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

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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Showing uncommon foresight, Thor bids adieu with a “See ya next time, kid!” Return trips are definitely in the offing.

THOR SPEAKS!

A GUIDE TO THE VIKING REALMS BY THE NORDIC GOD OF THUNDER

From the Secrets of the Ancient Gods series

Mortals, do you dare follow the god of “strength and weather and mighty muscles” on a tour through Norse mythology?

Warning that “if you don’t like blood, you might want to close this book and read stories about pixies and fairies instead” (as if), the hammer-wielding guide begins with an introduction to the Vikings and their way of, literally, cutting out the middleman to get to the plunder. He then goes on to describe the creation of the giants from the “sweaty armpit” of Ymir and subsequent battles with “Odin’s team of good-guy gods.” He then conducts a tour up Yggdrasill with stopovers at Niflheim, Midgard, and Asgard, then concludes with a jolly preview of the slaughter of Ragnarök, the “end of times” (but not really). The itinerary also includes a quick visit to Valhalla—“an endless zombie slumber party” for warriors who die in battle—among other stops. Prefaced by a proper caution that Norse myths and legends are, like all such, subject to regional and other variations, the genial guide’s patter includes references to other prominent figures and tales. Larson’s dark, operatic tableaux of melodramatically posed figures clad in outsized headgear and geometrically patterned cloaks add a comically Wagnerian tone.

Showing uncommon foresight, Thor bids adieu with a “See ya next time, kid!” Return trips are definitely in the offing. (list of gods and monsters, glossary, sources, map, index) (Mythology. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62091-599-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Sumptuous of format, magisterial of content, stimulating for heart and mind both.

TREASURY OF EGYPTIAN MYTHOLOGY

CLASSIC STORIES OF GODS, GODDESSES, MONSTERS & MORTALS

Napoli (Treasury of Greek Mythology, 2011) again challenges readers to regard the old gods in new ways.

The author provocatively explores the thesis that ancient Egyptian worship could be considered monotheistic, considering how closely intertwined the culture’s gods were in origins and natures. She introduces 17 major deities and a handful of minor ones in a mix of equally lively stories and exposition, beginning with Ra’s self-creation from the unchanging (“Boring, really”) waters of Nun. The divine council known as the Pesedjet convenes, and Usir (Osiris) is killed by Set but magically revived for one night with his beloved Aset (Isis). A final chapter introduces Imhotep, architect of the first pyramid, who was born human but later deified. Depicted in a flat, art-deco style but reminiscent of Leo and Diane Dillon’s figures in gravitas and richness of color and detail, deities and earthly creatures lend visual dimension to the mystical, larger-than-life grandeur of the stories as well as reflecting their more human griefs, jealousies and joys. Reinforcing a sense of otherness, Napoli uses the Egyptian forms of names throughout, though they are paired to their more recognizable Greek equivalents in running footers. To shed light on the mortal Egyptians, she intersperses boxed cultural notes, as well as chapters on mummification and “The Great Nile.”

Sumptuous of format, magisterial of content, stimulating for heart and mind both. (map, timeline, gallery of deities, postscript discussion of sources, bibliography, index) (Mythology. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4263-13806

Page Count: 192

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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