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

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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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Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener.

MARY BOWSER AND THE CIVIL WAR SPY RING

From the Spy on History series , Vol. 1

Using a provided packet of helpful tools, readers can search for clues along with a historical spy in the house of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Fans of ciphers and hidden clues will find both in abundance, beginning on the copyright page and continuing to a final, sealed-off section of explanations and solutions. Fictionalized but spun around actual figures and events, the tale centers on Bowser, a free African-American who worked undercover as a maid in Davis’ house and passed information to a ring of white Richmond spies. Here she looks for the key phrase that will unlock a Vigenère cipher—an alphabetic substitution code—while struggling to hide her intelligence and ability to read. As an extra challenge, she leaves the diary in which she records some of her experiences concealed for readers to discover, using allusive and sometimes-misleading clues that are hidden in Cliff’s monochrome illustrations and in cryptic marginal notations. A Caesar cipher wheel, a sheet of red acetate, and several other items in a front pocket supply an espionage starter kit that readers can use along the way; it is supplemented by quick introductions in the narrative to ciphers and codes, including Morse dashes and dots and the language of flowers.

Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener. (answers, historical notes, biographies, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8739-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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