A brilliant tapestry woven not of yarn but of stories, both fresh and faithful to its historical roots.

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TALES FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHTS

STORIES OF ADVENTURE, MAGIC, LOVE, AND BETRAYAL

Forty-five (compressed from the original 1,001) nights of interwoven stories map Scheherazade’s courageous campaign to heal the heart of her murderous and disillusioned husband—and save her own life in the bargain.

Drawn from authoritative sources and retold in plain (and, aside from references to the Almighty, nonreligious) language, the selections are arranged in several sequences of nights, with “extras” interposed and interludes that set up and flesh out the frame story. Brave and clever women stand out in these versions, notably Ali Baba’s wife, Marjana, the princess who marries Maaruf the Cobbler (and Maaruf’s comically abusive first wife, Dung Fatima)—and especially Scheherazade herself, who over the many nights, any one of which could be her last, presents Shah Rayar with three children as well as tantalizingly strung-out adventures featuring moral quandaries, decisions wise and foolish, reversals of fortune, love, and wisdom’s growth. Overall, Napoli sees the Arabian Nights as more “optimistic” than the Greek, Norse, or ancient Egyptian mythologies she has explored in previous collections in this series: “There is a strong sense that good behavior will lead to good results and that the world is basically a lot more delightful than it is frightful.” Balit whirls bright patterns around stylized figures to add notes of grandeur to each tale. Faces are light-skinned, but she does add hints of regional features and dress for stories set in “China” or “the Indies.”

A brilliant tapestry woven not of yarn but of stories, both fresh and faithful to its historical roots. (introduction, index, extensive source notes) (Folk tales. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2540-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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More-systematic treatments abound, but the airy tone and quick-facts presentation give this some potential as a...

MYTHOLOGY

OH MY! GODS AND GODDESSES

From the Basher History series

In Basher’s latest set of breezy “self”-portraits, 58 gods, demigods and mythological creations of diverse sort step up in turn to the microphone.

The entrants are limited to the ancient Egyptian, Norse and Greco-Roman pantheons and arranged in no particular order within their respective chapters. They range from the usual celebrities like Poseidon (“rhymes with ‘Joe Biden’ ”), Odin and Osiris to some who have gotten less press, such as Hebe—“Waitress to the Olympians”—and Gefjon, Aesir goddess of plowing. Along with mixing in such non-Olympians as Odysseus, Budzik swells the ranks by lending voices to Bifrost, Yggdrasil and even the battle of Ragnarok. The author’s introductory claim that the gods gave mortals “something to believe in and ideals to aspire to when life was looking bleak” is massively disingenuous considering the speakers’ own accounts of their exploits (Hel complains, “It’s really grim here. I get the dreariest dead”). Nevertheless, the sex and violence are toned down to, for instance, Hera’s tart reference to “my hubby’s mortal girlfriends” and Isis’ allusion to “complicated family vibes” (following her brother/husband Osiris’ dismemberment by their brother, Seth). In a radical departure for Basher, some of his dolllike cartoon figures bear grimaces rather than cutesy smiles.

More-systematic treatments abound, but the airy tone and quick-facts presentation give this some potential as a lighter-than-air refresher. (chart and foldout poster of Greek/Roman equivalents) (Mythology. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7534-7171-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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“I’ll see you on the other side,” Hades leers—“sooner or later.” At least the terra won’t be completely incognita.

HADES SPEAKS!

A GUIDE TO THE UNDERWORLD BY THE GREEK GOD OF THE DEAD

From the Secrets of the Ancient Gods series

A tour of the ancient Greek (and Roman) underworld, squired by Hades and his lovely wife, Persephone.

Enthusiastically embracing his assigned role, Hades invites young visitors to pick an entrance to his shadowy realm (“There’s one right outside your bedroom.” Bwa ha ha) and to mind the monsters. The tour proceeds past Acheron and other rivers to the “fire pits of Tartaros” and the Fields of Asphodel and Elysium. Besides complaining continually that he gets no respect and fulminating about “brute-brat-boy” Herakles, the chatty chaperon delivers background on the origins of his mythological clan. He also introduces his fiendish staff and discourses on a range of need-to-know topics from Roman curse tablets to the mysterious significance of beans in ancient writings. Midway through, Persephone commandeers the narrative to tell some favorite myths—notably the one about how Theseus left part of his butt attached to the Hadean Chair of Forgetfulness. Hades ultimately leaves readers to find their own ways back to the land of the living with a generous bibliography as well as a glossary and a guide to the gods as mementos of their junket. Larson’s mannered, Aubrey Beardsley–style pen-and-ink scenes of angular figures shrouded in long cloaks or gowns add more chills than chuckles, but the map is helpful.

“I’ll see you on the other side,” Hades leers—“sooner or later.” At least the terra won’t be completely incognita. (index) (Mythology. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62091-598-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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