Goddesses and Heroines: Women of Myth and Legend

Thames & Hudson. Jun. 2020. 128p. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780500651919.
Gr 5-7–This collection provides 13 original goddess tales, including modern takes derived from countries and cultures around the world and ancient traditions. Many of the stories come from Asia and the Middle East; one tale is from Mexico, three hail from Europe, one is Nigerian, and one is from India. Gresham-Knight selected 13 stories because the number has special significance: “Thirteen was the lucky number of Palaeolithic goddesses, for whom the thirteen cycles of the moon made up a year.” Pourquoi, trickster, and origin tales are featured; some discuss modern-day problems, such as pollution and warfare. However, one tale features details that some educators, caregivers, and parents could view as unsettling for the target age demographic: The Tibetan offering includes an emotionally and physically abusive aunt, a predatory husband, and adolescent death as a result of excessive physical abuse. The ancient sources of the tales are interesting and explained in a back matter spread about the goddesses’ symbols, which are incorporated into the stories and artwork. Lively, colorful, cartoon-style illustrations provide a strong and effective visual presentation. All characters are rendered in a similar style, though ethnic differences are depicted through skin tones, facial features, and culturally specific icons and symbols.
VERDICT A carefully curated collection of stories that feature powerful, fantastical women. Recommended for libraries where gaps in multicultural folklore may exist or for readers with a budding interest in global mythology and folklore.

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