Earth, Fire, Water

Earth, Fire, Water

by Mary Hoffman, Jane Ray

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hoffman (Amazing Grace) collects snippets of factual information, myths, stories, poems and musings in this fascinating volume about the four classic elements. At first glance the philosophy behind her selections may seem a bit heady, but Hoffman's inviting tone and lean writing style enable her to condense volumes of material from every age of world history into a relatively brief and accessible text. From ancient burial rituals to constellations in the night sky to legends of mermaids, kids will have much to mull over and enjoy. Occasional subjective comments reflect a general reverence for the natural world. Ray's (Magical Tales from Many Lands) exquisite dusty jewel-toned paintings complete this elegant package. The artist flourishes in her broadest scope of subject matter yet. Natural disasters, mythical beasts, scenes of contemporary children and symbols from various religions all have a home on these pages. Ray's by-now familiar folk art motifs and flecks of gold paint throughout give her work added vibrance. Ages 9-up. (Dec.)
Children's Literature - Dr. Judy Rowen
The four ancient elements are celebrated in this book. The text is an incoherent blend of new age mysticism, natural history, mythology, and ecological hand wringing. The paintings are marvelous, enlivened with gold tinting throughout.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-6A celebration of the magic of earth, fire, water, and air, as well as a plea to readers to right the wrongs progress has wrought on the environment. After a philosophical overview, Hoffman offers stories and images from both Western and non-Western traditions. Each of four sections begins with an introduction to an element and concludes with a look at ways in which modern society has abused it, emphasizing the need for positive strategies to correct these ills. In between are brief pieces that view the element through religious ideas, mythology, and natural disasters and phenomena. Each selection is simple and to the point. Occasional poems, e.g., Carl Sandburg's "Buffalo Dusk" or a Navajo rain chant, give an added dimension to the text. Ray's folk-art pastel and watercolor paintings are especially intriguing. Intricately detailed and illuminated with touches of gold, they provide a cross-cultural panorama of people and creatures throughout the ages, and their symbolism enriches the text. Unfortunately, there are no suggestions for further reading, glossary, or index. Nevertheless, this title will serve as a useful beginning sampler, particularly when in the hands of an adult who can lead an appropriate discussion to expand the basic text.Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
Susan Dove Lempke
Hoffman combines history, meteorology, religion, mythology, poetry, ecology, and her own opinions in a highly readable mix. After an introduction discussing the way ancient cultures sorted people out by their resemblance to each of the four elements, she takes each element separately. The water section, for example, includes pages on water as a source of life, on the animals living in it, on Christian miracles associated with it and, on its place in other world religious traditions, such as the Great Flood and Atlantis. She encourages readers to "join in the song of earth" by getting in closer touch with the elements rather than remaining in their insulated houses. Ray's paintings magnificently enhance Hoffman's message with delicate details, intense colors (she changes her palette for each element), and her characteristic glints of gold embellishing each page. Any book tackling such an all-encompassing subject is likely to make small missteps (for instance, Native Americans are sometimes lumped together, and angels are not exclusive to Christianity), but few books for children attempt the richness of ideas and pictures found here.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st American ed
Product dimensions:
10.68(w) x 10.66(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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