its position relative to its neighbors, and shows where the incidents occurred; a smaller version of the state is depicted within a U.S. map. VERDICT Engaging and recommended for all libraries. Have students draw or discuss favorite oddities in their own and/or neighboring states: Which would they most enjoy visiting? Why?

 

GRADE 3 AND UP

Andrus, Aubre. Bloody Mary: Ghost of a Queen? ISBN 9781543573367; ISBN 9781543574784.
Peterson, Megan Cooley. The Bell Witch: An American Ghost Story. ISBN 9781543573350; ISBN 9781543574777.
––––. La Llorona: The Legendary Weeping Woman of Mexico. ISBN 9781543573374; ISBN 9781543574791.
Wilkins, Ebony Joy. Perron Family Haunting: The Ghost Story That Inspired Horror Movies. ISBN 9781543573411; ISBN 9781543574807.
ea vol: 32p. (Real-Life Ghost Stories). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2019. Tr. $28.65. pap. $7.95.
Gr 3-8 –Titles highlight ghostly encounters; two describe hauntings that befell actual families. Clear, punchy, occasionally gory prose engages, yet the overall tone is non-sensational. Eye-catching covers and weird visuals enhance the spooky appeal. “Skeptic’s Note” sidebars offer possible explanations or alternate viewpoints. Other sidebars, some labeled “Fact,” some elaborately framed, include definitions, probing questions, or additional information. Readers learn some ghost stories may be related to or are versions of historical legends and correspond to stories known internationally, emphasizing the tales’ universality. Caution: Bloody Mary and La Llorona may be too dark/intense for the very young or very sensitive; they’re recommended for older students. VERDICT Engrossing for ghost story and “history mysteries” fans in public and school libraries. In journalism or creative writing units, students can write news stories about or interviews with haunted individuals.

Boutland, Craig. Bloodthirsty Vampires. ISBN 9781541562868; ISBN 9781541573826.
––––. Ghoulish Ghosts. ISBN 9781541562813; ISBN 9781541573789.
––––. The Poltergeist Enigma. ISBN 9781541562851; ISBN 9781541573796.
––––. The Roswell UFO Mystery. ISBN 9781541562820; ISBN 9781541573802.
––––. Scary Alien Abductions. ISBN 9781541562844; ISBN 9781541573772.
––––. Spontaneous Human Combustion. ISBN 9781541562837; ISBN 9781541573819.
ea vol: 32p. (Unexplained (Alternator Books)). glossary. illus. photos. Lerner. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.32. pap. $9.99.
Gr 3-6 –Historical, global, and pop culture references explain how people came to believe in and perpetuate these ideas; real-life examples are cited, including fascinating lore from other cultures. This balanced series offers various simple explanations so readers may consider phenomena from different perspectives. Interestingly, the series doesn’t dismiss believers. Each volume claims no one is certain…and that explanations may not be real! “Do you believe in…?”, the question at each title’s conclusion, sums up the notion that some give credence to the phenomena, some don’t, and there isn’t enough evidence to really know. Sidebars and factoid boxes provide additional information. Frightening, brooding covers and artwork enhance the chilling atmosphere. VERDICT Intriguing, engaging, intelligently presented. These books could be used for pro-con debate topics. Spontaneous Human Combustion is particularly gruesome and could frighten younger students; best for the strong of stomach.

Bowman, Chris. The Betty & Barney Hill Alien Abduction. illus. by D. Brady. ISBN 9781644870938.
––––. Flight 19: Lost in the Bermuda Triangle. illus. by Tate Yotter. ISBN 9781644870945.
––––. The Mothman Sightings. illus. by D. Brady. ISBN 9781644870952.
Hoena, Blake. The Bell Witch Haunting. illus. by D. Brady. ISBN 9781644870921.
––––. The Mummy’s Curse: Discovering King Tut’s Tomb. illus. by Tate Yotter. ISBN 9781644870969.
––––. The Roswell UFO Incident. illus. by Tate Yotter. ISBN 9781644870976.
ea vol: 24p. (Paranormal Mysteries). glossary. index. Bellwether. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 3-8 –A mix of two popular pleasures: weird, unexplainable content and a graphic format, appropriate for reluctant and striving readers. The series appeals with simple, terse writing that heightens dramatic effect. Text is balanced within panels between exposition, presented in yellow or red rectangles, and dialogue in speech balloons. Red type denotes quotes from actual participants. Illustrations are clean and simple; panels are linear and easy to follow. Basic art and design are purposeful: easy-to-navigate panels aid readers with visual literacy and text interpretation. Each title’s back matter includes the feature “Theories Behind the ____,” which lists facts or the “what might have happened” aspects of the phenomenon that could explain it, allowing students to decide the “truth.” VERDICT Though these stories raise questions, they aren’t very gripping overall, and some include too few details. The Mummy’s Curse and The Roswell UFO Incident are best.

Croy, Anita. Demonic Possessions in H­istory. ISBN 9781725346567; ISBN 9781725346628.
––––. ESP Cases in History. ISBN 9781725346550; ISBN 9781725346611.
––––. Ghosts and Poltergeists in History. ISBN 9781725346574; ISBN 9781725346635.
George, Enzo. Alien Encounters in History. ISBN 9781725346543; ISBN 9781725346604.
––––. Mysterious Disappearances in History. ISBN 9781725346581; ISBN 9781725346642.
––––. Near-Death Experiences and Reincarnation in History. ISBN 9781725346598; ISBN 9781725346659.
ea vol: 48p. (The Paranormal Throughout History). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/Rosen Central. Aug. 2019. Tr. $31.75. pap. $11.75.
Gr 4-7 –Fascinating phenomena are examined from ancient times to the present, affirming the universality of beliefs and the interconnectedness of cultures throughout history. Well-written, dramatic sentences, complemented by colorful typefaces and subheadings; short textual segments; and numerous sidebars and fact boxes draw readers in. The well-researched books include many examples from global, religious, and pop cultural perspectives. Each title aims for balance and provides alternative viewpoints so students may decide for themselves. Volumes are visually appealing: High-quality color photos, contemporary prints, paintings, and drawings expand on and enliven texts. VERDICT A very fine, well-reasoned series, respectful of readers’ intelligence. Demonic Possessions, with numerous examples of death/torture, may be too violent for sensitive students. Near-Death Experiences and Reincarnation is weakest, relying on weightier, complex theological and philosophical concepts, and may not seem as inherently “spooky” to students.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Anubis. ISBN 9781534147737; ISBN 9781534150591.
––––. Hapi. ISBN 9781534147744; ISBN 9781534150607.
––––. Horus. ISBN 9781534147713; ISBN 9781534150577.
––––. Isis. ISBN 9781534147751; ISBN 9781534150614.
––––. Ma’at. ISBN 9781534147782; ISBN 9781534150645.
––––. Ra. ISBN 9781534147720; ISBN 9781534150584.
––––. Sobek. ISBN 9781534147775; ISBN 9781534150638.
––––. Thoth. ISBN 9781534147768; ISBN 9781534150621.
ea vol: 32p. (Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient World). glossary. illus. index. Cherry Lake/45th Parallel. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.93. pap. $14.21.
Gr 4-8 –These books are filled with facts, features, and gorgeous Egyptian art. However, the short sentences are so choppy, clunky, and ungraceful that reading these rich, unique myths is joyless and ponderous. Moreover, vocabulary in this series, aimed at reluctant readers, isn’t necessarily elementary. Most new words are defined immediately; occasionally, words, sometimes names, appear without explanations and pronunciation guides. There are sidebars in each title. “Real-World Connection” discusses someone whose work reflects the deity’s; “Family Tree” lists the god’s relatives; “Cross-Cultural Connection” describes a similar god from another culture; “Explained by Science” gives a real-world explanation of the god’s superpower. “Did You Know?” provides additional information about the god; “Consider This!” presents three critical thinking activities whose vocabulary and sentence structure are on a higher level than the main text’s. VERDICT Detailed, visually dazzling, and offering impressive learning add-ons, but only limited purchase recommended.

Temple, Teri. Aphrodite: Goddess of Love and Beauty. ISBN 9781503832510.
––––. Apollo: God of the Sun, Healing, Music, and Poetry. ISBN 9781503832527.
––––. Ares: God of War. ISBN 9781503832534.
––––. Artemis: Goddess of Hunting and Protector of Animals. ISBN 9781503832541.
––––. Athena: Goddess of Wisdom, War, and Crafts. ISBN 9781503832558.
––––. Eros: God of Love. ISBN 9781503832565.
––––. Hades: God of the Underworld. ISBN 9781503832589.
––––. Hephaestus: God of Fire, Metalwork, and Building. ISBN 9781503832572.
––––. Hera: Queen of the Gods, Goddess of Marriage. ISBN 9781503832596.
––––. Hermes: God of Travels and Trade. ISBN 9781503832602.
––––. Poseidon: God of the Sea and Earthquakes. ISBN 9781503832619.
––––. Zeus: King of the Gods, God of Sky and Storms. ISBN 9781503832626.
ea vol: illus. by Robert Squier. 32p. (Greek Gods and Goddesses). further reading. maps. websites. The Child’s World. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 3-5 –This series covers the gods’ exciting adventures and exploits with storyteller prose and a smooth flow. Tight sentences capture mythic personalities, aptly presenting them as larger than life, foibles intact. Covers are child-appealing; colorful, cartoon-like illustrations drive texts. Sidebars are “midbars:” Good explanatory background information is set in colored columns between two text columns. “Characters and Places” opens each title with a map of ancient Greece, Mount Olympus, and a gallery of characters’ pictures, names (including pronunciation guides), and descriptions. Back matter includes “Principal Gods of Greek Mythology: A Family Tree” and presents pictures and names clarifying gods’ relationships. VERDICT Well done. Recommended for fans and myth newcomers in public and school libraries.


Students in grades K–2 will appreciate and learn a lot from the fact-filled “Mythical Creatures” (Capstone/Picture Window), a favorite and much-requested topic in libraries. Middle graders, whether they are already fans of Greek myths or newcomers to the genre, will get caught up in the escapades of 12 major deities, including four females, in the well-written, colorfully illustrated “Greek Gods and Goddesses” (The Child’s World). Students in middle grades and middle school will discover intelligent, informative, well-argued presentations about other worldly experiences in “The Paranormal Throughout History” (Rosen/Rosen Central). Finally, the K–3 set will feel chills reading the very brief, strange historical tales that may take place in their own or neighboring states in “Scary States (of Mind)” (Bearport).

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