Book reviews - myths, legends & traditional tales (page 1)

On this page we have reviewed some of the best new books about, or based on, myths, legends, fables, folklore, fairy tales and traditional stories. Sometimes, the distinction between these and fiction is blurred, so the placing of books in this section is a personal choice. There are books here to appeal to everyone, so please take a look.

Pattan's Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar

Pattan's Pumpkin is an Indian flood story. When Pattan plants and nurtures a plant, it grows and becomes a huge pumpkin that is bigger than the goats, bigger than the elephants and reaches the summit of the mountain. In a tale reminiscent of the flood story from the Bible, a tremendous storm arrives and the waters rise, Pattan’s quick thinking and imagination help him devise a clever plan that enables him to rescue the whole village from impending disaster. The vivid and striking illustrations by Frane Lessac bring the story to life with dramatic detail and lovely depictions of people and animals. Beautifully told, this reads aloud to perfection and is an interesting addition to a library of myths and legends.

The Dragon's Hoard: Stories from the Viking Sagas by Lari Don

These Viking stories are perhaps less well-known than some other traditional tales, but with their excitement and colourful characters, they match up to the best. The book includes 11 superbly retold stories from the Viking Sagas, full of all the excitement warriors and battles, heroes and heroines, Berserkers, monsters and zombies bring, along with a special touch of magic and fantasy. The stories are: The Dragon's Hoard; The Swan Warrior; The Berserker's Baby; Tusker versus the Earl; The Bear in Chains; The Raven Banner; The Boy in the Bones; Sailing to America; The Zombie on the Roof; Hunting Magnus and Odinâ's Riddles. Cate James' beautiful illustrations, many of them full-page, are real works of art and enhance the stories wonderfully. For children learning about the Vikings in KS2 history, these stories are an excellent background resource, bringing characters and events to life.

Sleeping Beauty: A Mid-Century Fairy Tale by David Roberts and Lynn Roberts

Sleeping Beauty - but not as you have ever seen her before! Annabel lives in the 1950s and dreams of a future with jetpacks, flying cars and robots. The world of the 1950s is excellently visualised by dress and furnishings, giving a lovely nostalgic feel. But Annabel is living under a curse that could mean she has no future at all... When the curse is fulfilled on her 16th birthday and she falls asleep for 1000 years, her house is overgrown by a magnificent rose tree. A young explorer called Zoe discovers the story of Sleeping Beauty, by using the library. Can she find Annabel in time to lift the curse and show her what the future actually looks like? It's a lovely twist on the classic tale and the key message is that libraries are still as important 1000 years in the future. Gloriously illustrated, this is a lovely tale.

Lost Tales (The Phoenix Presents) by Adam Murphy

This book combines little-known folk tales with the medium of comic strips to bring the tales to the attention of a whole new audience who may never pick up these tales in traditional format - but once they have been enticed in, hopefully they will realise there is a whole world of wonderful stories out there just waiting to be read. In the land of the Mi'kmaq, there lived an invisible warrior who longed to be seen. In the Punjab, there lived a poor hermit who renounced riches. In Brazil, there lived a lonely princess who yearned for a playmate... and there are five more tales to explore. The stories are superbly told through comic strips with brilliantly detailed illustrations, speech bubbles and excellent story-telling.

Cool Mythology: Filled with Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages by Malcolm Croft

You know from the title that this book will be written with real appeal for children. It covers the main world mythologies, including Sumerian, Incan, African, Native American, African, Egyptian, Persian, Hindu, Norse, Greek and Roman. A range of creation myths from different cultures are the appropriate start to the book and it includes fantastical creatures from worlds old and new. It explores mythological places like Atlantis and various versions of the afterlife. Ancient myths are still relevant to today's society, explaining traditions and giving lasting moral lessons. As presented in this book, myths are entertaining adventures that connect us to the past - .this book is the ideal way to get a brief introduction to a wide range of myths across the ages and around the world. Both language and layout are well designed to attract and keep children's attention.

The Adventures of Prince Camar and Princess Badoura (Arabian Nights Adventures) from Harpendore

In this lesser-known tale, a young prince defies his father and is banished to a draughty old abandoned tower. A beautiful princess turns away all her suitors and so is confined to her chambers inside a magnificent palace of jewels. Thanks to the antics of two magic genies, the royal pair meet one night as they sleep – and are magically transported back to their own beds before morning. But was it a real encounter or an enchanted dream? Attractive black and white illustrations embellish the book and add to the atmospheric story. "The Arabian Nights (also known as The One Thousand and One Nights) is an ancient collection of tales that have existed for thousands of years. Harpendore's Arabian Nights Adventures are beautifully retold versions of these ancient classics that are specially designed to appeal to children aged seven years and above. They are written in a warm and accessible style and include wonderful illustrations inside. With mischief and magic in equal measure, this series is sure to captivate readers everywhere." Harpendore is a new children’s publisher with a great line up of titles for 2016 - keep an eye on their website to see what's coming along soon.

Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp (Arabian Nights Adventures) from Harpendore

Possibly the best-known of the stories, this familiar tale is excellently told in a way that will really engage readers. Aladdin is a poor boy who lives with his mother in the ancient kingdom of Cathay. One day a strange man appears offering untold riches! Aladdin is not so sure, yet he's sorely tempted. Join Aladdin on his incredible adventures and visit the cave of treasures. A world of magic awaits you, but watch your step – there’s mischief lurking at every turn! The third book to be published is Gulnare of the Sea (Arabian Nights Adventures). A mysterious lady is brought to the palace of a great sultan, but she utters not a word and does nothing but stare at the sea – all day, every day. As her story unfolds we are treated to a sumptuous tale of sorcery, enchantment, magical transformations and adventure. There are 13 promised altogether, so look out for them all during 2016/7. KS2 and early KS3 teachers of English, history, geography, citizenship, RE, art and drama wishing to include a multi-cultural dimension into their lesson plans will find these books a real asset.

Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr

Deep in the woods was a little white wooden house, with nine neat windows and a red front door. A little mouse decides it will make the perfect home, so he sets to cleaning it... then along hops a frog who is also looking for a home... then a rabbit... and a beaver... but the final straw is a big bear who is just too much for the little house. Bear is sad when he makes the house tumble down, but he soon thinks of a way to make everyone happy. The illustrations are stand-out - almost fluorescent in colour, their brightness makes a refreshing change and puts a new slant on an old tale. This retelling of a classic Russian folk tale is a perfect example of friendship and working together to resolve problems

Fairy World by Stella Caldwell

This superbly presented book takes us on an enticing journey into a world of magic, mystery and enchantment; it's a perfect gift for anyone interested in the fairy realm. These are not the pretty pink fairies of children's fiction; these range from natural fairies such as Sylphs, Flower fairies and Nymphs to evil tricksters such as Banshee and Boggart. Many of the fairies depicted will be familiar from classical paintings and literature. This stunning gift book is superbly illustrated with photos and drawings and is divided into chapters which contain beautiful spreads and descriptions about a range of fairies. The illustrations include curious objects and rare specimens gathered from the field. It's a fascinating book which will enthrall readers of all ages.

Irish Legends: Newgrange, Tara & the Boyne Valley by Eithne Massey

Ireland is a land rich in myth and magic so any book of Irish legends is calling on fertile sources. These are stories inspired by the Boyne Valley from long, long ago, part of an ancient oral tradition, handed down from generation to generation and written down by the Christian monks of medieval Ireland and here retold in an accessible and easy to read format for young readers. The six varied legends in this book are How the Boyne was born; Fionn’s first adventures; The battle of the hags; How Aengus tricked the Dagda; Art’s quest beyond the seas and The magic branch. Beautifully illustrated, this is a good collection of stories which are perfect to read aloud.

Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: Discover the Wonders of Ancient Greek Myths by Selene Nicolaides

Retold in superb emotive language, the world of Ancient Greece is brought to life in a way that will capture children's attention, leaving them spellbound at the exploits. The amazing CGI artwork has a huge impact, conveying the magnificence and wonder of the ancient world brilliantly. Throughout the book, the reader will marvel at the array of treasures 
displayed, and the stories that these artefacts tell. It's perfect to complement the KS2 teaching of Ancient Greece and children can't fail to be drawn into the history by the captivating storytelling and superb illustrations. All the well-known stories are here, but the selection is wide-ranging and includes many less familiar, but nonetheless exciting, tales. A beautiful book.

Jaya's Golden Necklace: A Silk Road Tale by Peter Linenthal

Jaya is on a very important mission from the King when she encounters the deities Shiva, Inanna, and Hercules who appear from gold coins on her mother's precious golden necklace. They help Jaya achieve her goal and discover strengths she didn't know she had. Jaya's Golden Necklace is the first children's book to tell of the origin and cultural roots of the beloved Buddha image. A story of East and West, it teaches lessons and entertains while also opening a door into Asian culture. Set along the Silk Road, Jaya's journey highlights the interconnected and multicultural worlds of yesterday and today. This engaging, fast-moving tale of empowerment will help children relate better to the powerful beings in human history's rich religions and myths. It also conveys the independence, resilience, and creativity that make Jaya a true heroine for today.

Vasilisa the Beautiful: A Russian Folktale by Anna Morgunova

When Vasilisa’s mother dies, she leaves behind a magical doll to look after Vasilisa in times of distress. And distress is close at hand when Vasilisa’s father remarries, and her new stepmother and stepsisters send her on an errand to the terrifying witch Baba Yaga, who has an appetite for anything that enters the deep, dark forest. But with her fearlessness and her magical doll, Vasilisa not only passes Baba Yaga’s arduous tests, but she also obtains the magic she needs to free herself from a life of servitude. This enchanting retelling of a classic Russian folk tale is brought to spectacular life by Anna Morgunova’s breathtaking art.

The Princess and the Pea (Classic Fairy Tale Collection) by John Cech

Despite meeting many young ladies blessed with beauty, wealth and brains, the prince knows in his heart that none is the true princess he longs for. Then, one stormy night, a wet, dishevelled and very weary young woman knocks at the castle door. The prince's mother knows there is just one way to check whether she is fit to be his queen, so she has a very special bed created with one tiny pea buried underneath 20 soft mattresses. A true princess will still feel the pea - and so she did. Bernhard Oberdieck's stunning images, with their soft colour and unusual perspectives, capture all the fantasy and romance of Andersen's appealing tale in this beautifully produced book. Published by Sterling, December 2015, ISBN 978-1454916789.

Queen Guinevere: and other stories from the court of King Arthur (Classics) by Mary Hoffman

These stories are based on Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, but they bring us a new perspective on the tales, as they are told in the first person from the viewpoint of eight women. Determined and resourceful, they drive the Camelot story through love, hate, intrigue, enchantment and tragedy as, one by one, their voices come swirling out of the mists of time to tell their stories. The striking illustrations by Christina Balit form side panels on most pages, as well as full pages; this is unusual and effective. Dramatically told, these stories are excellent for reading aloud and they really bring these strong characters to life.

The Arabian Nights (Classics) by Robert Leeson

These Classics books from Frances Lincoln are highly collectable - beautifully produced hardbacks, superbly illustrated and with stories we should all know and appreciate. This is a varied selection of tales from The Arabian Nights (some well-known, others less so) which gives us an excellent idea of the range of these stories. The collection ranges from well-loved tales of treasure, magical power and quick wits (Aladdin, The Fisherman and the Jinni, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) to hilarious romps (The Woman with Five Suitors, The Story of the Hunchback, The Sleeper and the Waker); it includes a magical romance (The Ebony Horse), and also a scattering of spiced sweetmeats (The Dream, The Donkey). Christina Balit's splendidly decorative illustrations together with a glossary and sources, create a classic that will enthrall readers young and old. A Beautiful book.

The Orchard Book of Bedtime Fairy Tales by Helen Craig

10 favourite fairy tales are included in this anthology to delight family members young and old. Children will enjoy the well-told stories and adults will relish the beautiful illustrations which are alive with fascinating details. I think my favourite has to be the river of soup from The Magic Cooking Pot, as it flows through the village, sending everyone scurrying for shelter - and taking a few with it on its way. Other stories include The Gingerbread Man, Lazy Jack and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Perfect for sharing at bedtime and make sure you take the time to share the pictures and talk about them too - they are really delightful.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

This hardback cloth-bound edition with its unusual and appealing elongated shape is a joy to read. Hans Christian Andersen's magical tale of friendship and adventure is retold through the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Cloth-bound in deep blue, with silver foil embellishments, The Snow Queen is a unique work of art. Unusual and captivating.

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson learned the story of Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, as part of the Iroquois oral tradition. Now he shares the same gift of storytelling with a new generation. Hiawatha was a strong and articulate Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker's message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message united the tribes; changed how they were governed and even had an impact on the US constitution. Illustrated with remarkable oil paintings by David Shannon, this book brings us a fascinating new look at Hiawatha. It includes a CD featuring an original song written and performed by musician and songwriter Robbie Robertson. A beautiful book, both for its artwork and for the highly descriptive storytelling.

The Crow's Tale by Naomi Howarth

They say 'don't judge a book by its cover' but in a literal sense, we so often do just that, and in that case, this book comes out with flying colours. The colourful bird on the cover is simply beautiful, as are all the illustrations, many of which flow over two pages in glorious detail. The story, told through lyrical rhyme, is set in the depths of winter, with snow falling and the animals freezing and starving. Brave Crow sets out on a dangerous journey to find the Sun, and beg for warmth. Will Crow succeed, and what will happen to his colourful rainbow feathers? Inspired by a Lenape Native American myth, this beautiful debut picture book shows how courage and kindness are what really matter, not outward appearances - although what looks dull on first glance, can hide real beauty. A new talent to watch out for.

Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr

Deep in the woods is a little wooden house, with nine neat windows and a red front door, which will, the little mouse thinks, make a perfect home. But he's not the only one, as so do the other animals in the wood and gradually the house fills up and is full of happiness. Then a great big bear comes along, determined to squeeze into (and onto) the house - with disastrous results! Bear is sad and resolves to make it up to the animals - and there's a very happy ending.This is a beautifully illustrated retelling of a classic Russian folk tale, Teremok. It makes stunning use of colour - the zingy fluorescent pink shines out of the book, which also boasts a lovely cloth cover.

Magic!: New Fairy Tales from Irish Writers edited by Siobhan Parkinson

Seven top Irish writers have come together to write brand new fairy tales for the 21st century. These stories still include the traditional elements such as ogres, queens and princesses, mermaids, dragons and many more. All are interwoven with the magic and wisdom we expect to find in fairy tales, but with a contemporary note. This is a spellbinding collection of contemporary writing, beautifully and decoratively illustrated with Olwyn Whelan’s jewel-like, brightly coloured paintings. The stories are: The Princess and the Other Frog by Siobhan Parkinson; Eleanor by John Boyne; Badness, Madness and Trickery by Malachy Doyle; Finbar the Furious by Paula Leyden; The Woman who Stroked Stones by Maeve Friel; The Princess who Wanted to be Queen by Deirdre Sullivan; Nora and the Sky Snake by Darragh Martin.

Rama and the Demon King by Jessica Souhami

Banished by his jealous stepmother, Prince Rama has lived in the forest for 14 years, with his beautiful wife Sita and his loyal brother Lakshaman. Rama has triumphed over the demons that dwell there and the three live a simple, peaceful life among the forest animals. But their peaceful life is under threat - the ten-headed King of the Demons vows to take revenge. Dramatic illustrations are adapted from the author's own shadow puppets which in turn are based on Indian paintings; these bring a real authenticity to the story. This 3000 year old story is still appealing today, especially when, as here, it is retold in such an exuberant style.

A-Maze-ing Minotaur by Juliet Rix

King Minos keeps the Minotaur in the Labyrinth beneath his castle. Every nine years he is fed seven young men and seven young girls from Athens; nobody ever finds their way out of the Labyrinth. Theseus vows to kill the Minotaur and, armed with his sword and a ball of golden thread, he enters the Labyrinth. The reader can share with him in this adventure - can you spot where the Minotaur is lurking and follow the thread through the real maze to help Theseus escape? This exciting presentation with stunning illustrations by Juliet Snape, gets the reader really involved and makes the traditional tale really engaging.

The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales by Shoshana Gelfand Boyd

Some books are books to treasure, and this is one such. This collection includes eight tales from the Jewish tradition; tales which are relevant to each one of us, regardless of belief, because the questions it explores are relevant to us all.  Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand is a mother of three, so she knows just what appeals to families. The simple but important messages are ideal to share as a family, and the two CDs included in the book give an additional opportunity to listen and enjoy. A book for home, for school and for faith groups, all of whom will appreciate the simple wisdom and relevance of the stories. Amanda Hall's illustrations have been beautifully crafted with reference to Jewish traditions and they complement the feel of the book perfectly; the page borders add a nice touch. The section at the end on signs and symbols helps our understanding of Jewish traditions.

Who is King?Ten Magical Stories from Africa by Beverley Naidoo

Ten lively stories from across the continent are included in this unusual collection of stories about animals of all kinds. Who really is King of the jungle? Find out what happens to Lion when he challenges Elephant and discovers who is the real king of the savannah; laugh along with Tortoise as he bewitches the animals in Tiger's work-party with his irresistible music; find out why Hippo has no hair, how Elephant got his trunk, and why Cockerel crows and many more. They are just as enchanting as many better-known stories and they are perfect to read aloud. The stories are perfectly matched by Piet Grobler's delicately detailed illustrations.

The Patua Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

This unusual and attractive retelling of the well-loved story is a quintessentially Indian version. It features art from the Patua scroll tradition of Bengal, India, by Swarna Chitrakar accompanying Carlo Collodi's original story abridged from Carol Della Chiesa's well-known English translation. The differing elements come together really well to produce a coherent and highly enjoyable version which stands out from the norm. It is the story of a wooden marionette who escapes his fate and has many adventures, including a stint at sea in the stomach of a shark. A lovely gift book and one to cherish, beautifully produced in hardback with high quality paper which shows the illustrations to full advantage.

Red Riding Hood (Storyteller Book) by Lesley Young

Little Red Riding Hood is on her way through the woods - and close behind is a hungry wolf. There are many diversions on the way in this enjoyable re-telling of the old favourite. Our heroine helps keep a calf warm, helps the miller, rescues a duck - all with the help of her trusty red cloak. The wolf is never far behind, though... and the fairytale takes its familiar course - with an unusual ending. It's a lovely fresh retelling told with a light touch and accompanied by detailed water-colour illustrations which are a real delight.

The Classic Collection of Fairy Tales: From the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen

These are classic stories which every child (and adult) should know. They have withstood the test of time which shows just how important and timeless they are. 24 popular tales are retold for the today's reader in clear and enjoyable language which retains all the magic of the original stories. This is a beautifully produced hardback book (it's excellent value too - I had to double-check the price!) with delicate and intricate illustrations by Cathie Shuttleworth. The pictures are a delight - they perfectly reflect the mood of each story. Every page has a detailed border and gold embellishments to the pictures. There are 12 tales from Hans Christian Andersen and 12 from The Brothers Grimm, carefully selected to ensure all the old favourites are included. A book to treasure and to form an essential part of a well-rounded family library.

The Children's Book of Myths and Legends by Ronne Randall

The myths and legends in this book come from many different cultures all over the world. They are simple retellings - just one double-page spread each, and that includes two or more illustrations for each story. In fact, the illustrations are a really big part of the appeal of this book and they really set the scene for the story; a lot of information can be derived from them. The stories are perfect as an introduction to these wonderful tales of adventure, myth, magic and mystery from around the world and are perfect for reading together or for new readers to try themselves. Hopefully, they will be enthralled by these tales just as generations have before them, and will be inspired to go on and read fuller versions. The book is divided into Beginnings, The Heavens and the Elements, Love and Marriage, Gods and Goddesses, Heroic Deeds, Growth and Rebirth, and Death and Endings, making for a logical sequence which adds to the pleasure of reading.

Classic Folk Tales: 80 Traditional Stories from Around the World by Nicola Baxter

For anyone who wants to introduce children to the fantastic world of much-loved traditional tales, here is the ideal book. Each story is simply told on a single page - just the right length to share and enjoy together. The illustrations are outstanding - the bottom quarter of every page is an illustration of the story and there's another picture woven into the text. The book is divided into chapters on The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania - perfect for busy teachers looking for stories to support classroom work. The characters you will meet are as varied as the countries they come from, whether the icy Arctic or the steamy rainforest. You will meet wise baboons and foolish merchants, beautiful maidens and ugly trolls. There are funny tales, magical tales, love stories and adventures. Retold for children, this book is perfect for reading together or for new readers to enjoy by themselves - a lovely introduction to these superb stories.

A Storyteller Book Sleeping Beauty by Lesley Young

This book, along with the three titles above, is published by Anness Publishing. The quality and range of their books is quire remarkable - I am blown away by it. "Behind a hedge of tangled thorns, a palace sleeps, under the powerful spell of a wicked fairy - inside is Sleeping Beauty, waiting for the kiss of a handsome prince to awaken her from her long enchantment..." I love this re-telling - it remains true to the origib]nal but introduces some nice touches of humour which will appeal to young readers. The bright, charming pictures by illustrator Jenny Press are a key feature of the book and they have been very carefully matched to the text. This paperback book is produced on nigh quality glossy paper - a delight to read.

King Midas (Silver Penny Stories) by Kathleen Olmstead

King Midas is basically a kind man, but he is also a greedy man. So, when he is offered a wish, he asks that everything he touches turns to gold. But we know, of course, that leads to terrible consequences - but happily, all is put right and the king comes to appreciate what really matters. This small format book with full page illustrations and attractive binding is one of a series - a lovely way to build up a set of well loved stories. Published by Sterling January 2015, 978-1402783463

The Orchard Book Of Aesop's Fables by Michael Morpurgo

Just when it seems that there are plenty of versions of Aesop's Fables, along comes another one which is a definite asset. These retellings by Michael Morpurgo are simply told yet capture the essence of the fables perfectly and succinctly. Emma Chichester Clark's simple, almost naive at times, drawings are attractive in their simplicity and encourage the reader to visualise the characters for herself. A good number of fables too - over 20, so there are familiar and less well known ones to enjoy. An ideal gift book.

Aesop's Fables (The Classics) by Beverley Naidoo

I was blown away by the loveliness of the illustrations in this gorgeous book. I just had to flick right through and enjoy them all before settling down to read the fables. And I wasn't disappointed - the quality of the storytelling is equally captivating. There are 16 fables here, ranging from the well known to those which are much less familiar; what sets the book apart is the fact that they are portrayed in an African setting - and the illustrations reflect this too. This adds a new level of interest to the familiar and the end result is superb.

The Unhappy Stonecutter: A Japanese Folk Tale (Folk Tales From Around the World) by Charlotte Guillain

This traditional Japanese folk tale book tells the story of the Unhappy Stonecutter, who wishes for many things but is glad to finally go back to the way things were. The moral is that you should count your blessings and be grateful for what you already have, instead of always wanting more. Japanese style illustrations give the tale the right atmosphere and the story is well told.

The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff

Rosemary Sutcliff brought to her retellings, not just the gift of an excellent storyteller, but also a real insight into the period through her own knowledge and interest. The Odyssey was written by Homer and is the story of Odysseus's ten-year-long voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Along the way, Odysseus and his men have to fight monsters and many other dangers, giving a really exciting tale for children to enjoy. Rosemary Sutcliff's books captivated me as a child and her narrative style is still just as enjoyable. The tales are excellently illustrated by Alan Lee.

The Iliad by Rosemary Sutcliff

This companion volume tells of the Trojan War, with all its familiar tales and well-known heroes. Again, it is a superb retelling that matches in excitement any modern day stories. Alan Lee's delicate yet powerful illustrations are full of rich detail and convey the excitement of the tales. What better way to encourage children to love books than through great literature, vividly retold and beautifully illustrated? Frances Lincoln bring us some superlative retellings of myths and legends, always beautifully presented in books that are a joy to read and to treasure.

Tales from Grimm (Classics) by Antonia Barber

What better way to interest children in myths and legends than through compelling storytelling combined with superlative illustrations? Frances Lincoln do this so well and I was thrilled to see four new books which will certainly encourage children to enjoy these tales. This beautiful gift edition is a book to share and treasure; among the 12 much-loved favourites are The Frog Prince, Rapunzel and The Golden Goose. The retellings are lively and perfect to read aloud - but make sure you share Margaret Chamberlain's detailed illustrations with your audience.

Tales from Hans Christian Andersen (Classics) by Naomi Lewis

Nine classic stories are retold for today's children in an evocative and atmospheric way - the story of The Little Match Girl shows this perfectly as we share in her sad and lonely life - and not-so-lonely death. Emma Chichester Clark's outstanding illustrations capture the spirit of the stories brilliantly and the details really add to the feel of the book. Another anthology which will be treasured and which makes a perfect gift with its high-end production.

Greek Myths: Stories of Sun, Stone and Sea (Classics) by Sally Pomme Clayton

Children studying the Ancient Greeks in KS2 really do need to know the myths which are such a key part of the culture of these Ancient people - and this book is perfect, especially for reading aloud! Atalanta, Medusa, Perseus, Pandora, Pegasus are just some of the well-known characters in this collection. The storytelling is lively and gripping and the vivid illustrations by Jane Ray are the perfect complement. Usefully, the book includes a map showing places in Greece that are connected with the stories. Another one to treasure.

The Romans: Gods, Emperors and Dormice by Marcia Williams

Jewel-bright colours reflect the richness of the culture of Ancient Rome in another stunningly illustrated collection of stories from Frances Lincoln - this time in a humorous retelling of the rise and fall of Ancient Rome. Perfect for KS2 children studying Ancient Rome, this will give a fascinating insight into the period in an eminently readable and enjoyable format. The cartoon-style illustrations march through the pages bringing the Romans to life and giving a new perspective. Who can fail to be enthralled by narrative of this calibre, told through the eyes of Dormeo (gladiator, dormouse and berry nibbler) who takes the reader on an exciting journey enlivened by his comments throughout.

Breaking the Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery from Scotland by Lari Don

Frances Lincoln excel in many areas but to me their books on myths and legends really stand out. This is a lovely collection of stories and it's excellent to see a collection of Scottish stories - some are familiar but many are less well-known. Lari Don retells the stories in a skilful way which brings them alive for young readers. She is a storyteller who works with schools throughout Scotland and these tales have evolved as she retells them, giving them a real living vibrancy. The illustrations by Cate James capture the feel of the stories and make the characters come alive for the reader. A super collection, one to treasure and an excellent resource for reading aloud.

A-Maze-ing Minotaur by Juliet Rix

King Minos keeps the Minotaur in the Labyrinth beneath his castle. Every nine years he is fed seven young men and seven young girls from Athens; nobody ever finds their way out of the Labyrinth. Theseus vows to kill the Minotaur and, armed with his sword and a ball of golden thread, he enters the Labyrinth. The reader can share with him in this adventure - can you spot where the Minotaur is lurking and follow the thread to help Theseus escape? This exciting presentation with stunning illustrations by Juliet Snape, gets the reader really involved and makes the traditional tale really engaging.

Goldilocks on CCTV by John Agard

30 wonderful poems loosely based on well-known fairy tales and legends. Wickedly witty, deliciously subversive and utterly modern, the poems are also affectionate and big-hearted tributes to the original tales and characters that inspired them. This is a sizzling new collection from a master poet, portrayed with verve by Satoshi Kitamura's extraordinary black-and-white illustrations. Children will love this humorous take on tradition with titles such as Dwarf Rap, The Cloning of Red Riding Hoodie and The Golden Goose Talent Show. Great fun and a good way to encourage children to look again at these tales.

Frog Prince: The Story of the Frog Prince as told by the Frog (The Other Side of the Story) by Nancy Loewen

We all know the regular version of the story, but now's the chance to see it from the Frog's point of view. This is an excellent device to get children thinking 'out of the box', challenging preconceptions, encouraging them to use their imaginations and put themselves in the place of others. "OF COURSE you think I needed a kiss from a beautiful princess to end my "toadally" awful curse. You don t know the other side of the story. Well, let me tell you ..." The bold contemporary illustrations give a whole new perspective.

The Mahabharatha: A Child's View by Samhita Arni

The Mahabharatha is an Indian epic poem which tells of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes. Not an easy work to adapt into a form suitable for children but Samhita Arni's re-telling - written when she was just twelve years old (the book includes an interesting account of how she came to write it) - has produced a compelling narrative that I think would be especially good for reading aloud. The work as a whole adopts a somewhat critical although thought-provoking attitude towards the epic's main theme of war. Illustrated with charming and intricate line drawings, this book offers a fresh and accessible perspective on this timeless myth and a welcome and unusual addition to any collection of world myths.

Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings retold by Elizabeth Laird

Frances Lincoln produce some wonderful versions of traditional tales and this is another to treasure - an ideal gift and a lovely keepsake. The Shahnameh is a collection of stories and myths from ancient Iran - kings, heroes, princesses, magical animals and demons are all here. Written as an epic poem by the poet Ferdowsi in the 10th century, it is one of the great classics of Persian literature. Maybe less well-known than many of the ancient writings, it gives an enticing insight into an ancient culture, and the lyrical retelling is a delight to read aloud. The vibrant borders give every page the feel of an illuminated manuscript.

The God Beneath The Sea by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen

Classic and timeless re-tellings in story form of some of the most exciting Greek legends. From newborn Hephaestus (the god of the title) the stories continue with myths of the Olympians and the age of gods and mortals, finally reaching Hephaestus returning to Olympus. Lyrical story telling which is suitably complemented by Charles Keeping's black and white illustrations; one of the best ever versions, imaginative and lively. Slight reservation - disappointingly, this is quite expensive for a paperback - it's a book which would make a lovely gift in hardback.

Philip Pullman's Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp illus by Ian Beck

This is a lovely version in paperback of the traditional story which will appeal to people of all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed it - it's an inspired re-telling that remains totally true to the spirit of the original yet manages to bring a freshness that makes a delight out of re-reading an old favourite. Glorious language tells the story of a naughty and rather gullible boy and his magic lamp with plenty of quirky pieces of humour. Are wishes all they promise to be? Ian Beck's silhouette-style illustrations against coloured backgrounds are unusual and effective.

Treasury Of Egyptian Mythology (National Geographic Kids) by Donna Jo Napoli

We can learn so much about a people from their myths and legends, so for anyone who wants a greater understanding of the Ancient Egyptians, this will be an excellent resource. Beautifully retold and stunningly illustrated, the characters are brought to life to entrance the reader. The information boxes provide relevant historical, cultural, and geographic context which makes the stories more meaningful. Many of the stories are lesser-known so give a new perspective and increased level of interest and making this book a good complement to others. Perfect background reading for children studying Ancient Egypt in KS2 as well as for anyone with an interest in mythology. A beautiful book.

Classic Starts The Iliad retold from the Homer original

The Iliad in an accessible retelling is a good way for young readers to become familiar with the epic tale of the Trojan War. The Iliad is Homer's exciting account set in the Trojan War about the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by the Greeks and the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles. This retelling is good for readers of around 7 to 9, who will find it a surprisingly engrossing account, full of excitement - a good introduction. Published by Sterling January 2014, ISBN 9781454906124.

Stories From Scotland: Oxford Children's Myths and Legends by Barbara Ker Wilson

It's excellent for children to have an overview of myths and legends, not just from their own country but from neighbouring countries too - often, they will be surprised to find many similar tales from around the world; look at the story of The Fox and the Bannock for example. Myths and legends are thrilling and full of excitement and this collection is no exception. Barbara Kerr Wilson has retold tales of Tam Lin the elfin knight, MacCodrum of the Seals and many more - all compellingly told and perfect for reading aloud and sharing.

The Odyssey retold by Gillian Cross

It's all too easy to be put off reading such a book as The Odyssey, thinking it will be dry and boring, but far from it in this excellent retelling by Gillian Cross. Follow Odysseus on his epic voyage as he returns from the Trojan War to his homeland of Ithaca. It's an exciting and perilous journey with encounters with the man-eating Cyclops, the evil sorceress Circe, a magical fruit, deadly Sirens and even the wrath of the sea-god Poseidon. It's the stuff of great adventures and children can't fail to be enthralled. Add to this Neil Packer’s stunningly imaginative illustrations and you have a book to cherish, to read over and over again - the tales never stale. A perfect class reader and an excellent opportunity for teachers to inspire a love for this classic story. It captures the spirit of the story in a way that will entrance readers young and old.

The Orchard Book of Greek Myths by Geraldine McCaughrean

A reissue of a book published 21 years ago, this is a collection of marvellous retellings of many of the best-known Greek myths. The magic and mystery of the myths shines through in these lively stories which are dramatically and excitingly told in a way which appeals to children. Whether read aloud or for children to read for themselves, the stories will grip and extend the imagination. And children's imaginations will be extended further by Emma Chichester Clark's delightful illustrations which are particularly good at expressing emotion and helping the reader to see just what is going to happen next. Faithful retellings which will stimulate and engage children and have them wanting to return over and again.

Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo

Whether he is telling his own stories or re-telling stories, Michael Morpurgo's deft touch with words never fails and he is at his best with these traditional tales. In 5th century Denmark, a murderous monster stalks the night, and only the great prince of the Geats has the strength and courage to defeat him. Beowulf's terrifying quest to destroy Grendel, the foul fiend, a hideous sea-hag and a monstrous fire-dragon is the oldest surviving epic in British literature. It's a story with many elements to appeal to children and this telling of it is, unlike some others, perfect for children. The atmospheric black and white illustrations by Michael Foreman set the story of perfectly; this is the paperback edition.

Book of Beasts from TickTock

From the gruesome beasts on the cover to the scary looking creatures inside, this is not a book for the faint-hearted! These brawling, battling beasts have fought their way through time and are captured here, their crimes and misdemeanours listed for all to see. Find out how to identify, track, attack, and slay each monster, and see them fight their greatest battles. There are beasts of all sorts to intrigue and terrify the reader in this colourful book.

The Emperors Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales (The Story Collector) by Jane Ray

This is one of those books whose quality just shines through when you pick it up - the understated cover with its strong purple and the weight of the book give a good impression and encourage you into the book. The eye-catching scraperboard illustrations with their restricted colour palette give a similar feel to engravings and they complement the stories perfectly with an amazing range of styles. The stories are wide-ranging, linked by the feathery theme. There's The Owl and the Pussycat, The Golden Swan, The Jackdaw of Rheims and many more, all with a personal introduction by the author. A beautiful gift, and as this is the first in a series, the ideal way to start a collection.

Beowulf by Kevin Crossley-Holland

This is a classic retelling of Beowulf with wonderfully atmospheric illustrations from the wonderful Charles Keeping and it's great to see it reissued. The story of Beowulf was written down as an epic poem in Anglo-Saxon England. It recounts the heroic struggles of one man against supernatural monsters. Kevin Crossley-Holland's retelling unleashes the excitement in this tale of the triumph of good over evil, while unforgettable illustrations from Charles Keeping capture every brooding moment and explosive episode. This new edition features rescanned artwork to capture the breath-taking detail of Keeping's illustrations and a striking new cover.

The House of the Cats: and other tales from Europe by Maggie Pearson

This is an unusual collection, one from each of the EU member states. As such, it would make an excellent topic basis for work on those states, giving a different approach and introducing some unfamiliar stories which, nevertheless, give a picture of each country. A range of emotions -  magical to farcical, tender to terrifying - something to appeal to everyone. A fascinating insight into Europe's varied cultures and traditions, and a wonderful read. Delightfully illustrated in paper-cut style by Francesca Greenwood.

Breaking the Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery by Lari Don

A lovely collection of stories and it's excellent to see a collection of Scottish stories. Lari Don retells the stories in a skilful way which brings them alive for young readers. She is a storyteller who works with schools throughout Scotland and these tales have evolved as she retells them, giving them a real living vibrancy. The illustrations by Cate James capture the feel of the stories and make the characters real for the reader. A super collection, one to treasure and an excellent resource for reading aloud.

Wayland by Tony Mitton

This beautifully told tale reinvents the northern legend of Wayland the blacksmith, whose craft and skill spread his fame far and wide. But Wayland's talents bring him nothing but pain. Following the loss of his swan-bride and his enslavement by a greedy king, Wayland has to rely on hope, courage and cunning to get by. John Lawrence's detailed engravings are the perfect complement to the lyrical text. A wonderful retelling that had me totally engrossed throughout.

The Ants and the Grasshopper (Short Tales Fables) by Rob M Worley

One in a series of books retelling Aesop's Fables in an accessible way for young readers. This fable is all about the importance of working hard and preparing for the future - the grasshopper spent the summer months singing while the hard-working ants worked to store up food for winter. When winter comes, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food.The full page illustrations are eye-catching and detailed.

Orpheus and Eurydice (Greek Myths) by Carole Henaff

When Orpheus' bride Eurydice is killed by a snakebite on their wedding day, Orpheus's world is shattered. The young widower must journey to the Underworld to negotiate with Hades himself to win his bride back. Can love triumph over the dark power of the Underworld? Barefoot Books always produce books of the very highest standard and these paperbacks are no exception - each features flapped endpapers with additional information, shiny paper and stunning illustrations.

Theseus and the Minotaur (Greek Myths) by Hugh Lupton

King Minos and Queen Pasiphae's son isn't a child - he's a monster. To keep him fed, his parents demand that every kingdom send seven youths to Crete each year in tribute - And they're never heard from again. But Theseus is different. He's determined to slay the Minotaur and make it back to Athens in one piece. But how can he best a blood-thirsty monster? This retelling of the story is vibrant and engaging and brings the ancient world alive for young readers. The series is an excellent way to build up a collection of the well-known myths and its value lies far beyond just learning to read. These tales are part of the culture of the world and all young people should be familiar with them.

Demeter and Persephone (Greek Myths) by Hugh Lupton

When Hades, the king of the Underworld, abducts young Persephone and imprisons her in his kingdom deep beneath the earth, her mother Demeter is stricken with grief. Demeter must summon a mother's bravery to rescue her daughter from Hades' clutches. Will Persephone ever see the light of day again? Another vivid and engrossing retelling, with carefully selected language that will appeal to young readers. A map of th4e Ancient Greek world is a nice feature of these books. Barefoot Books say about the Confident Readers series "Vivid language, enticing plots and lively dialogue make these action-packed adventures perfect for more experienced readers."

Girls, Goddesses and Giants: Tales of Heroines from Around the World by Lari Don

It can sometimes seem that men predominate in myths and legends, so here is a book to redress the balance with its selection of enjoyable and often lesser-known folk tales about heroines from all around the world. In these stories it's the girls who save the day through their courage, cunning or kindness - whether they are facing up to ! There are stories from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe; stories about wolves, demons, dragons, enemy tribes and even the sun. The outstanding papercut style illustrations are unusual and intriguing.

Celtic Myths and Legends (All About Myths) by Fiona Macdonald

This book dramatically presents some of the myths and retellings from the Celts, which are combined with factual information to provide an interesting insight into their culture. The inclusion of factual information gives an interesting background to the myths and helps our understanding of them. 'Did you know?'questions are a good way to engage the reader, and the book is complemented by a good glossary and index, as well as excellent illustrations. 

The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales by Dawn Casey 

Another beautifully presented book from one of my favourite publishers - Barefoot Books. Seven folk tales which show how people from different cultures live in harmony with the earth are beautifully and appropriately illustrated by Anne Wilson. Each story is followed by a hands-on activity that promotes green living and reinforces the eco-messages of the stories, as well as increasing understanding of the people. This would make an excellent classroom resource, with lots of opportunities for display work and follow up ideas. The stories come from all around the world, including Australia, Bali and Wales and the book is an excellent way to heighten awareness of other cultures and of protecting our planet.

Persephone: A Journey from Winter to Spring by Sally Pomme Clayton

I have always been intrigued by the story of Persephone - it is one of the stories I recall enjoying from a very young age. When Hades snatched Persephone and carried her down to the Underworld, her mother Demeter cursed the Earth and everything stopped growing. Hades responded to the pleas and let Persephone return - but only after she had eaten three pomegranate seeds. Those tiny seeds were her undoing and meant she had to return to Hades for three months every year, and winter cam to the earth.  A vivid retelling, coupled with striking illustrations by Virginia Lee, make for a memorable version of this classical myth.

The Usborne Big Book of Big Monsters by Louie Stowell

Eye-catching presentation with giant fold-outs will capture children's attention as they unfold the card pages to reveal all manner of legendary creatures from around the world and throughout time. There are dragons, sea serpents, ogres, water spirits and giants - all depicted in vivid colours and with accompanying snippets of information, just right to generate interest and a desire to learn more.

The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India by Marcia Williams

Marcia Williams has produced many books of myths and legends, all with her characteristic style which brings these tales vividly to life. Here are eight individual stories form a magical collection of India's best-loved animal folk tales. Taken from the three books of Indian folk tales – Hitopadesha Tales, Jataka Tales and Panchantra Tales – the text is appealing and the speech bubbles enhance the text. The illustrations are beautiful, decorative and absolutely crammed with intricate and revealing detail which repay poring over time and again. Less well known than stories from other cultures, this is a rich and inspiring collection.

The Romans: Gods, Emperors and Dormice by Marcia Williams

Jewel-bright colours reflect the richness of the culture of Ancient Rome in another stunningly illustrated collection of stories - this time in a humorous retelling of the rise and fall of Ancient Rome. Perfect for KS2 children studying Ancient Rome, this will give a fascinating insight into the period in an eminently readable and enjoyable format. The cartoon-style illustrations march through the pages bringing the Romans to life and giving a new perspective. Who can fail to be enthralled by narrative of this calibre, told through the eyes of Dormeo (gladiator, dormouse and berry nibbler) who takes the reader on an exciting journey enlivened by his comments throughout.

Norse Myths and Legends (Ignite: All about Myths) by Anita Ganeri

This is a fascinating compilation of facts and myths about the Vikings. Attractively presented, with a huge number of photos, drawings and illustrations, it gives the reader lots of information and answers some unexpected questions, as well as drawing out some interesting information - did you know the Vikings believed rainbows were bridges between worlds? Super background material for KS2 history.

Wisdom Stories (The Lion Classic Series) by Mary Joslin

This unusual collection is a fascinating collection of well-known (The Emperor's New Clothes, for example) and lesser known stories  (The Ant and the Grain of Wheat was new to me) and it would make an excellent gift which will be treasured for many years, as these tales are timeless. The stories are short - two or three pages - and the narrative style makes them excellent to read aloud. The illustrations are outstanding and carefully styled to suit each story, with intricate detail that repays close attention. The collection gives the reader a fascinating and thought-provoking insight into human nature and the consequences of the decisions we make.

Heroes, Gods and Monsters of Ancient Greek Mythology by Michael Ford

I like the way the stories are told - you can imagine yourself sitting at the feet of the storyteller, enthralled by the accounts. Many of the popular heroes are here - Odysseus, Heracles, Jason, Theseus and many more - a varied selection. The historical background is useful to put the stories into context and help us understand the beliefs and customs which underlie the stories. The black-and-white illustrations and map of ancient Greece add the the appeal and usefulness of the book, which will be excellent for KS2 pupils studying Ancient Greece.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Aesop's Fables) adapted by Vic Parker

The popularity of Aesop's Fables never wanes and it is always good to see new versions on the market, each one of which gives a slightly different perception of the stories. There are 15 fables here, each two or three pages long. This is an ideal length for young readers as it holds their interest and helps them to remember what has been read. There are plenty of bright colourful illustrations and the pages are attractively decorated. The moral of each tale is given in each case. It's an interestingly varied selection which has some lesser-known fables, so a useful addition to any collection.

The Fox and the Stork (Aesop's Fables) by Vic Parker

Another bright appealing collection which again contains a lovely range of stories - the 14 stories include The Eagle and the Arrow, The Crow and the Doves,and The Cat and the Rooster. The simple language is just right for young readers and the book is an excellent way to introduce Aesop's Fables. The illustrations are very attractive and nicely interwoven with the text. I like the slightly unusual font, which is lively yet retains full clarity. A lovely series.

Hansel, Gretel and the Ugly Duckling (Fairytale Jumbles) by Hilary Robinson and Simona Sanfilippo

This series is such fun! Designed to encourage beginner readers, this is Purple Band B of the Start Reading series. Hansel and Gretel went out to collect wood for their father, but they got lost in the forest and trapped in a wicked old lady's cottage. Luckily, the Ugly Duckling has popped up from another fairy tale and followed a trail of bread that the children left behind them. Can he rescue them? Highly illustrated, this is an excellent progression from picture books and children will revel in the quirky humour.

Cinderella and the Beanstalk (Fairytale Jumbles) by Hilary Robinson and Simona Sanfilippo

No, I didn't get the book title wrong! This is an amusing combination of two favourite stories - 
Cinderella meets Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack and Cinders climb the beanstalk and find a giant fairy godmother. Can she help them get to the prince's ball? The rhyming text is great fun to read as well as being useful in providing clues for beginner readers. A high ratio of illustration to text makes an ideal transition from picture books. This is one in a series of four rhyming books at Purple Band 8 of the Start Reading programme.

Robin Hood (Classics Advanced Readers) by David Calcutt

To say these books from Barefoot Books are paperbacks belies their quality. They are beautifully produced books, with durable colourful covers and jacket flaps. The quality of the artwork by Grahame Baker-Smith and the glossy paper make these books to treasure - even the page backgrounds are a type of watermark. The tales introduce us to Robin Hood before he becomes the hero of Sherwood Forest, and take us through to the mystery of the end of Robin Hood's life. They are compellingly retold and bring to life a character who fascinates children; the interweaving of text and illustrations is magical. 

Robin Hood (Gift Book) by David Calcutt

This is the hardback gift version of the book reviewed above - the contents are largely identical so any comments about content apply to both versions. At the beginning of each of the nine stories is an extract from an original ballad, in modern English. These add an interesting new dimension to the stories, which include: 'Robin Becomes an Outlaw', 'Robin Meets Little John', 'Robin and the Widow', and 'Robin's Last Battle'. This is a beautiful book and one to treasure. At the end of the gift book only there is a interesting section giving the historical background to Robin's World.

The Adventures of Achilles (Classics - Advanced Readers) by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden

This is a captivating and dramatic re-telling of the story of the warrior Achilles, son of a king (King Peleus) and a goddess (Thetis). When Troy declares war, can Achilles lead his fellow countrymen to victory against the Trojans? The background is set in the first few chapters, where we are introduced to a cast of colourful characters, all brought alive by the vivid descriptions. The remainder of the tale focuses on the long war between Greece and Troy, which helps the reader learn about this epic war. Another excellently produced paperback from Barefoot Books.

The Adventures of Achilles (Gift Edition) by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden

The illustrations by Carole Henaff have a wonderful feel of ancient history and depth of character is given to the people by their facial expressions, The detail is excellent and the pictures tell us a great deal about the culture of the period. The writing of the story is vivid and descriptive, full of action and emotion and reads aloud excellently.
The two books are identical in content, but this version is an excellently produced gift version to treasure; it also includes two full length CDs narrated by the authors, which are stirring renditions.

Greek Myths: Stories of Sun, Stone and Sea by Sally Pomme Clayton

Ten classic myths from Ancient Greece, retold to be enjoyed by younger children, and especially good for reading aloud. mythology are perfect for reading aloud to younger children. The beautiful, glowing illustrations by the award-winning artist Jane Ray need to be shared with the children too, as they add so much to the stories. Included are notes and a map showing the real places in Greece that are connected with the stories. A beautifully presented book - as well as for younger children, it will tie in with KS2 studies of Ancient Greece. The stories include Pandora, Pegasus and Atalanta.

Spellbound: Tales of Enchantment from Ancient Ireland by Siobhan Parkinson

If you want to understand the mysterious and beautiful country of Ireland better, then start with her ancient legends. Here you will find eight stories, retold for younger children by an acclaimed Irish writer and reviewer. Enchantment and magic are interwoven in these beautifully told stories, and the scene is wonderfully set by Olwyn Whelan's delicate and intricate illustrations, which have the feel of tapestries to me. The stories included are: Butterfly Girl; The Children of Lir; Labhra with the horse's Ears; The Enchanted Birds; Cu Chulainn and Emer; The Enchanted Deer; and The Land Under the Waves. All are perfect for reading aloud (helped by a list of the pronunciation of the Gaelic names). A book to treasure.

King Arthur by Richard Brassey

Another wonderful title from the talented Richard Brassey. Just who was King Arthur - a British warlord, a Roman officer or a faerie king? Here is your chance to make up your mind as his exploits and his legendary companions are brought to life through enthralling text and vivid illustrations which are packed with quirky, often humorous, detail. There is lots to find out in the book, fact and fiction, and exploring the illustrations will add even more. The style is fascinating and the witty text a joy to read for all ages.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (My First Classic Story) by Eric Blair 

A simple and accessible retelling of this classic story, ideal for early readers and a good way to start to introduce them to the classic stories of Aesop. A bored shepherd boy thinks it's fun to see the villagers run to help him when he cries, "Wolf!" However, the boy is lying. Find out what happens when the villagers no longer believe what the boy says — even when he's telling the truth! The full page coloured illustrations - every page is full colour - make this really attractive and enjoyable.

Seriously, Cinderella is so Annoying! by Trisha Shaskan

This is the other side of the story, the one you never hear - the Wicked Stepmother's version. From the viewpoint of the jealous stepmother, Cinderella is treated well by every member of the family, but she is very annoying. It's a brief retelling but the basic elements are all here. The illustrations are colourful and original. It's an excellent story to read alongside the original, to encourage children to see both sides of the picture - and perhaps then to encourage children to rewrite another fairy tale from a different person's perspective.

Pandora's Vase (Greek Myths) by Cari Meister 

The story of Pandora is a powerful one - I remember being told it as a child and it has always remained in my mind. Pandora is always curious. When a messenger arrives with a beautiful golden vase from Zeus, Pandora is entranced by it. She longs to open its lid, but Zeus has told her not to. Will Pandora be able to keep her curiosity under control? Vivid full page illustrations bring the story alive and make the characters very real. A clear and simple retelling.

Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs by Marcia Williams

Nine stories of Ancient Egypt, retold in Marcia Williams' trademark witty style - a combination here of tomb paintings and comic-strip drawings. Look closely and you will spot that most pages include subtle jokes in the illustrations. Each time I look, I spot something new! The book is beautifully produced - a very generous size, with lovely glossy paper. Perfect to generate interest for KS2 studies of Ancient Egypt. The stories themselves are engagingly retold and are a perfect tribute to these mesmerising legends of old.

The Stone of Destiny (Tales from Turkey) by Elspeth Tavaci 

It's a refreshing change to fin d a collection of tales from Turkey and excellent to introduce children to these. They are just as intriguing as tales from Greece and Rome.A poor stonecutter called Salahaddin sets off on a perilous journey along the Silk Road to Istanbul and tells stories to stay alive - and here they are. The atmospheric illustrations by Paul Hess bring alive this little-known world.

The Tain: Ireland's Epic Adventure by Liam Mac Uistin

A famous Irish legend retold in a way that will grip the attention of young readers and provide them with a wonderful introduction to the world of Irish legends. Read about the feats of the famous warrior Cuchulainn who singlehandedly defends Ulster against the army of Queen Maeve. War, peace, love, greed, fate are the contents of an epic, and they are all found here. The striking black and white drawings by Donald Teskey set the book off excellently.  

Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals by Helene Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt

Earth has been home to some quite amazing animals. Some, like the poor dodo, are quite familiar to us. Others, like the elephant bird and the tratratratra, may be less familiar. This unusual book uses pictures and comic strip style stories to tell us about all manner of extinct creatures, arranged by continent. The large format allows for the inclusion of lots of information and fascinating detail in the pictures. Fact and fiction combine to make a fascinating read - and remind us all that we must take care of all the wonderful creatures on our earth, especially endangered species. An interesting read for all ages.

The O'Brien Book of Irish Fairy Tales and Legends by Una Leavybook

The Irish are wonderful storytellers and here some of the best traditional tales and legends have been collected. Lyrically retold, ten ancient stories are brought to today's young readers in a fresh and lively form. They include stories of the Giant's Causeway, Tir na n-Og and the Children of Lir. These stories must not be lost, and the fact they are written in such a way as to make reading aloud a pleasure will continue the oral story telling tradition which is such a part of Irish culture. The illustrations are beautiful and perfectly reflect the magic and mystery of the stories 

Prince Charming's Princess Quest (Fairy Tale Twists) by Katie Dale

This series from Orchard Books is great fun - familiar fairy tales as you have never seen them before! The tales are twisted to give the unexpected.
You'd think love easy for Prince Charming
After all, he's just so...charming!
But think again, don't be unkind,
The right princess is hard to find...  

Little Mouse and Lazy Cat (Grimm's Fairy Tales) by Saviour Pirotta

When a lazy cat moves in with a little mouse, they decide to save some food for the winter. The cat shouldn't be trusted - but will the mouse find out too late just how untrustworthy the cat is? This book is  one on the Orchard Crunchies series and is perfect for children just starting to read on their own. Plenty of colourful pictures and short passages of text are very encouraging for new readers.

Three Little Pigs (My Secret Scrapbook Diary) by Kees Moerbeek

The third little pig shares with us his diary of how he and his siblings outwitted the Big Bad Wolf . The story is brought to life with pop-ups which will capture young readers' attention. The handwritten text and childlike drawings add to the impression of a diary - can your child make their own diary based on a fairytale? Colourful and engaging, this is an innovative idea.  Here are some more titles in this innovative series - My Secret Scrapbook Diary- Cinderella (Fairy Tale Diaries), My Secret Scrapbook Diary- Little Red Riding Hood (Fairy Tale Diaries) and My Secret Scrapbook Diary- Jack and the Beanstalk (Fairy Tale Diaries)

Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings retold by Elizabeth Laird

Frances Lincoln produce some wonderful versions of traditional tales and this is another to treasure - an ideal gift and a lovely keepsake. The Shahnameh is a collection of stories and myths from ancient Iran -  kings, heroes, princesses, magical animals and demons are all here. Written as an epic poem by the poet Ferdowsi in the 10th century, it is one of the great classics of Persian literature. Maybe less well-known than many of the ancient writings, it gives an enticing insight into an ancient culture, and the lyrical retelling is a delight to read aloud. The vibrant borders give every page the feel of an illuminated manuscript.

The Wicked Witch of the West and Other Stories (Scary Fairy Tales) by Belinda Gallagher

Bored with the traditional retellings of fairy tales? Want to capture boys' attention? Then try this imaginative collection!  As well as the title story, it includes The Horned Women, Hansel and Grettel and The Master and his Pupil. Classic stories are retold with a creepy twist and with language that makes them a delight to read aloud - but make sure you share the spooky illustrations with your listeners. It's a great way to inspire children to try out their own retellings too!

The Not-So-Evil Stepmother (Fairy Tale Twists) by Katie Dale

Not all stepmothers are wicked - "In fairy tales we often find that stepmothers are so unkind. But listen, folks, that's just not true - here's a different tale for you... An entertaining and amusing tale in which a rather unlucky stepmother ranges through lots of familiar fairy tales in search of a happy ending.

Rapunzel (Grimm's Fairy Tales) by Saviour Pirotta

Rapunzel has long been one of my favourite fairy tales and I enjoyed this fairly brief retelling with its colourful illustrations. A long-awaited child, Rapunzel was taken by an evil witch when she was a baby - all because her mother wanted the Rapunzel plants which grew in the witch's garden. Poor Rapunzel is locked up in a tower, with hair so long the witch can climb up it to visit her - but will she ever be saved? Who else can climb up her hair?

Goldilocks and the Three Bears illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

The story needs no introduction and this is a lovely re-telling that will strike a chord with today's young children as they readily identify with the language used, especially in Goldilocks' words - ' "Eeuch!" she cried. "Disgusting and cold." '  The large format provides plenty of scope for the bright yet delicate watercolour and pencil illustrations which are packed with detail and pattern. Plenty of amusing touches to spot such as Goldilocks reading Little Red Riding Hood while sitting in the chair.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin retold by Michael Morpurgo

Set in a town which is broken-down and riddled with corruption, Michael Morpurgo uses his own inimitable style to give the old fable a real relevance to today. A lame orphan boy tells the story of the piper who promises to rid the town of the rats, but then leads away all the children when the Mayor breaks his promise.  This version of the story has a heartening twist at the end. Emma Chichester Clark has kept a Victorian feel the pictures yet somehow they marvellously feel timeless as well. They are bright and vibrant, full of life and emotion. A retelling that highlights many contemporary issues and gives much food for thought. Highly recommended.

Three Little Pigs (Flip Up Fairy Tales) illustrated by Richard Johnson

A classic fairy tale brought up-to-date for today's market, with really effective and fascinating illustrations, which convey the emotions wonderfully. Just look at the details! Children will love lifting the flaps to find the surprise beneath in this well-produced and attractive book with strong pages for plenty of re-reading. The repetition in the text makes it a lovely book for children starting to read on their own. Flip Up Fairy Tales is another lovely series from innovative publisher Child's Play and most of the old favourites will be found in this series. You can also find versions with CD - see the whole range here.

Fairy Tales (Read Along) from Priddy Books

Nine magical fairy tales in a beautifully illustrated book, which features tactile embossed pictures on each sturdy durable page. Comes with an audio CD featuring spoken versions of each story, to which children can listen and follow in the book. Encourages reading, speaking and listening skills. Featuring favourite fairy tales: The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, The Princess and the Pea, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, The Ugly Duckling, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Perfect to introduce children to the world of fairy tales.

The Orchard Book of Grimm's Fairy Tales retold by Saviour Pirotta

Ten classic fairy tales enticingly retold by Saviour Pirotta in a way that brings them to life for young children and offers them the perfect introduction to a world of make-believe. The font caught my eye - it is particularly clear and attractive.  The illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark are masterpieces - some are double page spreads and all are packed with vivid details which perfectly reflect the story. This book is a perfect gift and one that will be treasured for years to come.

The Thousand Nights and One Night retold by David Walser, illus by Jan Pienkowski

Eight favourite tales- some well-known, others less known - from the Arabian Nights make up this collection. As we all know, the stories can be quite gruesome but the retelling is appropriate and perfect for 21st century children. The striking silhouettes by Jan Pienkowski add a real sense of dramatic atmosphere to the stories with their glowing colours shining through the black. A book to treasure and well produced with its heavy shiny paper - an ideal gift and a wonderful way to introduce children to these classic tales.

The Lion Classic Aesop's Fables retold by Margaret McAllister 

Lion Hudson produce some beautiful keepsake books and this is another one to treasure. Heavy shiny paper shows off the lovely illustrations to their best advantage. Each of the 28 fables is fully illustrated in a way which really brings them to life and there is an attractive box at the end of each with the fable quoted. The retellings have all the wit and wisdom of the original and read aloud really well. The well-known stories are here but there are some more unusual ones - I confess there are some I did not know and it's a delight to have some less common fables included. A lovely book to give as a gift.

The Giant Book of Giants by Saviour Pirotta

They are all here, the famous giants of legend - featuring Jack and the Beanstalk, Coyote tricks the giant, Momotoro, Finn and the Buggane, The curious giantess and Sinbad's dad's third voyage, this is a larger than lifesize collection. They are excellent retellings of the stories with full colour illustrations by Mark Robertson on good quality paper - the whole book is much bigger than A4.  There's an extra-special surprise - a HUGE pop up giant poster, festooned with special keepsakes from all the stories. As well as being great for a child's bedroom, this would make an excellent classroom resource and the basis of a stunning display. A really eye-catching book - one to treasure.

King Arthur and a World of Other Stories by Geraldine McCaughrean

Geraldine McCaughrean is a great re-teller of stories and this book does not disappoint. Don't be mislead by the title - a story about King Arthur is just one short story in a collection of over 30 stories from all around the world, reflecting a huge diversity of cultures and time periods. Each story is short, making them ideal for the end of school or bedtime. The stories are pacy and the language can be challenging in places but the context makes the meaning clear and it is a great way to extend children's vocabulary. Try  Robin Hood and a World of Other Stories and George and the Dragon and a World of Other Stories in the same series.

The Story of Pegasus retold by Susanna Davidson

Another carefully graded book (this is in Series 1)  from Usborne Books to help children get a head start in reading. This is an easy-to-read retelling of the Greek myth, in which Bellepheron seeks the help of Pegasus, a flying horse. Short chapters, plenty of colourful pictures, and language pitched at the right level mean that young readers can start on the exciting journey of reading with confidence and knowing they will have an enjoyable read. Good to become familiar with classic myths too.

Best Loved Irish Legends by Eithne Massey

This book brings together traditional Irish stories, handed down through the generations, and adapted for children. It is so important that children are made aware of their culture so this is a good book for home and for school libraries. Lisa Jackson's illustrations are modern in feel yet form a perfect complement to the stories. The stories are well written and accessible for children from 5+. The book is an excellent way of introducing a new range of traditional tales beyond those commonly known. There are five stories and this charming pocket format book would make a great gift.

School for Princes: Stories from the Panchatantra retold by Jamila Gavin

This is a collection of five fables based on the Panchatantra,which are ancient Indian texts of wisdom from the 3rd century. These are interwoven with Jamila Gavin's own stories so each forms a pair. The introduction tells us how the stories came into being - tradition says they were told by a teacher in order to instruct young princes. The themes are Winning Friends; Losing Friends; Loss of Gains; Rash Deeds and The Art of Duplicity. It is a refreshing change to see such an unusual collection and they will make a great classroom/assembly resource as well as for general reading. It is a beautifully produced book, with coloured pages and vibrant and perceptive illustrations by Bee Willey.

The Elves and the Shoemaker - Ladybird First Favourite Tales

Ladybird are well-known for their series of re-tellings of popular traditional tales - and deservedly so. It is good to see this tradition continued and this series introduces 2 to 4 year olds to some old favourites. Simple rhyming text, with familiar words makes this an accessible series. The elves help out the shoemaker and in return, he and his wife make them new clothes and boots - but the shoemaker never forgot to whom he owed his good fortune. Bright, colourful yet simple illustrations will appeal to small children. 

 The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse illustrated by Ayano Imai

The attraction of Aesop's Fables never wanes and this attractive new version is an excellent addition. Ayano Imai's illustrations are full of delicate detail and quirky humour, bringing new life to these characters. Country Mouse invites Town Mouse to visit, but Town Mouse is not impressed by the food and persuades his friend to travel back to the town with him. But town life is fraught with danger and Country Mouse decides to return to what he knows best. The generously sized pages allow the inclusion of masses of detail - a story to savour and share with your children as they learn to love Aesop's wonderful tales. A lovely book.

The Three Trees by Elena Pasquali

Three trees on a hill dream their different dreams, as the seasons go by and they grow and flourish. When they are felled and used, they all think their high expectations are not going to come true - but each, in its own way, takes its part in the greatest story ever told. This is a beautifully told story that really got me emotionally involved. it would make a wonderful assembly/Sunday School story and will give rise to plenty of discussion on the differing ways in which dreams can come true. A real message of hope and faith. The illustrations by Sophie Windham are quite stunning and full of detail, which again leads to discussion. This book succeeds on so many levels - a picture book, a storybook, a moral tale... but above all, a story of hope.


Aesop's Fables: a pop-up book of classic tales 

This outstanding book is a masterpiece of paper engineering by Kees Moerbeek, which really had me marvelling at its complexity. 10 classic tales are brought to life in beautifully detailed pop-ups which will fascinate children with their detail, thus enhancing their interest in the stories. I was amazed at the intricacy of the pop-ups, which repay really close attention, as does the vibrant artwork.. There is one huge pop-up on each page and two smaller ones to illustrate each story, plus four miniature pop-ups in the centre. A book to treasure and share with your children. These timeless tales will always deserve a place in every home, as they hold a message for everyone, and this innovative new book gives a fresh, dramatic approach and is a great addition to any collection.

Arabian Nights by Wafa' Tarnowska

Wafa' Tarnowska introduces this collection by telling us the origin of The Thousand and One Nights, and how the stories have come down to us. There are eight stories retold in this lovely book, including Aladdin, Shahrazade and The Ebony Horse. All the retellings are absolutely true to the originals and I hope they will encourage children (and adults) to read more of these wonderful tales.Just look at the vibrant colours shown in the illustration alongside to get an idea of how beautiful the illustrations in this book are. They really are superb and complement the stories wonderfully. This is a perfect gift book and will be treasured your many years to come.

 Mr Aesop's story shop by Bob Hartman

This lavishly illustrated book shows that there is always room for a new version of an old favourite.Aesop entrances people in the marketplace by his story telling and Bob Hartman will entrance you too, with his fresh take on the traditional tales. Jago's illustrations are perfect - just take a close look at the expressions on the faces of the animals - wonderful.The moral of each tale is given at the end, meaning they are visible and memorable. It is a beautifully presented book that would make a lovely keepsake, as it is a book to which one can keep returning and finding new enjoyment.

Greek Beasts and Heroes by Lucy Coats

This is a marvellous set of 12 books. At the start of each book, the author explains that the Greek gods and monsters disappeared into the world of the heavens for some peace. Luckily for us, before they went, they gave humans the gift of storytelling. The first in the series, 'The beasts in the jar' tells us that Atticus, a sandalmaker, was a wonderful storyteller who wanted to tell his stories in Troy at the competition instituted by the gods. Finally, his dream comes true and he sets off on his pony, Melissa - the series of 12 books relate the stories he tells on the way. The last books in the series tell how Atticus fared when he finally reached the competition.....but you'll have to read the books to find out!

These are wonderful retelling of myths familiar and not so familiar and they can be read in any order - but it's much more fun to follow Atticus on his journey. Every story is followed by a page (cleverly highlighted in orange) telling of Atticus' own adventures, and it is fun for children to follow this. At the end of each book is a useful section which tells you where you can find other stories featuring characters in the current book - a great way to encourage children into reading on.

The stories are ideal for 5 to 8 year olds, and make super stories to read aloud. They are also an ideal support for studying the Ancient Greeks in school. The illustrations complement the stories beautifully and really bring them to life.

 Stories for a fragile planet by Kenneth Steven

This beautifully illustrated book brings together stories from around the world and across the centuries. The common theme is caring for our beautiful planet. The inclusion of stories from countries such as Greenland and South America make this book stand out from other collections. Many of the stories show how much we can learn from the animals. Jane Ray's wonderful illustrations really capture the essence of each story and make this a book to treasure.

The Day the Rains Fell by Anne Faundez

Lindiwe visits Earth to show her daughter Thandi all the beautiful plants and animals she has made. But when they arrive, they see wilted trees. They find soil that is dusty and lifeless. The animals are tired and thirsty. Lindiwe and Thandi must find a way to make Earth well again. The beautiful watercolour illustrations by Karin Littlewood really bring this book to life. Find out how the animals thanked Thandi by making her a glorious necklace.



Beowulf retold by Jacqueline Morley

Graphic novels are a great way to introduce the great classics of literature. They draw children in and motivate them to read books which they may not otherwise attempt. This retelling of Beowulf introduces the characters and explains how the poem came to be written. The striking illustrations and speech bubbles will capture the attention. I especially like the inclusion of facts about the author, the poem and the historical setting, and the index is a useful feature. There are many more in the series, including Kidnapped and Oliver Twist. An excellent series.

Greatest Greek Myths by Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner.

This is a fun way to get to grips with all those Greek myths that can be so confusing. Why did Icarus drown? Where do we get the word 'tantalise' from? Who fell in love with his own reflection? This hardback with red/black illustrations throughout is a really original way to introduce children to Greek myths and the refresh the memory of adults. All the well-known myths are here but you will also find some you didn't know - we all know about King Midas and gold, but what about King Midas and the Ass's Ears?





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