CHILDREN OF THE DRAGON

SELECTED TALES FROM VIETNAM

Six stories of varying types have been chosen by an author who is familiar with the Vietnamese people in their own country and in the US. Although she gives no specific sources (an incongruity in an otherwise careful production), she acknowledges several Vietnamese friends who assisted her. Garland (In the Shadow of the Alamo, not reviewed, etc.) makes a significant contribution with her informative introduction about the history and culture of Vietnam and her helpful explanations after each tale. For example, “Chu Cuoi—the Man in the Moon” is followed by a description of Tet Trung Thu, the Moon Festival, which comes two weeks after the lunar New Year. Garland also describes natural phenomena, such as banyan trees, water buffalo, and monsoons, as well as cultural practices, such as the custom of arranging marriages, and expertly links these to the context of the stories. The last story, “The Bowmen and the Sisters,” has some familiar themes. A good sister displays kindness and receives a great reward while a mean sister behaves in a nasty manner and is severely punished. Because the story is about the encounters between the majority culture of the Viets and the minority culture of the moi, now known as montagnards or mountain people, the author has a chance to explain the place of these people with Vietnamese society. Hyman (The Serpent Slayer, 2000, etc.) uses India ink and acrylic paint with a delicate, yet bold hand to create affecting portraits, and realistic paintings of the flora and fauna of the region. Wondrous cameos of dragons lead off each story. This unusual collection of tales will work best for individual readers as they drink in the details of the stories, the background materials, and the paintings. (Folktales. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-224200-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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MAMMOTH BONES AND BROKEN STONES

THE MYSTERY OF NORTH AMERICA'S FIRST PEOPLE

How and when the Western Hemisphere, particularly North and South America, came to be populated continues to be both mysterious and controversial for scientists. Archaeologists plug away with the tools at their disposal but have “more questions than answers.” Harrison does a good job setting the issue in context. He describes the earliest efforts to identify the original inhabitants of the continents, exploring the Clovis culture, believed by many to be the first humans to reach North America. After clearly explaining how scholars decided that they were first, he then lists the arguments against this hypothesis. In the course of looking at both sides, he introduces young readers to “the strict rules of archaeology.” The author demonstrates the precise work of those attempting to understand the hidden aspects of human history and how many of these old questions are seen in the light of new technologies and discoveries. The narrative is aided by both photographs and original illustrations that imagine scenes from both the distant past and the field experiences. (glossary, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59078-561-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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