Eye of Hansel and Toe of Bigfoot: Myth | Series Nonfiction

An eclectic mix of ghouls, ghosts, and beasts with added bits of retold and fractured fairy tales fill this season’s cauldron.

1611-sms-mythGhosts, haunted places, and fairy tale retellings fill much of this season’s pot with Bigfoot leading the roster of paranormal figures. Many series adapt or add a twist to fables and traditional folktales for beginning readers, whereas Greek mythology reigns supreme for teens. A few series work in critical thinking components, offering possibilities for classroom use. There’s a whole lot of rehashing of subjects already widely covered, but there’s a bit of fun to be found, too.


Biro, Val. Cinderella. ISBN 9781499480580; ISBN 9781499480641; ISBN 9781499480528.

––––. The Emperor’s New Clothes. ISBN 9781499480627; ISBN 9781499480689; ISBN 9781499480566.

––––. Hansel and Gretel. ISBN 9781499480597; ISBN 9781499480658; ISBN 9781499480535.

––––. Little Red Riding Hood. ISBN 9781499480603; ISBN 9781499480665; ISBN 9781499480542.

––––. Puss in Boots. ISBN 9781499480610; ISBN 9781499480672; ISBN 9781499480559.

––––. The Ugly Duckling. ISBN 9781 499480634; ISBN 9781499480696; ISBN 9781499480573.

ea vol: illus. by Val Biro. 24p. (Famous Tales). Windmill. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $24.60. pap. $8.25. ebk. $24.60.

PreS-Gr 1 –These abbreviated retellings move along fairly smoothly and generally follow the schemes of the original stories. However, there’s no acknowledgement of the tales’ origins. Biro aptly portrays the funny and ugly characters by including humorous details in her comical, energetic drawings. The Ugly Duckling is the simplest and most straightforward title. As tales of vanity, trickery, and greed, The Emperor’s New Clothes and Puss in Boots are far more complex and may confuse younger readers. The wicked sometimes, but not always, get their just deserts here. Gretel does push the witch into the burning oven, and Puss does eat the wicked giant he has connived into becoming a mouse. But the wolf doesn’t eat Grandma or Red Riding Hood, so there’s no need for the woodsman to cut him open. Wicked stepmothers are mentioned but tend to be absent. VERDICT An adequate selection for read-alouds and independent reading where alternative versions of these well-known tales are needed.

Chandler, Matt. Alcatraz: A Chilling Interactive Adventure. ISBN 9781515725800.

Doeden, Matt. The Queen Mary: A Chilling Interactive Adventure. ISBN 9781515725787.

––––. The Winchester Mystery House: A Chilling Interactive Adventure. ISBN 9781515725770.

Hoena, Blake. The Tower of London: A Chilling Interactive Adventure. ISBN 9781515725794.

ea vol: 112p. (You Choose: Haunted Places). chron. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $23.99.

Gr 4-6 –These interactive titles are not only scary but informative as well. The use of the choose-your-own adventure format allows for fact and fiction to blend together into a well-wrought package of fun reading and considerable history. Readers begin on their own or with a fictional friendly accomplice and soon encounter the famous ghostly inhabitants. The assorted choices they’re given lead to frightening, comical, and even disastrous possibilities. Small captioned photographs complement true descriptions of these places and their spooky residents. The mix of haunted sites—a house, a ship, a prison, and the royal palace/prison—offer plentiful intrigue. An epilogue provides several pages of history and a substantial time line. “Other Paths to Explore” asks students three questions that invite them to think about the subject from various points of view. VERDICT Thoughtfully crafted, these should satisfy, inform, and stimulate many readers. Highly recommended.

Guillain, Charlotte. The Frog Prince Saves Sleeping Beauty. illus. by Dan Widdowson. ISBN 9781410983022; ISBN 9781410983107.

––––. Red Riding Hood Meets the Three Bears. illus. by Karl West. ISBN 9781410983046; ISBN 9781410983121.

Harrison, Paul. The Elves Help Puss in Boots. illus. by Tim Sutcliffe. ISBN 9781410983039; ISBN 9781410983114.

––––. Three Blind Mice Team Up with the Three Little Pigs. illus. by Mariano Epelbaum. ISBN 9781410983015; ISBN 9781410983091.

ea vol: 24p. (Fairy Tale Mix-Ups). further reading. glossary. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $17.49. pap. $6.49.

Gr 1-3 –These fairy tale mash-ups are told through simple sentences and cartoon drawings. Goldilocks gets caught up with the Big Bad Wolf while Red Riding Hood ends up in the Bears’ house. Though the retellings are rather wooden, the comic sketches do have nice bits of humor, and there is diversity among the human characters not often found in adaptations. In addition to the standard back matter bits, a short history of each original tale and writing and discussion prompts are included in each. However, the small further reading suggestions are uneven, some featuring handsome picture book versions and others tending more to twisted tales. VERDICT Fun selections for popular reading and classroom use and discussion.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Bigfoot. ISBN 9781634711166; ISBN 9781634713146; ISBN 9781634714136.

––––. Dragons. ISBN 9781634711135; ISBN 9781634713115; ISBN 9781634714105.

––––. Hydra. ISBN 9781634711142; ISBN 9781634713122; ISBN 9781634714112.

––––. Unicorns. ISBN 9781634711159; ISBN 9781634713139; ISBN 9781634714129.

––––. Vampires. ISBN 9781634711098; ISBN 9781634713078; ISBN 9781 634714068.

––––. Werewolves. ISBN 9781634711104; ISBN 9781634713085; ISBN 9781 634714075.

––––. Witches. ISBN 9781634711128; ISBN 9781634713108; ISBN 9781634714099.

––––. Zombies. ISBN 9781634711111; ISBN 9781634713092; ISBN 9781634714082.

ea vol: 32p. (Magic, Myth, and Mystery). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Cherry Lake. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $20.95. pap. $9.95. ebk. $32.95.

Gr 4-6 –Each volume is prefaced with an identical disclaimer, “This series features creatures that excite our minds…They’re also not real.” Written in staccatolike sentences with a factual tone, the text is a mix of facts (an explanation of hypertrichosis in Werewolfs) and reported stories of sightings (Wisconsin’s Beast of Bray Road). The “Explained by Science” and “When Fantasy Meets Reality” sections offer more concrete scientific explanations. Psychological and historical reasons for widespread belief of said creature are also touched upon. Simplified content and occasionally inadequate glossaries (wizards are mentioned but not defined in Witches) weaken the usefulness of this set. VERDICT Already widely covered topics makes this an additional purchase at best.

McCollum, Sean. Handbook to Ghosts, Poltergeists, and Haunted Houses. ISBN 9781515713081.

––––. Handbook to UFOs, Crop Circles, and Alien Encounters. ISBN 9781515713098.

Omoth, Tyler. Handbook to Bigfoot, Nessie, and Other Unexplained Creatures. ISBN 9781515713111.

––––. Handbook to Stonehenge, the Bermuda Triangle, and Other Mysterious Locations. ISBN 9781515713104.

ea vol: 32p. (Paranormal Handbooks). further reading. glossary. maps. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $20.99.

Gr 3-5 –Besides acknowledging the long, wide appeal of these mysterious creatures, places, and events in human history, these “quick reference guides” cover long ago and recent and far and near occurrences. Bigfoot and Stonehenge begin with a presentation on their familiar, titular subjects followed by somewhat shorter descriptions of six less widely known ones. UFOs and Ghosts devote a chapter to each of the three subjects in their titles, with a fourth chapter on the work of specialists studying these phenomena. Evenhanded in the matters of belief and believability, the texts include a few hoaxes and always state that there is no scientific evidence proving the existence of any of these paranormal subjects. However, they don’t discount the possibilities either. Concluding multiple choice questions test readers’ recall of facts. VERDICT Good overviews for collections that need additional materials on these popular topics.

Miller, Connie Colwell. Abby Visits the Big City: The City Mouse and the Country Mouse Remixed. ISBN 9781607539520; ISBN 9781681510767.

––––. Andrew and the Birthday Surprise: The Boy Who Cried Wolf Remixed. ISBN 9781607539513; ISBN 9781681510750.

––––. Henry’s Track and Field Day: The Tortoise and the Hare Remixed. ISBN 9781607539506; ISBN 9781681510743.

––––. James and the Kindergartner: The Lion and the Mouse Remixed. ISBN 9781607539544; ISBN 9781681510781.

––––. Mary, Anna, and the Little Brother: The Lion, the Bear, and the Fox Remixed. ISBN 9781607539551; ISBN 9781681510798.

––––. Rosie’s Special Gift: The Goose Who Laid the Golden Eggs Remixed. ISBN 9781607539537; ISBN 9781681510774.

ea vol: illus. by Victoria Assanelli. 24p. (Aesop’s Fables Remixed). Amicus. Jul. 2016. lib. ed. $20.95. ebk. $42.80.

PreS-K –Presented as early literature lessons, these brief contemporary stories feature familiar problems with younger siblings, a cousin, and a bragging classmate. Competently constructed as parallels to the venerable fables, the stories end with a child stating a lesson learned. The traditional tale is then briefly told, followed by discussion questions for readers and a final note about Aesop. Some of the retellings, particularly the one of Andrew spoiling his mother’s birthday surprise, will work nicely as a read-aloud. Others are a bit thin or awkwardly phrase the moral. The illustrations are mostly populated with a diverse cast of children. However, the alternating between black dots and slanted lines for their eyes is questionable. VERDICT Although the books are cheerful and useful for group discussions, the odd illustrations detract from the overall effectiveness.

Noll, Elizabeth. The Bermuda Triangle. ISBN 9781680720211; ISBN 9781680722918; ISBN 9781680721034.

––––. Bigfoot. ISBN 9781680720204; ISBN 9781680722901; ISBN 9781680721027.

––––. ESP. ISBN 9781680720228; ISBN 9781680722925; ISBN 9781680721041.

––––. Ghosts. ISBN 9781680720242; ISBN 9781680722932; ISBN 9781680721058.

––––. Haunted Places. ISBN 9781680720259; ISBN 9781680722949; ISBN 9781680721065.

––––. UFOs. ISBN 9781680720273; ISBN 9781680722956; ISBN 9781680721072.

ea vol: 32p. (Strange…But True?). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Black Rabbit/Bolt. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $31.35. pap. $9.95. ebk. $31.35.

Gr 3-5 –A hi-lo introduction to a few popular and contested myths, most of which are located in the United States. Four short chapters give brief examples of sightings and explain some commonly held beliefs and work done by researchers. Short text pages and facing photographs are often superimposed with small framed facts or questions for readers. Large labeled diagrams are peppered throughout, and each book has a map highlighting areas where the phenomenon has been reported. Charts indicate percentages of people believing in the paranormal occurrence. All of this is a very quick skim. However, the brevity and simplicity make some explanations vague; there is really no hint of the breadth of the world’s ghost treasury. Students will enjoy the concluding “Believe It or Not” quiz, though. VERDICT Useful introductions for younger or less fluent readers, these provide encouragement for critical thinking.

Owings, Lisa. Ghosts at Sea. ISBN 9781626174252; ISBN 9781681032184.

––––. Ghosts in Battlefields. ISBN 9781626174269; ISBN 9781681032191.

––––. Ghosts in Cemeteries. ISBN 9781626174276; ISBN 9781681032207.

––––. Ghosts in Hotels. ISBN 9781626174283; ISBN 9781681032214.

––––. Ghosts in Mansions. ISBN 9781626174290; ISBN 9781681032221.

––––. Ghosts in Palaces. ISBN 9781626174306; ISBN 9781681032238.

––––. Ghosts in Prisons. ISBN 9781626174313; ISBN 9781681032245.

––––. Ghosts in the White House. ISBN 9781626174320; ISBN 9781681032252.

ea vol: 24p. (Ghost Stories). chart. index. maps. photos. Bellwether. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $25.95. ebk. $22.95.

Gr 4-6 –“Your evening prison tour just ended. You walk back past dark, empty cells.” These opening gambits precede short accounts of two haunted venues in each slim volume. The publisher’s promise that these books “burst with intense action [and] high-speed heroics” is heavily overstated, but there are interesting “shadows of the unknown.” Anne Boleyn’s ghost, her head tucked under her arm, is perhaps the eeriest figure, and the White House is an intriguing locale of contemporary haunting. Prisons focuses mostly on Al Capone and speculates on what drove him “mad.” The busy, occasionally cluttered layout includes short bits of white text and assorted elements (maps, sidebars) in each spread. There’s less commentary on ghosts and hauntings provided than in comparable series. VERDICT Quick introductions to the eerie and weird, these will adequately serve libraries in need of materials on ghosts.

Peterson, Megan Cooley. Super Scary Ghosts. ISBN 9781515702764.

––––. Super Scary Monsters. ISBN 9781515702771.

––––. Super Scary Places. ISBN 9781515702788.

––––. Super Scary Stories. ISBN 9781515702795.

ea vol: 24p. (Super Scary Stuff). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $18.99.

Gr 3-4 –Seven or eight brief accounts in each title introduce legendary and real creatures and places from around the world. (“The ghost of a boy dressed in blue wakes visitors with his screams. A ghostly woman appears in the pantry.”) The haunting of England’s Chillingham Castle and many other subjects here are not very high on the scary scale, though there are a few creepy stories. Ghosts includes Al Capone playing a banjo, the Flying Dutchman, and George Washington. Snake Island in Brazil, Malaysia’s bat-and-centipede-filled Gomantong Cave, and the Paris Catacombs are covered in Places. The yeti, bunyip, chupacabara, and mythical Minotaur are found in Monsters. Stories introduce folktales, urban legends, poltergeists, and UFOs. Five to eight sentences of text and facing photographs are inset with word definitions and bits of explanation. VERDICT With a solid amount of variety, this series will serve well in collections where the paranormal is popular.

Ramsey, Grace. Haunted Hotels. ISBN 9781681917603; ISBN 9781681918617; ISBN 9781681919508.

––––. Haunted Objects. ISBN 9781681917597; ISBN 9781681918600; ISBN 9781681919492.

––––. Haunted Ships, Planes, and Cars. ISBN 9781681917641; ISBN 9781681918655; ISBN 9781681919546.

Summers, Alex. Haunted Battlefields and Cemeteries. ISBN 9781681917634; ISBN 9781681918648; ISBN 9781681919539.

––––. Haunted Houses. ISBN 9781681917610; ISBN 9781681918624; ISBN 9781681919515.

––––. Haunted Prisons and Asylums. ISBN 9781681917627; ISBN 9781681918631; ISBN 9781681919522.

ea vol: 32p. (YIKES! It’s Haunted). glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. websites. Rourke. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $32.79. pap. $9.95. ebk. $32.79.

Gr 4-6 –What causes a haunting? “Many people believe that when people die, especially in a violent way, their spirits sometimes stay at the location of their death.” Most of the haunted locations introduced here are in the United States, with a few in other parts of the world—a closing map indicates the location of each. Brief descriptions of place, manner of ghostly activity, and cause of the figure’s death (when known) intertwine with comments on popular and expert beliefs about ghosts and hauntings. Causes of death include murder, fire, shipwrecks, and other tragedies, as well as ugly means of torture in Prisons and Asylums. Paranormal investigation crops up frequently and receives uneven definition among the books. Selected photographs often depict dark and spooky scenes, some superimposed with spectral shadows or with sleeping children. VERDICT While the volumes tend to vary in coverage and accessibility, there is a decent range of subjects presented here. Consider where needed.

Middle to High School

Fajardo, Anika. Hercules and His 12 Labors: An Interactive Mythological Adventure. ISBN 9781491481110; ISBN 9781491481165.

Higgins, Nadia. Perseus the Hero: An Interactive Mythological Adventure. ISBN 9781491481127; ISBN 9781491481172.

Hoena, Blake. The Epic Adventures of Odysseus: An Interactive Mythological Adventure. ISBN 9781491481141; ISBN 9781491481196.

––––. Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece: An Interactive Mythological Adventure. ISBN 9781491481134; ISBN 9781491481189.

ea vol: 112p. (You Choose: Ancient Greek Myths). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $23.99. ebk. $6.95.

Gr 4-8 –“On your journey you will face deadly monsters, cunning gods, and powerful kings. Can you survive?” Tweens get to role-play as a Greek god in these appealing, well-crafted works. Each book sets an introductory scene before leading to three or four of the myth’s famous challenges. The final chapter, “Other Paths to Explore,” adds further information, along with exercises in critical thinking. There’s a page describing a half dozen related “Greek Gods and Goddesses” and a useful two-part further reading about the particular god and Greek mythology in general. VERDICT There is an impressive amount of material in these small, attractive books. Highly recommended for middle school collections.

Nardo, Don. Creation Stories in Greek Mythology. ISBN 9781601529589; ISBN 9781601529596.

––––. Gods and Goddesses in Greek Mythology. ISBN 9781601529640; ISBN 9781601529657.

––––. Heroes in Greek Mythology. ISBN 9781601529688; ISBN 9781601529695.

––––. Monsters in Greek Mythology. ISBN 9781601529701; ISBN 9781601529718.

––––. Natural Phenomena in Greek Mythology. ISBN 9781601529725; ISBN 9781601529732.

ea vol: 80p. (Library of Greek Mythology). further reading. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $29.95. ebk. $39.95.

Gr 7 Up –With numbered source notes for each chapter and a nicely annotated set of suggestions for further reading and websites, these are scholarly discussions useful for homework purposes or deeper study by serious readers of mythology. Each book opens with a map of ancient Greece (circa 500 BCE) and a substantial introduction to some of the human interactions with the gods and the meaning and development of the myths in Greek sociology, intellectual life, and art. The five chapters that make up each volume cover many aspects of the mythical subjects and stories, as well as material on Greek history. The themes within the titles interconnect many of the characters and stories, and there’s a fair amount of overlap among the books. All include a few handsome annotated images and many small insets noting Greek words and their modern counterparts. VERDICT Deeply informative yet interesting selections for students of mythology. Recommended.

Page, Sean. Preparing for and Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. ISBN 9781499463866; ISBN 9781499463842.

––––. Zombie Combat Skills and Warfare Strategy. ISBN 9781499463897; ISBN 9781499463873.

––––. Zombie Spotting and Survival Basics. ISBN 9781499463835; ISBN 9781499463811.

ea vol: 48p. (Surviving Zombie Warfare). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Rosen YA. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $31.75. pap. $11.75.

Gr 9 Up –The slim picture book appearance of these titles belies the very detailed discussion provided in numerous columns of text and small drawings. Originally published as one volume in England in 2013, this set takes that single book (Zombie Survival Manual) and divides it into three. There’s plenty of blood and gore, with small red splatters on most pages. The tone is matter-of-fact with occasional references that are seemingly tongue-in-cheek. Zombie characteristics and behavior, and how to defend against a zombie takeover, are explained extensively. The needed skills for self-protection include knowing physical maneuvers and the use of deadly weapons. Combat Skills and Warfare features several pages of explicit diagrams and instructions for using handguns, assault rifles, shotguns, and machine guns, along with a crossbow, chain saw, and petrol bombs. The profiles of potential survival groups are scary examples of sociology. It’s possible that horror fans and zombie buffs will find these fascinating and even humorous. VERDICT Much that’s here will be disturbing for teenagers and adults. This series seems better suited for adult collections.

Traditional tales, along with those about paranormal creatures, places, and events, retold in simpler, shorter forms, were a trend this season. However, most were unsuccessful in capturing the energy or charm of the original stories. The winners this time around are Capstone’s “You Choose: Ancient Greek Myths” and “You Choose: Haunted Places” for their infusion of fun reading with lots of information. These thoughtfully crafted works, so versatile in reader appeal and practical uses, should serve well in all library collections. For sophisticated YA readers, consider ReferencePoint’s “Library of Greek Mythology” for its extensive and thorough coverage of the subject. Buy as needed!

Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

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