Whistling in the Graveyard: Mythology | Series Nonfiction

A ghostly gathering of gods and ghouls for students' nefarious needs.


There is no question that kids of all ages love to get scared (within reason, of course), and this season’s offerings all walk a fine line between fun and fright. Real-life murders and hauntings stand solidly in this spring’s series choices, while Greek mythology grabs ahold of younger readers by condensing complicated characters and story lines into easy-to-read formats. Read on, if you dare!


Camisa, Kathryn. Horror Hotels. ISBN 9781684020461.

Cantor, Rachel Anne. Haunted Amusement Parks. ISBN 9781684020508.

Markovics, Joyce. Chilling Cemeteries. ISBN 9781684020485.

––––. Deserted Prisons. ISBN 9781 684020522.

––––. Ghostly Towns. ISBN 9781684020515.

Rudolph, Jessica. Creaky Castles. ISBN 9781684020478.

––––. Ghost Houses. ISBN 9781684020454.

––––. Spooky Libraries. ISBN 9781 684020492.

ea vol: 24p. (Tiptoe into Scary Places). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Bearport. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $25.27.

Gr 3 Up –Elementary schoolers are invited to enter the realm of the paranormal and discover real-life grisly murders, hauntings, and curses. Each volume retells a handful of spooky tales, from ghosts at the Millicent Library in Fairhaven, MA, to vampires at the legendary Panteón de Belén cemetery in Guadalajara, Mexico (though only the English translation of the cemetery’s name is provided in the text). The straightforward text and print size make this set useful as a hi-lo series. The narratives are suspenseful but appropriate for the audience. Each spread is a mixture of nightmarish photographs of historical places and crime scenes and CGI supernatural entities, shadows, and more. VERDICT Not for the faint of heart, this series will delight fans of bloody human history.

Korté, Steve. Wonder Woman and the Heroes of Myth. ISBN 9781515745853.

––––. Wonder Woman and the Monsters of Myth. ISBN 9781515745839.

––––. Wonder Woman and the Villains of Myth. ISBN 9781515745846.

––––. Wonder Woman and the World of Myth. ISBN 9781515745822.

ea vol: 32p. (Wonder Woman Mythology). further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 3 Up –If at first glance Wonder Woman appears to be merely a modern-day DC Comics superheroine, readers may need a reminder that her character originated in Greek mythology. In this series, Wonder Woman acts as a guide to the complicated relationships and activities on Mount Olympus. Initially, the conceit is cleverly appealing, especially for reluctant myth readers, but it ultimately takes on more than the format can handle. The texts introduce a variety of tangential figures from Persian, Egyptian, and Norse stories as well as aliens. Visually, the titles are bright and colorful, though the shifting between comic book–style art and other illustration styles varies in success. VERDICT An all-around hodgepodge of mythological information. Consider only where Wonder Woman and myths are in high demand.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Ares. ISBN 9781 634721349; ISBN 9781634722667.

––––. Artemis. ISBN 9781634721363; ISBN 9781634722681.

––––. Athena. ISBN 9781634721356; ISBN 9781634722674.

––––. Demeter. ISBN 9781634721387; ISBN 9781634722704.

––––. Hades. ISBN 9781634721325; ISBN 9781634722643.

––––. Hera. ISBN 9781634721370; ISBN 9781634722698.

––––. Poseidon. ISBN 9781634721332; ISBN 9781634722650.

––––. Zeus. ISBN 9781634721318; ISBN 9781634722636.

ea vol: 32p. (Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient World). ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $20.95. pap. $14.21.

Gr 3-6 –Short, simple sentences provide reluctant readers access to their favorite characters from Greek mythology. More than just retellings, these volumes introduce the complex motives behind the gods’ and goddesses’ actions (jealousy, revenge, vanity, etc.) and make real-world connections (for instance, a sidebar on famous archer Ki Bo-Bae in Artemis). Early on, “Family Tree” sidebars establish relations among the featured figures, a useful element to ground unfamiliar readers. Stock photographs of people and ancient sculptures, cities, and landmarks are paired with illustrations and generally reflect the text well. VERDICT In-text cross-curricular connections offer a fresh approach to ancient characters and story arcs.

Murray, Laura K. Aliens. ISBN 9781 608187591; ISBN 9781628323672.

––––. Angels. ISBN 9781608187607; ISBN 9781628323689.

––––. Bigfoot. ISBN 9781608187614; ISBN 9781628323696.

––––. Chupacabra. ISBN 9781608187621; ISBN 9781628323702.

––––. Fairies. ISBN 9781608187638; ISBN 9781628323719.

––––. Loch Ness Monster. ISBN 9781 608187645; ISBN 9781628323726.

ea vol: 24p. (Are They Real?). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Creative Education. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50. pap. $8.99.

Gr 1-3 –An overview of the topic of supernatural sightings. The series asks, “Are they real?,” providing emerging readers with an opportunity to navigate informational texts and draw their own conclusions. Each book pairs large, glossy photographs with short sentences to highlight scientific investigations and make text-to-reader connections. Each volume ends with an activity to try at home. VERDICT Excellent for individual interests or small reading groups, especially as an introduction to nonfiction features.

Middle to High School

Axelrod-Contrada, Joan. Haunted Houses Around the World. ISBN 9781515738602.

Klepeis, Alicia Z. Haunted Cemeteries Around the World. ISBN 9781515738619.

Peterson, Megan Cooley. Haunted Hotels Around the World. ISBN 9781515738589.

––––. Haunted Objects from Around the World. ISBN 9781515738596.

ea vol: 32p. (It’s Haunted). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $27.99.

Gr 4-7 –A compilation of scary stories and anecdotes about speculated real-life hauntings. The layouts are clean, and with only one or two images per spread, the narratives become the main focus. Vivid textual descriptions, rather than a flashy visual format, add to the mystery and challenge students to rely on text cues. Readers who require less visual support will be pleased as they are immersed in a variety of paranormal experiences, from all over the world (from Florida to Sweden). Critical thinking questions center on whether the phenomena can be explained by science, but the primary appeal of this series is the stark, spine-chilling accounts. VERDICT With its emphasis on demons, exorcisms, and murder, this is for tween horror fans looking for a bit of a challenge.

Doeden, Matt. Edinburgh Castle: A Chilling Interactive Adventure. ISBN 9781515736486.

––––. Gettysburg Battlefield: A Chilling Interactive Adventure. ISBN 9781515736493.

––––. The Haunted Sanatorium: A Chilling Interactive Adventure. ISBN 9781515736516.

Lassieur, Allison. Stanley Hotel: A Chilling Interactive Adventure. ISBN 9781515736509.

ea vol: 112p. (You Choose: Haunted Places). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $31.99.

Gr 4 Up –Set in famous haunted locations, these adventures offer multiple endings and scenarios to encourage rereading and problem-solving. In each title, readers are placed at the helm of the story as they navigate a variety of paths that all stem from a general plot. A concluding chapter provides related historical information and eyewitness accounts. Narratives are fast paced and filled with plenty of hair-raising moments, though the premises are often familiar (e.g., a family vacation gone awry). Photographs chosen add to the suspense, leaving readers to use their imagination to fill in the spectral gaps. VERDICT More ghostly than gory. Devotees of this format will enjoy being safely scared.

Goddu, Krystyna Poray. Movie Monsters: From Godzilla to Frankenstein. ISBN 9781512425918.

––––. Sea Monsters: From Kraken to Nessie. ISBN 9781512425932.

Marsico, Katie. Beastly Monsters: From Dragons to Griffins. ISBN 9781512425925.

––––. Magic Monsters: From Witches to Goblins. ISBN 9781512425956.

––––. Undead Monsters: From Mummies to Zombies. ISBN 9781512425949.

ea vol: 32p. (Monster Mania). chart. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Lerner. Feb. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 4-7 –Monster myths are approached through the combined lens of history and pop culture. Chock-full of movie stills, archival drawings, and CGI creatures, the series is a feast for media junkies. For instance, the magic of witches and wizards in “Harry Potter” is linked to prehistoric cave paintings, and the Pokémon Aipom resembles the ancient Aztec creation ahuizotl. STEM connections are made in sidebars that explore, for example, sonar in Sea Monsters. An ending “Monster Match” section (“Which ghoul would you bet on in a smack-down?”) not only is clever but also makes the series as interactive as it is informative. VERDICT Promises to be monstrously popular among upper elementary and middle schoolers.

Hardyman, Robyn. Lost Kings and Kingdoms. ISBN 9781482460094.

––––. Tombs and Cursed Treasure. ISBN 9781482460131.

Levete, Sarah. Aliens and UFOs. ISBN 9781482459944.

––––. The Bermuda Triangle and Other Danger Zones. ISBN 9781482460025.

––––. Fakes and Hoaxes. ISBN 9781 482460063.

Snedden, Robert. Atlantis and Other Lost Worlds. ISBN 9781482459982.

ea vol: 48p. (Mystery Hunters). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $31.95.

Gr 4-7 –Although flush with color and various types of images (photos, archival drawings, etc.), this series reads like a textbook. The narratives take a factual approach (e.g., “There is no evidence that the story of Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone is true.”) that will satisfy students who have moved beyond conjecture and appreciate concrete information. Hoaxes and debunked science are also covered. For example, using traditional stories as well as 20th-century tabloid-esque tales, Atlantis traces the once popular belief that the earth was hollow. The “Mystery Hunter” box, which appears at the bottom of certain pages, supplies higher-order thinking questions and opportunities for small group discussions. VERDICT This series will supplement classroom curricula but may not necessarily fly off the shelves.

McCullum, Kenya. 12 Creepy Urban Legends. ISBN 9781632352927; ISBN 9781632353429.

––––. 12 Notorious Ghosts. ISBN 9781632352941; ISBN 9781632353443.

Morey, Allan. 12 Scary Animals. ISBN 9781632352958; ISBN 9781632353450.

––––. 12 Spooky Haunted Places. ISBN 9781632352965; ISBN 9781632353467.

––––. 12 Terrifying Monsters. ISBN 9781632352972; ISBN 9781632353474.

Terrell, Brandon. 12 Frightening Tales of Alien Encounters. ISBN 9781632352934; ISBN 9781632353436.

––––. 12 Unsolved Mysteries. ISBN 9781632352989; ISBN 9781632353481.

York, M.J. 12 Ancient Mysteries. ISBN 9781632352910; ISBN 9781632353412.

ea vol: 32p. (Scary and Spooky). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Amicus. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $31.35. pap. $9.95.

Gr 4-7 –A brief introduction to the paranormal. Topics are introduced alongside two or three photographs, a fact box, and questions for thinking and discussion. Muted colors and design elements beg for a face-lift or at least some added pizzazz. The further information section offers recent updates on each topic digitally using a QR code, but otherwise the series is visually dated and unlikely to appeal to students. VERDICT Lack of in-depth coverage makes this set an additional purchase at best.

Wood, Alix. Abandoned Hospitals. ISBN 9781482458992.

––––. Creepy Cemeteries. ISBN 9781482459036.

––––. Ghostly Prisons. ISBN 9781482459067.

––––. Haunted Battlefields. ISBN 9781 482459104.

––––. Haunted Houses. ISBN 9781 482459142.

––––. Spooky Hotels. ISBN 9781482459180.

ea vol: 32p. (World’s Scariest Places). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2017. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 4-7 –A sobering look at the locations of and the events behind well-known frightening tales. Readers will learn of cruel world leaders as well as everyday people who took deathly matters into their own hands: a nurse who murdered more than 30 patients during her time at Taunton State (MA) Hospital, Benito Mussolini’s favorite boutique hotel in Florence, Italy, etc. Though many of the featured occurrences are gruesome, the majority of the stories are told with compassion. Layouts are busy but not overwhelming, and the images featured, a mix of contemporary and archival photos, adeptly match the tone. VERDICT The emphasis on history elevates the series; consider for thoughtful readers.

Most of this spring’s offerings skew to the elementary crowd, but the more morbid series may be better suited for middle graders. The season’s top picks were Gareth Stevens’s “World’s Scariest Places,” for its ability to draw in rather than scare away tweens, and Capstone’s “It’s Haunted,” for relying on rich text to wean discerning readers off gimmicks and graphics. However, there’s something for everyone in this array of guides for ghost hunters and lore lovers.

Jane Miller, Nashville Public Library

For the latest nonfiction series reviews, check out the Spring 2017 Series Made Simple

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