In a short foreword to this volume, subtitled ""Creation and Pourquoi Tales,"" Mayo (Magical Tales from Many Lands, 1993, etc.) offers readers a clear, simple explanation of the importance of such stories in every culture. Her beautiful book, illustrated with Brierley's glowing earth-toned watercolors, puts forth ten tales from cultures as diverse as the Akan-Ashanti of Ghana and the Unalit of Alaska. In ""Tortoise's Big Idea,"" from the Nupe people of Nigeria, the tortoises and a man and a woman give up immortality Tot the joy of having children (the stones, who have no children, never die). In a Polynesian story, a maiden sacrifices her long hair to harness the sun. Mayo's enthusiasm for her material is clear; the language has the lyrical quality of poetry, reflecting distinct rhythms and speech patterns of the cultures she's depicting. An afterword identifies the sources of these treasures.