A pretentious collection, subtitled ""Myths, Legends and Folktales from Latin America,"" of stories from 13 countries and several native cultures. The varying styles of these tales as presented do not seem to bow to the seriousness of myth vs. the popular nature of legend, instead seemingly emerging from the tale's content. Thus a legend like ""Guanina"" from Puerto Rico stuns readers with all the banalities of the romance genre: ""Silently they embraced once more, for a long moment of passion. Fully possessed by his love, she knew his heart was forever hers."" Other stories begin promisingly, and then dwindle, e.g., in ""The Laughing Skull,"" a Dominican legend, a terrifying situation is set up when a skull in a niche in a convent wall takes to chattering and moving around. The anticlimactic resolution comes when Abad climbs a ladder to put a stop to it: ""Chilling screeches emerged, screeches that would freeze the hearts of even the bravest of men. Oddly enough, Abad remained calm."" Lesser infelicities--split infinitives--can be forgiven if a tale sweeps readers along; this collection, for all the care and research behind it and the graceful illustrations that decorate it, offers no such grounds for absolution.