Mulling Over Mythical Beings and Mysteries | Myths & Mysteries Series Nonfiction

These selections, full of legendary creatures and inexplicable happenings, will pose intriguing questions to curious readers.



It’s no mystery why people appreciate spring—a time of renewal, new beginnings, and the anticipation of bright things to come. Little wonder that this spring, publishers are issuing fascinating new series to reawaken the joy of reading. Those legendary, mythical creatures that readers can’t seem to get enough of—dragons, unicorns, mermaids, and the more sinister witches, vampires, and zombies—will all make fresh appearances on the series scene and continue to make kids ask, “Could they possibly be real?” Furthermore, genuine, inexplicable mysteries—hauntings, tombs, aliens, and the like—that still befuddle and mesmerize, are poised to cast their spells once more. No doubt students will shake their heads and exclaim, “How…? Why…? Explain, please!” Gripping new springtime series should shed light on some bewildering conundrums—or will they?



MATHER, Charis. Dragons. ISBN 9798889163022.
––––. Mermaids. ISBN 9798889163039.
––––. The Phoenix. ISBN 9798889163046.
––––. Unicorns. ISBN 9798889163053.
ea vol: 24p. (Mythical Creatures). Bearport/Fusion. Jan. 2024. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-5–Each slim, attractive volume in this well-written series describes a different mythical creature. Large print makes for easy reading; both beginner and striving readers will feel welcomed. New vocabulary is bolded in the text and defined in the glossary, but no pronunciation guide is provided. Each title explains the creature’s historical origins/backgrounds and describes and defines related words and concepts, posing questions along the way that encourage critical thinking. Through simple, factual explanations and colorful images, the titles compare mythical creatures’ attributes/abilities to those of actual animals they resemble, and each volume includes a labeled diagram of the creature, highlighting unique features. One particularly well-done feature compares similar mythical creatures that appear in different cultures/traditions. Back matter includes a glossary and index. VERDICT These fun, engaging titles will be big hits in school and public collections.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

ANDERHAGEN, Anna. Chasing Bigfoot. ISBN 9781098291884.
––––. Chasing the Chupacabra. ISBN 9781098291891.
––––. Chasing the Jersey Devil. ISBN 9781098291907.
––––. Chasing the Loch Ness Monster. ISBN 9781098291914.
––––. Chasing the Mongolian Death Worm. ISBN 9781098291921.
––––. Chasing the Mothman. ISBN 9781098291938.
ea vol: 32p. (Chasing Cryptids). ABDO/Big Buddy. Jan. 2024. Tr. $34.22.
Gr 3-6–. Each book in this entertaining series invites readers to “join the chase,” before providing information about the creature they’re tracking down. Sentences are short without being choppy, and the informative text doesn’t talk down to readers. The books clarify that “most scientists don’t believe they [cryptids] exist,” before presenting numerous personal anecdotes, alleged encounters, and “eyewitness reports” including photos. New vocabulary is in bold type and defined in a glossary. Each volume features a “Cryptid Profile,” containing a “photo” and the creature’s name(s), classification, sighting locations, habitats, and physical description. A profile of someone—not necessarily a believer—who investigated the cryptid in question is included in each volume. Back matter includes a glossary and an index, and digital resources for further reading. VERDICT Entertaining and attractively formatted. Recommended for schools and public libraries, where it will be popular with cryptid fans.

BREACH, Jen. Lore and Legends. ISBN 9781731657404.
––––. Mythical Monsters. ISBN 9781731657329.
ea vol: illus. by Joshua Janes. 32p. (Origin Stories). Rourke/High Tide. Feb. 2024. Tr. $27.50.
Gr 4-6–In Lore and Legendsstudents will discover the ancient origin of Halloween, and how far back its history in the United States goes. This volume also covers the ancient histories and cultural origins of witches and some common superstitions. Unfamiliar words are defined—with pronunciation provided—usually on the page where introduced. One odd omission: The pronunciation of Samhain (pronounced SAH-win)—the ancient Celtic festival that’s the progenitor of modern-day Halloween—isn’t provided. Mythical Monstersdiscusses vampires, werewolves, and zombies whose histories also date back very far and to various cultures. The book discusses historical and cultural belief systems that gave rise to these monsters. Both concise volumes are fast paced and narrated in a dramatic, suspenseful storytelling voice. Cartoonish illustrations are comically frightening, and some depict characters in period dress to emphasize subjects’ historic origins. A memory-style game is included for review, and each volume begins with strategies for building background information and reading comprehension. VERDICT Well written with interesting concepts and appealing topics, but insubstantial overall with unexciting follow-up activities.

COOKE, Tim. Giant’s Causeway and Other Incredible Natural Wonders. ISBN 9798765609200.
––––. Island of the Dolls and Other Spooky Places. ISBN 9798765609231.
––––. Pompeii and Other Legendary Ancient Places. ISBN 9798765609187.
JACKSON, Tom. Baobab and More of the World’s Most Amazing Plants. ISBN 9798765609224.
––––. Komodo Island and Other Places Ruled by Animals. ISBN 9798765609217.
––––. Oresund Bridge and Other Great Building Feats. ISBN 9798765609194.
ea vol: 32p. (Ultimate Adventure Guides). Lerner. Jan. 2024. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 4-6–This satisfyingly weird series takes a global view of natural and man-made marvels, and includes scientific explanations about how these wonders came to be. The highly unusual, sometimes bizarre, sites are described in brief, readable paragraphs that include interesting, fact-filled details. Students are in for quite an adventure when “traveling” to these enthralling locations, and the travel theme facilitates the incorporation of additional facts through packing lists and maps. Sizes and measurements are cited in the U.S. customary and metric systems. Attractive color photos with informative captions support content. There are no pronunciation guides within texts or in the glossary; “BCE” isn’t defined. Back matter includes a glossary, an index, and additional resources for further learning. VERDICT This series will wow students who enjoy reading about unusual phenomena around the world, pique curiosity, and arouse armchair-travel fantasies.

EDWARDS, Sue Bradford. The Haunted History of San Antonio and the Alamo. ISBN 9781098292546.
GAGNE, Tammy. The Haunted History of Alcatraz Island. ISBN 9781098292508.
––––. The Haunted History of Salem, Massachusetts. ISBN 9781098292539.
HUDAK, Heather C. The Haunted History of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. ISBN 9781098292522.
MIHALY, Christy. The Haunted History of Washington, DC. ISBN 9781098292553.
SEIGEL, Rachel. The Haunted History of Chicago, Illinois. ISBN 9781098292515.
ea vol: 48p. (Haunted History of the United States). ABDO/Core Library. Jan. 2024. Tr. $35.64.
Gr 5-8–A well-written, informative series providing detailed historical background about notable American sites alleged to be very haunted. Each volume opens with an anecdote about a personal encounter and outlines a variety reasons people believe in ghosts. Rational, natural, psychological, and/or scientific explanations are given for phenomena individuals have experienced that may seem like evidence. Some volumes discuss ghost-hunting tools used by investigators. The series is visually appealing, with atmospheric photos and illustrations that lend a good sense of place. Fact boxes and sidebars provide additional information. Student activities for comprehension and critical thinking, and resources for learning more drive readers to the publisher’s website. Back matter includes a glossary and an index, a bibliography, and additional digital resources. VERDICT A fine series recommended for school libraries. The textbooklike features might detract from its appeal as pleasure reading.

EMMINIZER, Theresa. The Ghostly Guide to Alcatraz. ISBN 9781538291870.
––––. The Ghostly Guide to Edinburgh Castle. ISBN 9781538291900.
––––. The Ghostly Guide to Gettysburg. ISBN 9781538291931.
––––. The Ghostly Guide to the Queen Mary. ISBN 9781538291962.
––––. The Ghostly Guide to the Tower of London. ISBN 9781538291993.
––––. The Ghostly Guide to the White House. ISBN 9781538292020.
ea vol: 32p. (Eerie Expeditions Around the World). Gareth Stevens. Dec. 2023. Tr. $28.27.
Gr 3-6–Intrepid “travelers” will enjoy this spooky, well-written series that’s respectful of readers’ intelligence and is accessible to striving readers. Short, clipped sentences heighten tension, and each page contains a self-contained anecdote, rather than a traditional chapter organization. Some reports/stories are debunked where they’re known to be false. Historical background, including dates and atmospheric photos and illustrations, as well as paintings of alleged ghosts, put facts in context. Some of the famous names mentioned may not resonate with young readers. Overall, the series does a fine job piquing the audience’s interest and ramps up the eeriness factor effectively. The Gettysburg title reminds readers that visitors to the haunted site must remain respectful, as it’s a celebrated battlefield memorial. “Spooky Stories” sidebars provide additional facts and background information, and provocative questions. Back matter includes a timeline, a glossary, an index, and additional resources. VERDICT Fascinating; recommended for schools and public collections.

SPILSBURY, Louise. Aliens and UFOs. ISBN 9781916526143.
––––. Cursed Tombs and Lost Treasure. ISBN 9781916526198.
––––. Earth’s Strangest Places. ISBN 9781916526150.
––––. Ghosts and Haunted Places. ISBN 9781916526174.
––––. Mysterious Disappearances. ISBN 9781916526167.
––––. Strange and Scary Creatures. ISBN 9781916526181.
ea vol: 48p. (Spooked!). Cheriton. Jan. 2024. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 6-8–The books in this visually exciting series read like suspense thrillers and cover appealing topics for middle school readers. Students will appreciate the easy-to-read layouts: well-paced text is presented in manageable paragraphs, each topped with a blue heading. Caption bubbles and sidebars provide additional information, adding to the readability and visual appeal of the series. Thought-provoking questions and examples of similar phenomena from various cultures keep readers engaged. The series is fair minded and doesn’t make judgments, but students are encouraged to make their own based on content. All sides are presented, with incidents set forth as they’re known to have occurred. Where incidents haven’t been explained/understood, the volumes say so and alternative explanations are offered. Excellent photos and fascinating “Investigating” double-page inserts are interspersed throughout each volume; the latter provide in-depth perspectives. Back matter includes a glossary, an index, and additional text and digital resources. VERDICT Highly recommended for schools and public libraries. Students will learn much from this excellently written and designed series.

Middle graders will be glad they packed their bags to join Gareth Stevens’ haunting series, “Eerie Expeditions Around the World.” The fascinating and colorful “Mythical Creatures” (Bearport/Fusion) series suggests that legendary beings resemble real-life animals more than we may have realized. With titles about disappearances, tombs, curses, ghosts, UFOs, and more, the excellent “Spooked!” (Cheriton) series has topics guaranteed to fascinate upper-elementary and middle-school students. In “Ultimate Adventure Guides,” Lerner invites middle graders along on tours of incredible and bizarre natural and man-made wonders around the world—travel checklists are included. If “Chasing Cryptids” is your students’ ambition, that aptly named series from ABDO/Big Buddy is right up their alley and stars some famous ones, including Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.


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