Confronting the Unknown | Myths, Mysteries & the Unexplained Series Nonfiction

Students will be engrossed, entertained, and inspired as they delve into fascinating accounts of paranormal proceedings, vivid descriptions of legendary beings, and the exploits of mythic heroes and heroines whose origins are shrouded in the mists of time.


Students will be engrossed, entertained, and inspired as they delve into fascinating accounts of paranormal proceedings, vivid descriptions of legendary beings, and the exploits of mythic heroes and heroines whose origins are shrouded in the mists of time. Readers will get caught up in spooky scenarios, ghostly occurrences, and up-close-and-personal encounters with otherworldly creatures, including some that appear infrequently in young readers’ literature, such as phoenixes and centaurs. Influential, ancient myths that have shaped our worldview and larger-than-life mythic figures representing several global cultures round out the new offerings. All are guaranteed to keep students turning pages as they strive for reading success and pleasure—and, not so incidentally, experience spine-tingling thrills and adventure.



Brody, Walt. Creepy UFOs. ISBN 9781541596894.
––––. Scary Vampires. ISBN 9781541596917.
––––. Spooky Ghost Ships. ISBN 9781541596870.
Ransom, Candice. Eerie Haunted Houses. ISBN 9781541596887.
––––. Legendary Bigfoot. ISBN 9781541596900.
––––. Mysterious Loch Ness Monster. ISBN 9781541596924.
ea vol: 24p. (Lightning Bolt Books — Spooked!). Lerner. Aug. 2020. Tr. $26.65.
Gr 1-3 –Despite the brevity of these titles, they provide adequate coverage and tantalizing information about topics that appeal to children. The short sentences are easy to read; the text is written in a conversational tone. The series describes possible logical, even science-based, explanations for phenomena. The overall design is attractive, enhanced by brooding photos and illustrations. The prose is set against colorful pages. Bright type is used in chapter headings, and some sentences are written in colored font for a dramatic, mysterious effect. The captions sometimes pose critical thinking questions. In most titles, a back matter page asks, “Are ___ real?” According to the series, no one is sure, but alternative theories are proposed. A “Close Encounter” section cites an alleged real-life experience with the particular phenomenon, and “Terrifying Trivia” lists extra facts about the titular topic. VERDICT Informative, impressive material. Recommended for school and public library collections.

Carlson-Berne, Emma. A First Look at Dragons. ISBN 9781541596863.
––––. A First Look at Fairies. ISBN 9781541596825.
––––. A First Look at Mermaids. ISBN 9781541596856.
––––. A First Look at Monsters. ISBN 9781541596832.
––––. A First Look at Trolls. ISBN 9781541596849.
––––. A First Look at Unicorns. ISBN 9781541596818.
ea vol: 24p. (Bumba Books — Fantastic Creatures). Lerner. Aug. 2020. Tr. $26.65.
PreS-Gr 1 –These titles for beginning readers are surprisingly substantive and feature popular topics, engaging texts, and short sentences. Appealing covers work with striking interior photos, illustrations, and other artwork. Some of the illustrations show racially diverse young children and families. A labeled diagram depicting the creature’s body parts and a picture glossary conclude each volume. Another highlight is the inclusion of at least one critical thinking question; answers appear on subsequent pages with examples. Readers engage with the material, stretch their imaginations, and relate the topic to prior knowledge and experiences. ­VERDICT Recommended for school and public library collections. Teachers and educators can encourage students to draw their favorite creatures and tell stories about them.



Abdo, Kenny. Haunted Asylums. ISBN 9781098221294.
––––. Haunted Battlefields. ISBN 9781098221300.
––––. Haunted Hotels. ISBN 9781098221317.
––––. Haunted Houses. ISBN 9781098221324.
––––. Haunted Prisons. ISBN 9781098221331.
––––. Haunted Towns. ISBN 9781098221348.
ea vol: 24p. (Haunted Places). ABDO/Fly!. Aug. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-8 –This simple series is for young and striving older readers who appreciate the paranormal. However, it doesn’t provide a lot of information or thrills; the books are too brief to dive into lengthy explication. There are some positives: Each title opens with a short paragraph that sparks curiosity, and sentences are short, clear, and comprehensible. Each volume contains three identical chapters. “The History” provides background details about the venue and its dark past; “The Haunted” identifies eerie events that once occurred or still happen at the site; and “The Media” discusses the location’s use as a backdrop in films, books, TV shows, or social media. The visual elements are the highlight. There are sinister, atmospheric historical and contemporary photos, illustrations, etchings, and drawings. A link and QR code (that accesses the same information) are included in the back matter. VERDICT Bland overall. An additional purchase; there are worthier series about paranormal phenomena.

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Spooky Castles. ISBN 9781532193309.
Olson, Elsie. Spooky Cemeteries. ISBN 9781532193316.
––––. Spooky Forests & Caves. ISBN 9781532193323.
––––. Spooky Schools & Libraries. ISBN 9781532193354.
Rusick, Jessica. Spooky Hospitals. ISBN 9781532193347.
Wilken, Scott. Spooky Historical Sites. ISBN 9781532193330.
ea vol: 32p. (Spooky Spots). ABDO/Big Buddy. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 2-5 –This well-written series engages readers. The text features short, easy-to-read sentences and captivating, occasionally grisly accounts. The details of profiled “spots” include the location, history, dates, people or legends associated with them, and ghostly events that allegedly occurred or were witnessed. Some descriptions are brief but offer enough information to excite imaginations. Atmospheric, full-page color photos are accompanied by interesting captions. The beginning of each title showcases a U.S. and a world map; the locations of each spot are labeled. “Frightful Fact” text boxes provide additional information. A “Spooky or Science?” page in the back matter of each title offers plausible, science-based explanations for why people may experience paranormal phenomena. The “Online Resources” section includes a website and a QR code. ­VERDICT Recommended for schools and libraries. Caveat: Note the term lunatic asylum in Spooky Hospitals. Not gruesome: Spooky Forests & Caves; Spooky Schools & Libraries.

Chandler, Matt. The Alamo’s Ghosts and Other Hauntings of San Antonio, Texas. ISBN 9781496683717.
––––. Ghosts of the O.K. Corral and Other Hauntings of Tombstone, Arizona. ISBN 9781496683700.
Peterson, Megan Cooley. Aaron Burr’s Ghost and Other New York City Hauntings. ISBN 9781496683724.
––––. Phantom Soldiers and Other Gettysburg Hauntings. ISBN 9781496683694.
––––. Salem’s Spirits and Other Hauntings of New England. ISBN 9781496683748.
––––. Strange Sights in the White House and Other Hauntings in Washington, D.C. ISBN 9781496683731.
ea vol: 32p. (Haunted History). Capstone. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 3-5 –This series examines paranormal phenomena in the context of history, adding a mysterious air to already fascinating events and famous locations. These engaging, well-written accounts detail famous places (and a person); a broad spectrum of U.S. sites are featured. Readers are challenged to explain the phenomena discussed. Atmospheric black-and-white and color photos and artwork enhance the text, supplemented by informative captions. Maps are included where needed. “Freaky Fact” sidebars share additional details and occasionally pose questions. Phantom Soldiers and Salem’s Spirits include time lines. The back matter in each book contains a list and a map of haunted places cited and other locations in the area. Some titles provide statistical charts, such as the percentage of Americans who believe in ghosts. VERDICT Recommended for school and public libraries. History and ghost buffs will be pleased. Strongest titles: Aaron Burr’s Ghost; Salem’s Spirits; Strange Sights in the White House.

Kaminski, Leah. Alien Graveyard. ISBN 9781647470098.
––––. Can’t Rest in Peace. ISBN 9781647470104.
––––. Coaster Death. ISBN 9781647470142.
––––. Ghost Prisoners. ISBN 9781647470128.
––––. A Home Built for Ghosts. ISBN 9781647470135.
––––. Phantom Soldier. ISBN 9781647470111.
ea vol: illus. by Candy Briones. 24p. (Haunted History). Bearport/Bear Claw. Aug. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-6 –This graphic novel series focuses on high-interest topics and is written in simple, readable prose. The books don’t claim to offer definitive evidence but detail witness accounts. The disclaimer states each title is a “dramatization based on true events.” The pedestrian comic art, which uses a limited color palette, is easy to navigate. Panels are laid out in a linear format. Text in yellow boxes provides background information; character dialogue appears in white speech balloons. The characters showcase racial and ethnic diversity. However, in A Home Built for Ghosts, some readers may question why the only prominent depiction of Asian individuals is limited to Mrs. Winchester’s sinister psychic medium consultant, who issues a comically fatal ultimatum. The back matter includes historical cases of similar phenomena or places in the U.S. and elsewhere. ­VERDICT Recommended for schools and libraries but with caveats: Coaster of Death may be too sad or morbid for some readers; Ghost Prisoners may be inappropriate or violent for younger students.

Nardo, Don. Chinese Mythology. ISBN 9781682828090.
––––. Egyptian Mythology. ISBN 9781682828113.
––––. Greek Mythology. ISBN 9781682828137.
––––. Indian Mythology. ISBN 9781682828151.
––––. Roman Mythology. ISBN 9781682828175.
ea vol: 80p. (World Mythology). ReferencePoint. Oct. 2020. Tr. $30.95.
Gr 6 Up –Readers are thoroughly schooled in these strongly written, scholarly volumes. This series examines common folkloric motifs and elements, how and why the myths developed, who the ancient people were, and what and why they believed. Myths are incorporated into background details; each culture’s mythic principles are explored, as well as the powers of gods. Some tales are gory, such as a few of the stories featured in Egyptian Mythology and Greek Mythology. Some narratives include sexual situations and nudity. Roman Mythology devotes a chapter to female gods and features a subsection titled “Sexual Loyalty for the Good of Rome.” The final chapter of each title explains how myths/gods are “celebrated” in today’s society or interpreted in popular media. The gods or key characters are highlighted in orange boxes when first introduced. Photos, paintings, and other artworks represent cultures; additional graphics would have been helpful. Sidebars share myths and additional information. ­VERDICT Recommended for public libraries and sophisticated upper graders. Strongest: Greek Mythology and Roman Mythology.

Owings, Lisa. Dragons. ISBN 9781644872734.
––––. Mermaids. ISBN 9781644872758.
––––. Unicorns. ISBN 9781644872789.
Troupe, Thomas Kingsley. Centaurs. ISBN 9781644872727.
––––. Giants. ISBN 9781644872741.
––––. Phoenixes. ISBN 9781644872765.
––––. Trolls. ISBN 9781644872772.
––––. Werewolves. ISBN 9781644872796.
ea vol: 24p. (Mythical Creatures). Bellwether/Torque. Aug. 2020. Tr. $25.95.
Gr 3-7 –These well-written titles cover a lot of ground; the text describes the legendary beings’ historical, cultural, literary, and artistic backgrounds. Their origins and appearances in various legends as well as abilities are also discussed. Readers gain broad knowledge of the creatures and learn about cultural comparisons and contrasts. The titles successfully present ideas about how the creatures’ legends arose, such as the animals that likely inspired stories about them. The pages feature colorful, captioned artwork from different eras and cultures. Some captions are arranged to resemble wall plaques. World maps identify the origins and cultural influence of the creatures’ legends throughout history. A pictorial time line tracks historical, literary, artistic, or cultural origins and significance. The “Media Mention” section discusses where a particular being appears in a book, film, TV show, or game. VERDICT Well done; highly recommended for schools and public collections.

Snowden, Matilda. Investigating Ghosts in Cemeteries. ISBN 9781680206166.
––––. Investigating Ghosts in Hospitals. ISBN 9781680206319.
––––. Investigating Ghosts in Hotels. ISBN 9781680206333.
––––. Investigating Ghosts in Houses. ISBN 9781680206357.
––––. Investigating Ghosts in Prisons. ISBN 9781680206371.
––––. Investigating Ghosts in Schools. ISBN 9781680206395.
ea vol: 32p. (Investigating Ghosts). Mitchell Lane. Aug. 2020. Tr. $30.71.
Gr 4-6 –In addition to detailing paranormal investigators’ experiences and equipment, this well-written series presents the encounters of ordinary people. The conversational tone doesn’t talk down to readers, who are encouraged to interpret investigators’ and other witnesses’ findings. Each title offers an intriguing opening. Atmospheric photos are supplemented by informative captions, heightening the overall somber mood. White text is set against dark blue backgrounds. Numerous “Interesting Fact” sidebars share important data. Each title includes a page that lists common “ghost-hunting tools” to inspire students to conduct their own explorations. VERDICT Well done and appealing. Educators can encourage students to discuss their interest in ghost hunting, where they’d look, and what they’d say or do during ghostly encounters. In journalism units, students can present TV interviews or write news articles that profile subjects who have encountered ghosts.

“Mythical Creatures” (Bellwether/Torque) brings legendary beings into focus for middle graders; “Bumba Books — Fantastic Creatures” (Lerner) will appeal to the youngest students, acquainting them with highly popular creatures. Middle graders who savor books about hauntings will enjoy “Haunted History” (Capstone). Middle-grade students interested in exploring the world of ghosts will appreciate “Investigating Ghosts” (Mitchell Lane). Students in the early and middle grades will get their chills from “Spooky Spots” (ABDO/Big Buddy). “World Mythology” (ReferencePoint) provides a detailed, scholarly look at global mythological traditions and figures.

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