________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 30 . . . . April 10, 2015


Ten of the Best Witch and Sorcerer Stories. (Ten of the Best Myths, Legends & Folk Stories).

David West.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2015.
24 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & html, $8.95 (pbk.), $18.36 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-1288-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-0797-4 (RLB.), ISBN 978-1-4271-7747-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4271-7739-1 (html).

Subject Heading:

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Sae Yong Kim.

*1/2 /4


Odysseus, king of Ithaca, arrived at the island of Aeaea. Odysseus gave orders for his men to go foraging for food while he stayed with the ship. Eurylochus, second in command, lead [sic] the men inland. After an hour, they saw a column of smoke and headed toward it. Soon they came to a palace surrounded by wild animals that were strangely tame. (From "Circe".)

A soldier, jealous of Marzi, fired at him but missed. Marzi changed into a salmon to cross rivers, and into a dove to fly over mountains. … Marzi returned with the ring, but the jealous soldier shot him dead. He took the ring and gave it to the king, who then won the battle. (From "The Silver Penny".)


Ten of the Best Witch and Sorcerer Stories devotes two pages to each tale, except for “Aladdin,” which is in two parts. The stories include myths from ancient Greece and folktales from Germany, Hungary, Scandinavia and Russia. Characters include Odysseus and Circe, Jason and Medea, Baba Yaga, Mother Hulda, Hansel and Gretel, and Aladdin. Each double spread consists of: a computer-generated main illustration; one or two smaller inserts which might be pictures of related art or artifacts, together with a brief caption; the title of the story, with a tagline about its origins; and the tale, itself, in two columns of text. The book includes a list of contents, glossary, and an index.

     I think that trying to cram 10 complex stories into one picturebook has made this book feel crowded, due to the varying effects on the writing, illustration and overall design. As the excerpts show, the text reads like a series of plot summaries because the tales have been cut down so much. This makes the folktales, especially, suffer from a lack of the repetition and dialogue that would have been in the originals. The main illustrations are all positioned in the centre of the double spread – that is, they have the gutter of the book running through them, right down the middle, which lessens the impact of the actual illustrations. The captions for the inserts, which are interesting, are often placed too close to the main text. Some inserts, such as a picture of a beautiful decorated egg on page 8, have no caption at all. The spelling error on page 4 (“lead” instead of “led”) is unfortunate because the book is meant for children at an age when they are developing their reading and writing skills.

     The overall idea of the book – to have an illustrated story, together with bits of historical information or pictures of relevant artifacts that can spark an interest in learning more about the place of the tale’s origin (or just an interest in finding more stories) – is actually very good. The inserts seem to have been chosen with care (except some of them are left unexplained!). If there were only one or two tales per book, or the whole book was much longer, it would have been more effective.

Not Recommended.

Sae Yong Kim has an MA in Children’s Literature and is now studying in the MLIS program at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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