YA-A simple and diverse collection of stories that explain how things found in nature came to be. The selections are broken into five categories: "Spirits of the Trees and Flowers," "Creatures Great and Small," "Tales from the Heavens," "The Makings of Earth," and "The Nature of Things." None of the myths is more than three pages long. Each one is preceded by a short introduction that expounds upon or expands the tale. The 60 selections come from a variety of ethnic groups on most continents although South America is not represented. Many of the tales can be found in other sources but these read well. Because of the large number of cultures included and the smooth style of the retellings, this volume is a valuable addition.-Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
A collection of uneven, though always provocative, creation myths from all corners of the globe, by science and nature writer Ferguson (Walking Down the Wind, not reviewed).
Ferguson succinctly retells 60 creation stories, fashioned by ancients in times now long gone, that served to explain the mysterious ways of nature. As works of sheer invention, these exuberant, mythopoetic, often violent tales serve to show just how much remains beyond our sphere of knowledge. What do we really know about the northern lights? Discussions of sunspots and events in the ionosphere have little more credence, and a lot less poetry, than the Swedish story of the wingbeats of frozen swans. The tales are mostly wonderful, obliquely hinting at human foibles: Why tulips rock in the breeze (Celtic), why the red bilberry is evergreen (Mongolia), the forces behind the origins of the Milky Way (Vietnam), the sun (Australia), and rainbows (Philippines). A few are leaden, such as the unimaginative "When the Sun Married the Moon" (Togo), and the strangely self-satisfied boasting of "The Beaches of Taranaki" (New Zealand). Ferguson prefaces each of the stories with an all-too-brief introductory comment, enough to pique the reader's curiosity, but also frustrating: Why was the wren so important to the Irish, the frog to the Koreans? Why did a particular place give rise to a particular tale? Ferguson doesn't probe deeply enough. Nor does he attempt to give the stories a distinct cultural or regional flavor: Each and every tale is delivered in the same lyric timbre, a sort of Euro-fairy-tale style that frequently begins "In days all but forgotten" or "A long time ago," whether the story came from Burma, Canada, or Sierra Leone.
A raft of fabulous stories, but without context they lose much of their magic.