CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 30 . . . . April 10, 2015
Thus begins David West’s version of the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter which appears in the collection, Ten of the Best Gods and Goddesses Stories. West has produced 10 titles in this illustrated 24 page hardcover series which, as the back cover suggests ",...introduces the heroes and villains in myths, legends, and folk stories from different cultures around the world." As well as the monsters, gods and goddesses featured in the two volumes reviewed here, the remaining eight titles focus on tales of animals, giants, ghosts, heroes, princes, princesses, witches and sorcerers.
Each book concludes with a glossary explaining difficult words and filling in some necessary information on bold face words which appear throughout the stories. For example, readers are given a brief note on characters such as Loki from the Norse, Haephestus from the Greek as well as Osiris and Seth from Egyptian mythology. The author pares each story down to its bare bones, retelling it in simple straightforward language. All 10 stories are illustrated with lush, bold coloured paintings, located on the centre fold of each double page. Sidebars giving nuggets of information of interest to young readers (often pointing out background on the myths or otherwise enriching and extending the story) appear on almost every page throughout the book in the bottom corners.
Children have long been fascinated by stories dealing with the supernatural. Characters from Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology have made their way into children's literature by way of almost every form, including video games, comics, graphic novels and movies. As far as choosing illustrated books on legend and mythology to purchase for young readers, teachers and parents will need to be look over the many available carefully. An important factor, of course, will be the reading ability of the child. Crabtree Publishing Company helps out by printing "Guided Reading level O" on the back of each volume in the series, suggesting that the books would be suitable for teachers to use in guided reading activities at the grade 2 and 3 level. Using the stories for independent reading at this age, however will prove more difficult, owing to a liberal use of unfamiliar words coupled with the a highly telescoped text. While it is true that interest in the subject matter and appeal of illustrations often pushes young readers beyond what might be considered their level, it is doubtful that West's choice and presentation will inspire beginning readers to that extent.
Teachers or librarians deciding to engage their students in guided reading based on any of the titles in this series will find that much explanation and extension of the text will be needed, as well as some knowledge of different mythologies. Possibly a research project to learn more about the mythology introduced would make a good topic for more advanced readers. There are many beautifully illustrated picture books of myths and legends (most separately but some in collections) that have been around a very long time which would be perfect for such a project. Teacher-librarians in Early Years or Elementary schools would be better advised to add these to their collection (or even to replace some of the old favourites which may have become ragged) than to spend two hundred dollars on this series.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.