A compact survey of world myths and legends.
Explaining that “myths are stories people used to tell to explain things they didn’t understand about their history, nature, or the world around them” and that “legends may once have been based on truth” but “have become fabulous fantasies,” Lawrence presents a smattering of notable characters and tales. The Greeks get a fair amount of attention, with the stories of Heracles, Theseus, Jason, and Pandora each afforded a double-page spread. As the book is quite small (5 ¾ inches high by 7 ½ inches across), that’s just a few sentences each. Other characters are grouped thematically (Robin Hood, Sun Wukong, Finn McCool, and Kintaro are “heroes”; Baba Yaga, Baron Samedi, Medusa, and Set are “the bad guys”). Although it’s clear Lawrence has worked not to limit herself to European mythology, her efforts at inclusivity are ham-handed at best. Next to a picture that looks suspiciously like Disney’s Pocahontas is a brief blurb on the generic “Native American spirit Sky Woman” (printed in black ink on dark-purple paper, so many readers may skip this anyway). Stories from extant cosmologies are presented alongside dead ones with no explanation, so readers who don’t know better may come away thinking Hinduism is as passé as the Norse pantheon, for instance. Equally troubling, stories and figures from the Abrahamic traditions are entirely absent, setting up a false opposition among belief systems.
Skip. (Nonfiction. 5-8)