Mythical Creatures and Mind-boggling Mysteries | Myths & Mysteries Series Nonfiction

This spring, publishers are bringing forth compelling series not only about perpetually fascinating mythological creatures, but also about some of history’s most baffling, inexplicable puzzlers.

There’s something about creatures who live only in the mind (or do they?) that sparks special interest. What is so captivating about beings who never were, might have been, or perhaps are, that dominates our thoughts and captivates our hearts and minds—why do we so relish viewing images of, and hearing, telling, and reading, about them? This spring, publishers are bringing forth compelling series not only about perpetually fascinating mythological creatures, but also about some of history’s most baffling, inexplicable puzzlers for which truly satisfying solutions have yet to be found. Students of all ages and reading abilities are guaranteed to be enthralled by these series, and to discover new ideas to pique their imaginations still further. Better yet: students will want to keep on reading. There’s no mystery about that.



Duling, Kaitlyn. The Demon Cat of the U.S. Capitol. ISBN 9781680207217.
––––. The General’s Dog of Gettysburg. ISBN 9781680207224.
––––. The Ghost Bear of the Tower of London. ISBN 9781680207231.
––––. The Ghost Horses of Chicago. ISBN 9781680207248.
––––. The Halloween Dog of Nashville. ISBN 9781680207255.
––––. The Pig of Plenty. ISBN 9781680207262.
ea vol: 32p. (Animal Ghost Stories). Mitchell Lane. Jan. 2023. Tr. $35.71.
Gr 2-4 –Most kids love animals and ghost stories, so this well-written series for younger students about four-legged hauntings is a great combination. Readers get some tantalizing, not-too-scary thrills from the tales and learn interesting and worthwhile facts about famous locales. Each slim volume, written with short readable sentences, sets up its story with information about the historical and geographic setting including location, the ghost’s origins, description, sightings, and witnesses. The handsomely designed series includes vivid display headings, high-quality photos, illustrations, engravings, and historical images to amplify the stories’ impact. Additionally, text is set in stark white type against black backgrounds and appear in colored-framed boxes against black to heighten the spookiness factor. Unfamiliar vocabulary is set in yellow type and new words are defined in the glossary (with no pronunciation guides) and, occasionally, in context. Other back matter features include a works consulted list, “Find Out More” (a short bibliography of books and websites), and an index. VERDICT Recommended for public and school collections. This will meet the demand of readers who appreciate ghost stories, and will serve striving readers. Ask students which stories they most believe and/or which seem most plausible, and why.

Kammer, Gina. Curious About Dragons. ISBN 9781645491262.
––––. Curious About Fairies. ISBN 9781645491279.
––––. Curious About Leprechauns. ISBN 9781645491286.
––––. Curious About Mermaids. ISBN 9781645491293.
––––. Curious About Unicorns. ISBN 9781645491309.
––––. Curious About Werewolves. ISBN 9781645491316.
ea vol: 24p. (Curious about Mythical Creatures). Amicus. Jan. 2023. Tr. $34.25.
Gr 2-4 –Kids are uber-curious about mythical creatures and have numerous questions about them. This series asks and answers some of those queries in a conversational, occasionally tongue-in-cheek but never condescending tone. Even when the text states there’s no proof the creatures are real, it accepts that students believe they are and are curious about them—so the books supply responses. Some sample questions, which are generally identical throughout: Are they real? What do they look like? What magic powers do they have? What do they like to do? How long do they live? Where do they live? Each answer comprises several short sentences that include references to how the creatures are portrayed in other cultures, countries, and in legends throughout history. Unfamiliar words are set in orange type and defined in the glossary. Vivid design elements strongly support the text. Eye-popping covers attract with striking images, and questions are set in colored fonts or against colored backgrounds. Volumes feature numerous color (occasionally black-and-white) photos, illustrations, and drawings, etc., with captions and informative “Did You Know?” sidebars. Some illustrations are representative of different cultures/nations’ artwork. Charts in several titles reflect creatures’ cultural variations, with different names and appearances, and several titles depict animals that could once have been mistaken for these creatures. Besides the glossary and index, the back matter includes the two-part “Stay Curious!” feature that stimulates creative thinking and instructs students how to do online research; “Learn More,” a two-parter comprising a bibliography of books/websites and follow-up writing, drawing, or community or school activities. ­VERDICT This appealing series on a perennially popular topic is highly recommended for public and school libraries.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Discover Dragons. ISBN 9781668919675.
––––. Discover Mermaids. ISBN 9781668919644.
––––. Discover Unicorns. ISBN 9781668919637.
––––. Discover Vampires. ISBN 9781668919651.
––––. Discover Werewolves. ISBN 9781668919682.
––––. Discover Zombies. ISBN 9781668919668.
ea vol: 24p. (Magic, Myth, and Mystery Jr.). 45th Parallel Pr. Jan. 2023. Tr. $30.64.
Gr 2-5 –The publisher claims this “­high-interest, lower-complexity” series “helps” older striving readers. Note the easy, brief, choppy sentences; minimal text per book page (generally five to six sentences); and striking visuals. Able, younger readers will also appreciate the slim, simple, information-packed volumes. Students will know they’re in for a treat when they approach these books because each cover asks the tantalizing question, “Do You Believe?” and reminds kids that, though the title creatures aren’t real, “they live in our stories.” Volumes contain ­details about creatures’ characteristics, ­personalities, appearances, habits, strengths/weaknesses, powers, and how they’re described in other cultures/countries; numerous footnotes contribute additional engaging facts. The series is distinguished by its array of unique, colorful sidebars, which add much to the already fact-filled content. One each appears on a full page per book, though not ­always in this order: 1) “Explained by ­Science”—accurate scientific data; 2) “Did You Know?”—a trivia tidbit; 3) “Have You Heard?”—a nonfiction or historical fact extending the topic; 4) “Stay Safe!”—tips on protecting oneself from the creature; 5) “Origins”—how the creature’s legend began; 6) “Know the Lingo!”—words about/references to the creature from other cultures; 7) “Real World”—the creature in “real life”: the media, a performer, an unusual person, e.g. High-quality full- or half-page color photos, illustrations, paintings, etc., usually captioned, lend strong support. ­Besides a glossary (with pronunciation guides) and an index, the back matter includes the two-part critical-thinking feature “Consider This!” and “Learn More,” a bibliography containing books only. VERDICT Recommended for school and public libraries. This will satisfy older striving readers and younger students who are fans of these always-­popular creatures.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Cooley Peterson, Megan. The Secret Life of Bigfoot. ISBN 9781669003939.
––––. The Secret Life of Mothman. ISBN 9781669003991.
––––. The Secret Life of the Chupacabra. ISBN 9781669004059.
Harper, Benjamin. The Secret Life of the Kraken. ISBN 9781669004110.
––––. The Secret Life of the Loch Ness Monster. ISBN 9781669004172.
––––. The Secret Life of the Yeti. ISBN 9781669004233.
ea vol: 32p. (The Secret Lives of Cryptids). Capstone. Jan. 2023. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 3-5 –Students seeking a lighthearted, fact-filled series on this popular topic will want to check this out. Succinct but not choppy sentences make for fast-paced, smooth reading, and a comfortable number of short sentences (roughly four to eight per page), with plenty of white space and dynamic illustrations, provide an accessible format for striving readers. Facts plus cheeky, sometimes gross, humor should captivate. Titles open with a “Meet __,” a light introductory paragraph that faces a full-page illustration of the cryptid. Next up is a short quiz about the creature, with answers and another illustration. Students learn what’s known about the creatures: historical information, i.e., where/when it was “discovered” and by whom; habits; characteristics; methods of communication; sightings; other, similar creatures in different parts of the world (plus their names in those places, with pictures); and media appearances, if any. Text and humor receive strong support from the artwork. Covers are stylishly cartoonish and chapter headings are large, boldfaced, and bracketed. Interior art features many generally captioned full-page color (and some black-and-white) illustrations, cartoons, cartoon overlays, photos, and other graphics, e.g., paw prints. Additionally, speech balloons frequently appear alongside mouths of people or animals in illustrations, photos, or cartoons to supply ­humorous commentaries. Each title includes at least one map displaying a cryptid’s usual habitat or a location where it’s been sighted (and, sometimes, how often it’s been observed). Numerous helpful informational “Fact” boxes appear frequently in each volume. Back matter includes a glossary (with pronunciation guides); “Read More” (a ­bibliography of books); “Internet Sites”; and an index. VERDICT Recommended for public and school libraries. A note: the ­Chupacabra title contains some scary ­elements.

Gagliardi, Sue. Amelia Earhart. ISBN 9781637384305.
––––. Easter Island. ISBN 9781637384336.
Gish, Ashley. Irish Crown Jewels Theft. ISBN 9781637384343.
––––. The Voynich Manuscript. ISBN 9781637384374.
Kelley, Tera. Roanoke Colony. ISBN 9781637384367.
Lerose, Robert. Cahokia. ISBN 9781637384312.
Ringstad, Arnold. D.B. Cooper. ISBN 9781637384329.
Ziemann, Kimberly. The Mary Celeste. ISBN 9781637384350.
ea vol: 32p. (Unsolved Mysteries). North Star Editions/Apex. Jan. 2023. Tr. $31.35.
Gr 3-5 –Through simple, punchy texts; a limited number of sentences per page; and brief chapters, combined with numerous captioned full- and half-page color and black-white contemporary and period photos, drawings, woodcuts, and spot illustrations, this series aimed at striving readers explores some of history’s most baffling events and phenomena, some centuries old. Students should be able to navigate the volumes confidently. The vocabulary is simple overall, but unfamiliar words are set in green boldface type and defined, unfortunately without pronunciation guidance, in the glossary. Visual as well as informational interests are enhanced by green and black captionlike sidebars as well as by circular black “Fast Fact” sidebars liberally interspersed throughout. Besides the glossary, back matter sections consist of “Comprehension Questions” (6 questions, a combination of discussion prompts and multiple-choice queries), “To Learn More” (a bibliography of books and a link to the publisher’s website), and an index. VERDICT This series’ strongest draws are its visuals. Books with such ­basic, limited content and simple, succinct text necessarily omit information, occasionally rendering a few volumes vague. ­Purchase for school libraries where needed for ­striving readers.

Harder, Megan. Inside the Bermuda Triangle. ISBN 9781728476629.
––––. Inside the London Catacombs. ISBN 9781728476643.
Kerry, Isaac. Inside Area 51. ISBN 9781728476612.
––––. Inside King Tut’s Tomb. ISBN 9781728476636.
––––. Inside the Titanic. ISBN 9781728476650.
Schwartz, Heather E. Inside Alcatraz. ISBN 9781728476605.
ea vol: 32p. (Top Secret (Alternator Books ®)). Lerner. Jan. 2023. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 4-7 –Able readers who enjoy historical mysteries and examining all sides of stories will appreciate this series about unexplainable events. Each slim volume opens with an intriguing introduction before laying out known details of the “top secret” in the subsequent three chapters. Each mystery is well researched, well written, and fast-paced. The writing is compact and presented in an intelligent, conversational tone, with no sense that students are being talked down to. Historical background is provided for each topic, and several possible explanations are proposed. Students will relish the tantalizing notion that there are things still unknown about these top secrets. The series is stylishly designed to suggest a conspiracy is afoot: volumes’ pages are designed to resemble file folders or dossiers with tabs. Tucked inside are photos and notes with illustrated paper clips attached to some of them. Maximizing the idea of secretiveness are the words “Top Secret” looking as if they’re “stamped” in red ink appearing randomly at the beginnings of volumes, along with occasional redactions. Many captioned, color and black-and-white photos and illustrations, both contemporary and archival, lend quality support to the series. Additionally, “Solve It” sidebars, providing information expanding on a volume’s topic, encourage students to do creative critical thinking, problem-solving, and occasional research. Another interesting special feature is a “Declassified” page which adds extra details about the featured mystery. Back matter material includes a timeline, glossary (no pronunciation guides), “Learn More” (a bibliography of books and websites) and an index. VERDICT Solid facts and intriguing content make this a good purchasing choice for school and public libraries.


Upper Middle School to High School

Rippin, Joanne. Mythical Creatures Around the World. ISBN 9781502667373.
––––. Mythical Creatures with Wings. ISBN 9781502667311.
––––. Mythical Monsters. ISBN 9781502667281.
––––. Mythical Sea Creatures. ISBN 9781502667342.
ea vol: 32p. (Mythical Beasts). Cavendish Square. Dec. 2022. Tr. $29.21.
Gr 5-8 –Seven beasts are profiled in each volume of this illuminating series that covers creatures from different cultures and legendary traditions. Some of the creatures included in the four-page accounts might be unknown to students. Exposing them to beasts they haven’t heard of or read about before helps them understand the global universality and importance of myths through the ages. The series explains a lot: the beasts’ origins, backgrounds, homes, cultural histories, how long they’ve been around, ancestors, myths and/or stories they appear in, what they’re known for, their characters, talents, and skills, and more. Each book compares and contrasts beasts from different cultures and explains what people in other centuries believed about them. References to creatures in media—e.g., movies, books, video games—are also made, where applicable. Profiles are brief, fast-paced, well written, and full of information; their conversational, at times tongue-in-cheek tone is clearly focused on enhancing reading enjoyment. There’s no indication which words are included in the glossary, but some are defined in context. It would have helped if more were defined and if pronunciation guidance were given for unfamiliar creature and place names. Students will appreciate the dramatic ­covers and excellent color photos and illustrations that include ancient artworks—e.g., details from pottery, statues, and historical paintings—and art representative of some beasts’ cultures. Striking colors appear in page headings, “Did You Know?” sidebars, and supplemental fact boxes. Each profile includes a “Known Facts” chart that summarizes the beast’s most salient “biographical” data: name, family status, career (i.e., what it’s known for), personality, appearance, and symbols; a trivia tidbit concludes each chart. The back matter also includes “For More Information” (a limited ­bibliography) and an index. ­VERDICT Recommended for school and public collections.


Younger-grade fans of animals and ghosts will appreciate that both are combined in the literally haunting “Animal Ghost Stories” (Mitchell Lane). Ever-popular legendary beings—dragons, fairies, mermaids, unicorns, and more—are very well and knowledgeably presented fine in “Curious About Mythical Creatures” (Amicus), geared to middle graders, and “Magic, Myth, and Mystery Express” (45th Parallel Pr.), the latter aimed at striving readers. So is the cheeky, informative “Secret Lives of Cryptids” (Capstone). “Mythical Beasts” (Cavendish Square) is an enlightening series for middle graders and middle-schoolers, who’ll get acquainted with a few beings from some lesser-known legendary traditions. “Top Secret” (Lerner) is a comprehensive series for serious devotees of historical mysteries in the middle grades and middle school.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing