Myths and Legends: A fresh take

In response to one comment sent to me, I thought I’d add 3 reviews of novels with myths and legends themes for those of you writing about them. 

Nice Shot, Cupid!

Kate McMullan

      The latest installment of the “Myth-O-Mania” series as told by Lord Hades is about Cupid and his wooing of Psyche, a mere mortal.  Cupid’s got braces on his teeth and zits on his face and a penchant for shooting his arrows at the wrong people so they’ll fall in love with inappropriate mates.  Then he meets Psyche being held prisoner at Zeus’ summer temple by Cupid’s mother,  who doesn’t like competition in the beauty department.  But she turns out not to be a match for her determined son and the even more resolute Psyche. The beauty eventually gets promoted to goddess status so she and Cupid can marry.  Cupid discovers he’s no longer a dorky teenager.  An amusing way to introduce kids to Greek mythical characters; even boys will like this story.  The writing is lively and the story also includes information about the lives of Hades, his wife Persephone, Zeus and other gods.  Zephyr, the West Wind, has a prominent role in the story, which she carries out with much whining and kvetching.  This book is a useful tool in getting young readers to relate to old myths.

BIBLIO: 2012, Stone Arch Books/Capstone Press, Ages 9 +, $23.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-4342-1985-5

ISBN: 978-1-4342-3435-3

 This second one is a bit of a stretch, except it does have to with demons and Lucifer.  So I figure that makes it eligible.  It’s not one of my favorites, but might be of interest.

The Space Between

Brenna Yovanoff

      Before Eve Adam had a wife, Lilith, not made from his body.  She was a demon and bore him a son named Ohbrin.  But Adam rejected the boy, as Lilith had rejected him.  Her second mate was the Fallen Angel, Lucifer, with whom she had the heroine of this story, the youngest of seven.  Daphne has lived her entire life in Pandemonium, where her parents were sent for disobeying God.  Daphne’s six older sisters all have some special power, but she doesn’t think she shares this bond with them.  Her other siblings—fathered by various lesser demons—like sucking the souls out of dying humans. Daphne’s favorite sibling is Ohbrin, whom most call Obie, and she is devastated when he decides to stay on Earth to be with the woman he loves.  Daphne comes across the scene of Obie saving a teen boy suicide victim and feels a connection she can’t explain. She jumps at the chance to go to Earth to find Obie after he disappears, not just to find her brother, but to find the boy also.  After much blood and mayhem and with the boy’s help, Daphne does find her brother and Obie’s baby son.  That’s where the disconnect comes.  The baby, being half demon, can already talk and survive for months without sustenance.  Or even need of a diaper change.  Made it hard to suspend disbelief.  Anyway, Obie and baby are saved, but the teen boy dies and Daphne feels she must be with him in Heaven to make him whole again.  Your basic star-crossed lovers story with a there’s-good-in-even-supposedly-evil-people twist.  Daphne does begin to understand herself and her family more by the end of the story, but you might not care.

BIBLIO: 2011, Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers Group/Penguin Group, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-59514-339-6

This last one is part of series and gives the reader a good view of Egyptology.

Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus

R.  L.  LaFevers

Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

      Theodosia Throckmorton, daughter of Egyptologists, able to nose out ancient curses and counteract them, has gotten herself into another mess.  Now she not only has the Arcane Order of Black Sun believing she’s the eleven year old reincarnation of the Egyptian god Isis, but the Serpents of Chaos are making attempts on her life.  Plus she’s working for Lord Wigmere, head of the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers.  She seems to be getting a fine education by helping at her parents’ museum, rather than going to school as her younger brother, Henry, does.  Henry is home for the holidays and, though a thorn in Theo’s side, does manage to be helpful as they try to protect an emerald tablet which is the map to all the hidden ancient treasures of Egyptian gods.  A suspicious so-called Egyptian magician, Awi Bubu, turns out to be a guardian of these treasures and works with Theo to return the Emerald Tablet to its rightful owners.  With his help, Theo and her buddies are able to unmask the Serpents of Chaos and convince the nutty leader of the Black Sunners that she is not Isis reincarnate .  It does, however, turn out that she was born inIsis’ temple and therefore has been given special talents.  This is a lively read, with hopefully factual information about ancient Egypt.  The other two books in the series are: “Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos” and “Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris.”

BIBLIO: 2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co.,  8 to 12, $16.00

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-547-22592-0

More reviews

Here are 3 more book reviews for you to consider.  Please let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them.

This time I thought I’d focus on non-fiction.  Sarah

100 Things You Should Know about Myths and Legends

Fiona Macdonald

Consultant: Rupert Matthews

      Myths and legends have been around since there have been people.  It’s a way of explaining the unkown and before the written word was how people told each other what had happened earlier.  As with any story, the truth gets distorted as the tale is spread along—just like the telephone game.  One would hope giving students a taste of centuries-old myths will inspire them to look up the whole myth and help them recognize the folklore found in more modern stories, movies and videos. The book is divided into sections on heroes, villains, monsters, love, wars, gods, creation, the planet, and magical animals, among others.  Plus there are sidebars scattered through the book adding further information and quizzes to reinforce the information.  Perhaps the inclusion of such people as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Princess Diana was intended to encourage children to see the relevance of legends, but then the editors would have been better off using more modern people—Princess Di is ancient history to most 8 year olds and Brad Pitt is older than their parents.  The cover art is confusing also, since Pegasus, the winged horse, is shown but never mentioned. Even a short bibliography would have been helpful.

BIBLIO: 2011 (orig. 2009,) Mason Crest Publishers Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $19.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-4222-2002-3

ISBN: 978-1-4222-1993-5

100 Things You Should Know about the Seashore

Steve Parker

Consultant: Camilla de la Bedoyere

      Did you know there are seashores all over the planet—from pole to pole and every where in between?  Each seashore has its own ecosystem of plants and animals. Where the salty ocean meets the land affects the terrain and type of beach.  This book gives brief, but good, descriptions of the various types of environments.  For instance, several bits of information describe how the action of the waves eats away at the land and there is a simple experiment to try which help the reader visualize the erosion in action.  The sidebars scattered through the book give extra information, but perhaps should have been titled differently—“I Don’t Believe It!” lends an air of doubt to the information. The data is divided into sections dealing with the coastal land, battle between land and sea, types of coastline, ecosystems and people’s affect on shorelines.  It is our job to protect the land and sea on our planet and we’ve not been doing a great job.  The experiments scattered through out the book are interesting and helpful. The graphics and photos are clear and helpful, making the book a useful tool in tweaking students’ interest in marine studies, but even a short bibliography would have been helpful. This is one of fifteen books exploring various subjects, including mythology and legends.

BIBLIO: 2011 (orig. 2010,) Mason Crest Publishers Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $19.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-4222-2006-1

ISBN: 978-1-4222-1993-5

Flood and Monsoon Alert!

Rachel Eagen

      Never underestimate the power of rushing water.  It can sweep a car off the road or uproot a tree.  Water is vital to the survival of all living things on this planet, but this book points out the dangers it can present also.  Monsoons occur naturally in many parts of the globe, so the inhabitants of the area learn to cope with the rain during this season.  They depend on the water the monsoon delivers to grow their crops and replenish their water supplies; still the people are wary of the amount of water sending rivers and lakes out of their channels to flood the adjacent land.  This book describes the life of a flood and what causes monsoon winds to bring in summer water or winter dryness.  It also has information on how to prepare for a flood and photos of historic floods, although there seems to be no rhyme or reason to as to order in which the floods are presented.  Presented as Guided Reading Level Q,” the book gives a good overview and can lead the reader to explore any of the areas mentioned.  It would be a better resource if it had a more comprehensive bibliography than just a few websites.

BIBLIO: 2011, Crabtree Publishing Company, Ages 8 to 10, $8.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-0-7787-1591-7

ISBN: 978-0-7787-1624-2