Book reviews - myths legends & traditional tales (page 2)

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.

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Christopher Corr

This is a lovely book to help children celebrate Chinese New Year and learn how every animal earned its place in the Chinese zodiac. Their role is to share in the Great Race as they follow the story of the animals. Can they guess who will come first to win the ultimate prize? Why will Cat will never forgive his friend Rat? This is an ancient folk tale that has been passed from generation to generation, now presented in a really appealing format with lively, playful and colourful illustrations by the author.

Match and Learn: the Greek Gods from Petita Demas

Find out who the Greek gods were and what they did in this unusual book. First off, children can use the 12 colourful stickers and locate each of the gods and goddesses so they can complete their page in the book - a good way to introduce them. Each god and goddess has its own double page spread and these are linked by a series of stories which feature some of the characters in each. There is also a brief description of each along with information about their families and favourite things.

Tales for the Telling: Irish Folk and Fairytales by Edna O'Brien

I have been receiving some lovely books from Palazzo Books recently. These well-presented clothbound hardbacks with lovely illustrations are perfect to build up a collection of books to return to over and over again. This book, with its superb illustrations by Michael Foreman, is no exception. Irish folktales are always mesmerising and the retellings in this collection of 12 stories are excellently done. With daring deeds, handsome heroes and mythical creatures, there is plenty to appeal to everyone. The well-balanced selection of stories include `The Magic Apples', 'The Leprehaun', `The Swan Bride', `Paddy the Piper' and `Two Giants.' Many of the illustrations are full page, and they perfectly reflect the joy and vivacity of the story telling. A good representative selection of Irish stories which continues a great storytelling tradition.

Arthur, High King of Britain by Michael Morpurgo

Fantastic stories, retold by a master storyteller - what could be better? Michael Morpurgo has set the start of the book in the Scilly Isles, scene of so many of his wonderful stories. Lost at sea, he is rescued by Arthur Pendgaron, High King of Britain. What follows are lyrical retellings of stories of heroic knights and deeds of great chivalry, but also bewitchment, evil and betrayal at the king's court in Camelot. The stories are beautifully told, the perfect introduction to these enduring tales; they will engage readers and stimulate their interest. Michael Foreman's beautiful illustrations set the scene to perfection.

Hilary McKay's Fairy Tales

Every child should have a well-written and comprehensive collection of fairy tales in their own library. The book needs to be attractive and enticing, with lots of illustrations to capture the attention. They are such an important part of growing up, and this new collection fits the bill perfectly. There are 10 imaginative and beautifully composed retellings of popular fairy tales in this hardback book - Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, Rumpelstiltskin, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, The Swan Brothers, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Red Riding Hood, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Hansel and Gretel. All the favourites are here, and the stories contain plenty of detail.

Gods and Monsters: The Myths And Legends Of Ancient Worlds by Stella Caldwell

This lavishly illustrated book really brings to life the legendary creatures, battles and heroic deeds of mythology. Drawings and photographs of ancient artefacts are linked awe-inspiring CGI scenes from classic myths to give us an all-round picture of these ancient marvels. Included in the book are many famous gods and heroes including Thor, Zeus, Anubis, Aeneas, Sigurd the Dragonslayer, Heracles and many more. Sumptuously illustrated, this is a great book to stimulate interest.

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

These Viking stories are full of elements to engage children - there are warriors and battles, heroes and heroines, berserkers, monsters and zombies plus plenty of magic. There are 11 stories in this collection, tales Vikings themselves told, giving children a real feel for the history and culture of the Vikings. A fantastic introduction to Viking mythology, these illustrated tales will have children captivated. Superbly illustrated by Cate James, whose atmospheric and detailed pictures really set the scene - full justice is done to them with whole page illustrations. These exciting stories are perfect to complement both the KS2 history curriculum and the English strand of myths and legends.

Myths and Legends by Sandra Lawrence

Many favourite myths and legends are included in this attractive landscape format book. Readers can escape into different cultures and religions, meet powerful gods and brave heroes and travel on fabled quests from tales of old. There are five sections - Gods and Heroes; Creation Myths; Mythology and the Natural World; Mythical Journeys; Legendary Love Stories. Each story is succinctly told, making this an excellent introduction and a good way to stimulate interest in these wonderful tales. Each one is illustrated by Emma Trithart, and the attractive layout of the pages makes for a really appealing book. The book is produced by 360 Degrees, the non-fiction imprint of the Little Tiger Group.

Tales from Africa (Puffin Classics) by K P Kojo

As part of the National Curriculum, children are required to read tales from other cultures, and this series from Puffin Classics makes an excellent introduction. Find out how selfish Lion gets his comeuppance, go to a Frog wedding in the Sky Kingdom, discover the days when the earth's creatures were all mixed up and much more in tales which reflect the very best and the very worst of human nature. K P Kojo, the Ghananian author with a wealth of experience in writing for children, brings a special insight to thee stories, which are perfect for reading aloud.

Tales from the Caribbean (Puffin Classics) by Trish Cooke

A collection of favourite tales gathered from the many different islands of the Caribbean, one of the world's richest sources of traditional storytelling. From the very first Kingfisher to Anansi the Spider Man, these lively retellings are full of humour and pathos. Each book in the series includes endnotes with a glossary, additional information as well as ideas for activities that children can do to explore the stories further; this will be very useful to teachers. These are excellent retellings, told with zest and enthusiasm, really capturing the spirit of the Caribbean.

Tales from India (Puffin Classics) by Bali Rai

A varied collection of 20 stories from India's rich folklore heritage. From wicked magicians to wise old priests, charming princes and beautiful princesses, to greedy tigers and wily jackals, these magical tales are full of adventure and trickery, and infused with deeper messages about morality, Life and the world around us. Founded on the work of folklorist, Joseph Jacob, and from tales from India's Mughul period,

The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

I well remember having Andrew Lang's colour fairy books as a child - they had a real impact on me. This is a beautiful edition, with leather binding, gold edges and a lovely cover illustration, which any child will treasure and I would love to see the whole series issued in this format to make real collectors' items. This is the first in the series and dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century - but the retellings are as fresh and lively as ever. This enduring collection of the best-known fairy tales is drawn from the folklore of many nations and includes engaging black and white illustrations that enliven the text. Inside you will find such favorites as Cinderella, Jack the Giant Killer, the Princess on the Glass Hill, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, and dozens of others. Perfect to start building a child's keepsake library. Published by Barnes and Noble, ISBN 978-1435162174, April 2017.

The Perfectly Royal Princess Handbook by Caitlin Matthews

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the lovely cloth-bound cover with its delicate illustrations and traditional feel. Few girls are born princesses but many young girls aspire to become them. They can take their first steps on the journey with the help of Princess Petal, as they find out about etiquette and deportment, meeting your fairy godmother, dealing with enchantments, finding a prince, and attending balls. The book is beautifully presented and illustrated, and draws on many well-loved fairytales for inspiration. Princess Petal is a friendly character and girls will love to read this book.

Fairies: A Spotter's Handbook by Alison Maloney

Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden? Well, if there are, this book will help you spot them! The book tells us that fairies are everywhere if you know how to find them, so get spotting! Enter the magical world of fairyland and uncover its mysteries; find out where fairies make their homes, peek inside the fairy queen's castle, and encounter captivating sparkle and spells everywhere. For some extra fun, children can spot the hidden fairies throughout the book. Another beautifully produced book, delightfully illustrated. An ideal gift and a book to treasure.

A Year Full of Stories: 52 folk tales and legends from around the world by Angela McAllister

This treasure trove of stories is a beautiful book, with a cloth bound cover and scintillating illustrations. Not just around the world, but also year by year, the book starts with Father Frost, a Russian story for New Year's Day, and concludes with The Feast, an African story of r December 26th. This superb collection collects together folk tales from home and legends and myths from distant lands to commemorate the changing seasons, cultural events and international festivals throughout the year. It will make an excellent teaching resource, giving teachers ideas for right through the year to celebrate cultural diversity; it is a lovely book to have at home too, to follow through the seasons.

Magical Celtic Tales by Una Leavy

Storytelling has always been at the heart of Celtic societies and tales have been passed from generation to generation. This collection includes some well known, such as the Irish legend of Diarmaid and Gráinne, and others less-known but equally mesmerising like The Magic Pail from Cornwall. The book encompasses all the Celtic lands, all of which are rich in myths and legends; it includes Brittany, The Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales. The lyrical retellings are brought to life by Fergal O’Connor’s detailed and atmospheric illustrations. Read of giants and dragons, of fairies and princesses: all beautifully illustrated and told for a new generation of children. A beautiful book.

Tell Me a Dragon by Jackie Morris

As mythical beasts, everyone has their own ideas about how a dragon looks and behaves. This lovely book describes and illustrates many different varieties of the creature, showing in expressive words woven around the stunning pictures exactly why their owners find them so entrancing. They range from a dragon as big as a village to a tiny dragon with whisper-thin wings, from a snaggle-toothed dragon to a sea-dragon which races dolphins on the waves - ending in a page inhabited by every dragon in the book! A truly magical book which will appeal to the dreamer in everyone.

A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice (Walker Racing Reads) by Chitra Soundar

Prince Veera and his best friend, Suku, are left in charge of King Beema's court when the king goes off on a hunting trip. Each day the king's subjects come before the boys with their problems and petty disagreements. Can Veera and Suku settle the dispute between the man who sells a well - but not the water in it - to his neighbour? Or solve the mystery of the jewels that have turned into pickles? And what about the old washerwoman who is set the task of washing the king's elephants until they turn white? It's a fascinating collection of stories, very out of the ordinary and posing some interesting moral dilemmas which make a great basis for discussion.

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.