Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Review of "The First Book of Mythical Beasts," by Helen Jacobson

Review of

The First Book of Mythical Beasts, by Helen Jacobson

 Three out of five stars

 While there are some good points for the YA reader concerning the topic of monsters in the world, they are not that well done. It opens with a discussion of dragons in ancient Babylonian culture, shifts to the role of dragons in Chinese mythology, moves on to the monsters and heroes of Greek mythology, bounces to the beasts of Middle Eastern and Indian folklore and closes with the mention of modern myths. The modern myths are of the Loch Ness Monster, the Nandi bear of East Africa and the abominable snowman of the Himalayas.

 With so many monsters to cover in less than seventy pages with illustrations, none is given more than a causal pass. The reader is given little in the way of cultural context or in-depth explanations of the monster. Yes, they do monster things and are generally dangerous to humans, but not much more than that.

 It would have been a stronger book is there had been more textual explanations of the monsters, specifically those of the older myths. One can learn a great deal about a culture from the structure of their myths, but that is not possible here.

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