This "Myths of the World" series offers middle school and teen readers a look at the mythology of several ancient cultures in an appealing format with beautiful and well-chosen color illustrations. Starting with an introduction to world mythology, each volume presents a section about one civilization that includes a lovely watercolor map of their territory and continues to a second part that narrates important myths from original sources. In this book, readers will learn something of the harsh Scandinavian landscape and way of life, the ancient Norse concept of nine worlds held together by the ash tree Yggdrasil, and principal Scandinavian gods--the Aesirs: Odin, Frigg, Thor, Tyr, Balder and the Vanirs: Frey, Freya, and Idun. Author Schomp reshapes the stories adeptly, sometimes adopting an ancient voice ("The Norsemen Speak"), as in the myth "For the Honor of Thor." For example, shape-shifter Loki features prominently as a troublemaker and trickster in "Idun and the Magic Apples." The myths are accompanied throughout by photos of medieval prints, stone carvings, and modern paintings (one by William Blake and another by Edvard Munch), though most of the striking modern works, including drawings by English illustrator C. E. Brock, are not identified by artist and date. Special features include a list of books, films, and music influenced by Viking mythology, a discussion of the poetic and prose Eddas as sources, and a bibliography of books and websites that captivated readers can explore further (one might add Rosemary Sutcliff's novel, Blood Feud). Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
Appealing introductions to four world mythologies. Each title begins with a historical look at the region where the myths originated and the people who told them. Because of this approach, Native Americans is the least successful of the set, given the wide range and variety of traditions that spread across North America. The author often states how diverse the cultures were and follows that statement with a generalization; she focuses on the past tense, giving little indication that these myths are still a part of vibrant cultures that are active today. Those flaws aside, her collection spans the continent, giving a variety of tales from different locales. Greeks, Norsemen, and Egyptians are far better in their history sections, and all four books are illustrated with full-color period, classical, and contemporary artworks of the myths and cultures from which they come. All four titles feature full-page sidebars of text from original sources, which are wonderful, but are badly placed and often interrupt the flow of the retellings. Still, students who have their interest peaked will be able to follow up and read other works. With their beautiful illustrations, high-quality production, and focus on source material, the books should whet the interest of readers so that they will seek out more mythology on their own.
Alana AbbottCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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