Myths, Monsters, and Mysteries | Myths & Mysteries Series Nonfiction

Who doesn’t love a great story? Legendary heroes, weird creatures, and unexplained phenomena are the foundations of tales that have always mesmerized listening and reading audiences and generated thrills and chills.


Who doesn’t love a great story? Legendary heroes, weird creatures, and unexplained phenomena are the foundations of tales that have always mesmerized listening and reading audiences and generated thrills and chills. The exploits of mythological heroes have charmed and fascinated readers through the centuries. Bizarre creatures that some people claim to have witnessed but others have not certainly arouse speculation, fear, and wonderment. Mysteries that seem to have no resolutions are especially compelling; they beg questions such as why? and how? and will those conundrums ever be solved? This fall, publishers are launching rousing, gripping, and challenging series—some even with humor—that will ensure readers’ interest, excitement, and learning levels remain high. Stars of the mythological world, odd beings, and strange phenomena for which there no definitive answers all take center stage and are bound to keep students engaged, intrigued—and reading.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Andrews, Elizabeth. Chupacabra: Latin America’s Bloodthirsty Predator. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781098242336.
––––. Kitsune: Japan’s Shapeshifting Tricksters. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781098242343.
––––. Kraken: Gigantic Ocean Terror. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781098242350.
––––. Loch Ness Monster: Scotland’s Sea Serpent. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781098242367.
––––. Phoenix: Ancient Egypt’s Firebird. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781098242374.
––––. Wendigo: First Nation’s Forest Feaster. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781098242381.
ea vol: 32p. (Creatures of Legend). Pop!/DiscoverRoo. Sept. 2022. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 4-6 –The terse writing style will appeal to fans of the weird and bizarre. Facts about these creatures and the cultures that gave rise to them aren’t in depth, but the books convey the creatures’ strangeness and also impart an international flavor, given their global origins. Each book’s conclusion leaves the topic open-ended, with no final answer given. New vocabulary, printed in boldfaced, colored type, is defined in a glossary, though without pronunciation guides. The possibility that some creatures might be real is noted when applicable, and the books are current where dates are cited. Covers are striking, and interior black-and-white and color illustrations, featuring etchings, paintings, and other artworks representative of the cultures from which the creatures sprang, bear informative captions. Maps appear in most titles to highlight the creatures’ origins, locations, and/or sightings; diagrams are included as needed. Special features include a QR code and publisher’s link on the copyright page; other QR codes a­ppear throughout. These access videos, links, and many ­activities and further information. ­Colorful “Did You Know?” and other sidebars ­provide additional facts. “Making ­Connections” is a challenging critical-thinking ­back-matter resource that includes “Text-to-Self,” “­Text-to-Book,” and “Text-to-World” ­questions that invite students to relate each book’s topic to their own experiences, personal reading, and understanding of the world, respectively. VERDICT Overall, pedestrian writing; succinct sentences don’t necessarily make for exciting reading. Still, recommended as an additional purchase for school and public libraries, as the series will appeal to creature fans, particularly striving readers.

Bell, Samantha S. Osiris. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781532198700.
––––. Ra. Bk. 7. ISBN 9781532198717.
Hudak, Heather C. Hathor. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781532198663.
––––. Seth. Bk. 8. ISBN 9781532198724.
Krekelberg, Alyssa. Horus. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781532198670.
––––. Isis. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781532198687.
Morey, Allan. Anubis. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781532198656.
––––. Maat. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781532198694.
ea vol: 32p. (Egyptian Mythology). ABDO/Kids Core. Sept. 2022. Tr. $34.22.
Gr 3-6 –The slim titles in this handsome series pack plenty of solid information into concise, clearly written sentences. The narratives provide facts not only about individual gods, but also about their roles in ancient Egyptian society. Each volume introduces the featured god, then discusses Egyptian mythology generally and also ancient Egyptian history, culture, and civilization; gods’ roles are well established within their societies. New vocabulary is set in colored boldfaced type and defined in a glossary without pronunciation guides; some terms, e.g., “BCE,” aren’t defined. The volumes feature eye-catching design: striking covers; boldly colored pages filled with captioned illustrations and photos, mainly portraying featured gods in drawings, statues, buildings, wall paintings/carvings, tombs, etc.; labeled maps and pictorial insets or charts/diagrams. Sidebars provide information that enhances texts. “Explore Online” and “Further Evidence” sidebars include questions students can answer by ­accessing the accompanying publisher’s websites (though the questions require “yes” or “no” answers only). Note: A dubious feature in each volume is “Primary Source,” which presents a short quote from a (cited) scholarly source, then encourages students, in a follow-up activity entitled “Comparing Texts” or “What’s the Big Idea?” to write about or discuss how the quote does or doesn’t support what students have read about to that point. However, the term “primary source” isn’t defined, nor is its importance to the study of history explained. The quotes are vague, making this an uninventive, impractical, pointless, and potentially frustrating activity, particularly for younger students. VERDICT Recommended for school libraries. Despite the caveat, this is a fine resource for students studying ancient Egyptian and/or world ­mythology and ancient Egyptian history, ­culture, civilization, and art.

Braun, Eric. Can You Catch a Swamp Monster? ISBN 9781666336788.
Hoena, Blake. Can You Find the Jersey Devil? ISBN 9781666336887.
––––. Can You Nab the Mothman? ISBN 9781666336931.
Oxtra, Cristina. Can You Discover an Alien? ISBN 9781666336832.
ea vol: 112p. (You Choose: Monster Hunter). Capstone/Capstone Press. Aug. 2022. Tr. $32.65.
Gr 4-7 –This snappy, interactive series casts readers in the “roles” of cryptozoologists/investigative reporters on “missions” to hunt for intriguing cryptids. Typical of this type of fare, different paths are suggested to readers every few pages so they can select desired routes based on given possibilities. Various choices and story endings are offered, and with so many options, students have lots to read and reread in these slim volumes. While they “explore,” readers, addressed with personal pronouns throughout, also learn facts about the monsters, e.g., their origins, locations, what’s known about them, and where they’ve been seen. Each volume opens with an announcement of readers’ “assignments”; the final chapter in each title no longer involves readers as investigators but sums up facts about the monster (or, in the case of the alien book, facts about extraterrestrial life and space exploration). Texts are lively, written in present tense, and use vernacular prose, keeping readers and their “assignments” immediate. Occasionally, things get gruesome, and “no one knows for sure” is the ultimate conclusion. Catchy, kid-appealing covers and atmospheric illustrations and photos enliven the proceedings; maps are used where needed. “More ___Sightings,” a back-matter feature in each volume, contains examples of other, similar types of the cryptid. VERDICT Recommended for public and school collections. The series’s clever premise offers some action-packed, entertaining reading opportunities for good as well as striving readers.

Gleason, Carrie. Guide to Sea Monsters. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781039663459.
––––. Guide to Vampires. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781039663473.
––––. Guide to Werewolves. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781039663480.
––––. Guide to Zombies. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781039663497.
ea vol: 32p. (Cryptid Guides: Creatures of Folklore). Crabtree/Crabtree Branches. Sept. 2022. Tr. $30.60.
Gr 4-7 –Each “field guide” informs readers it will help them make up their own minds about cryptids and ably does so by separating fact from fiction. Volumes open with a “family tree” of cryptids with the question: “How many of them do you think are real?” A definition of each book’s creatures follows. Guides are chock-full of historical, mythical, and legendary facts about the featured creatures, including anatomies, tips on how/where to find/hunt/stop them; information comparing them to similar types (or “relatives”); and alleged sightings. Facts are presented intelligently, matter-of-factly, but with a slightly tongue-in-cheek tone; beware: some volumes are occasionally grisly. New vocabulary is set in colored, boldfaced type and defined in a glossary with pronunciation guides. Some pluses: the guides don’t talk down to readers but respect their intelligence, perceptiveness, and judgment. The series includes myths and legends from some non-Western/non-Eurocentric cultures, e.g., African, Asian, BIPOC, and Pacific Islander; references to cryptids’ appearances in various media are also noted. Students will appreciate the striking covers and color illustrations that are usually more whimsical than frightening. Other graphics, such as labeled maps and timelines, are included where needed. Some volumes feature a resource, “___ Around the World,” depicting places on world maps where legends about particular cryptids originated/still exist. Heightening visual interest are occasional pages that have to be turned sideways or at 90-degree angles. VERDICT Cryptid fans will savor this very well-written, well-organized, imaginative series, with its appealing everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know flavor. Highly recommended for school and public collections.

Hansen, Grace. Dragons. ISBN 9781098261887.
––––. Elves. ISBN 9781098261894.
––––. Trolls. ISBN 9781098261900.
––––. Unicorns. ISBN 9781098261917.
––––. Werewolves. ISBN 9781098261924.
––––. Wizards. ISBN 9781098261931.
ea vol: 24p. (World of Mythical Beings). ABDO/ABDO Kids. Sept. 2022. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 3-6 –Fans of these perennially popular beings will savor this enlightening series. Brief chapters, large fonts, only a few (two-to-four) sentences per page, and simple, clearly written sentences will be welcome to younger as well as striving readers. Though the narratives are compact, there is enough information about the mythical beings to keep interested readers informed as well as entertained and intrigued. The cultures that gave rise to the beings and the different ways they were perceived in different parts of the world at different times in history are presented here, as are their appearance and the special powers ascribed to them. As needed, words from international languages are used and defined in context, though without pronunciation guides. Series volumes also discuss the beings’ occurrence in modern media and in other cultures’ myths. The volumes are visually striking, featuring dramatic, eye-catching covers and interior illustrations that include historical works, paintings, and manuscripts representative of the cultures from which the legendary beings sprang; each page of text faces a full page of artwork. Maps are used where needed. A publisher’s “Kids Code” and QR code on the Index page in each volume access an informational video, quizzes, and many informational and recreational activities. VERDICT Highly recommended for school and public collections. There’s not enough information here for report writers, but these volumes will definitely stimulate students to delve further into the topics.

Hansen, Grace. History’s Ancient and Medieval Secrets. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781098242268.
––––. History’s Infamous Unsolved Crimes. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781098242275.
––––. History’s Most Baffling Sightings. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781098242282.
––––. History’s Oddest Events. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781098242299.
––––. History’s Secrets of the Air and Sea. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781098242305.
––––. History’s Spookiest Paranormal Events. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781098242312.
ea vol: 32p. (History’s Greatest Mysteries). Pop!/DiscoverRoo. Sept. 2022. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 4-7 –Each volume opens with a two-page introduction to the theme. The copyright page in each title contains the publisher’s website and a QR code that accesses a video, additional information, activities, and a “Making Connections” feature, also included in the back matter. QR codes appear throughout and also access these resources. Sentences are short but not choppy, so the narratives flow well enough to keep the historical and “baffling, odd, and spooky” mysteries interesting and entertaining; some titles are more student appealing than others. Accounts suggest what’s possible. In some volumes, salient details are omitted, however, perhaps for the sake of brevity, but clarity is compromised, as in “Where’s Walter?” in Infamous Unsolved Crimes. Some titles recount very old stories (“Princes in the Tower” in Ancient and Medieval Secrets), or are not inherently fascinating for modern students, e.g., the art-museum theft, also in Infamous Unsolved Crimes. Attractive covers and high-quality, captioned black-and-white and color period-themed and/or historical interior illustrations and photos are appealing. Some photos show locations of places and monuments still in existence. Maps are included as needed. Where applicable, informative colorful, captioned/labeled diagrams or charts are included. Colorful “Did You Know?” and other sidebars provide additional information. The three-part “Making Connections” feature encourages students to use critical thinking to consider these books in relation to their own experiences, books they’ve read, and the “outside world.” VERDICT An additional purchase for school libraries as, overall, the series is uneven and inconsistent in quality and student appeal.

Lukidis, Lydia. Diana vs. Athena. ISBN 9781666343649.
––––. Zeus vs. Ra. ISBN 9781666343823.
Oviedo, Claudia. Hercules vs. Thor. ISBN 9781666343700.
––––. Loki vs. Hermes. ISBN 9781666343762.
ea vol: 32p. (Mythology Matchups). Capstone/Capstone Press. Aug. 2022. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 4-7 –This exciting series will appeal to mythology fans and those who fancy the idea of superheroes duking it out—figuratively. Its clever premise stimulates critical thinking and sparks conversations and debates. Students must read the lively, fact-packed, well-written narratives in each volume and pit the back stories, roles, weapons, powers, personalities, and weaknesses/vulnerabilities of the paired mythological heroes (from ­diverse mythological traditions) against each other in “combat” and then determine the victor. They’ll learn a lot about these super-beings along the way. Commendably, the series demonstrates power and strength aren’t necessarily functions of physical strength only, but also of ethics, character, and mental and emotional might. The books emphasize the gods’ human qualities as well as their otherworldly ones. Hopefully, students will self-reflect on ideas such as: what’s most important: intelligence, talents, physical/mental/emotional/moral strength? Combinations of these? Are some more crucial in certain situations than in others? The narratives’ terse, punchy sentences are written in a conversational tone, making for smooth, tension-filled reading; one gets a sense that the battles are about to begin. Bold graphics include attractive captioned b/w and color illustrations, and a fine back-matter feature, “___ vs. ___ at a Glance,” a side-by-side comparative summary of each combatant’s strengths, weapons, etc., is in itself a great discussion starter, as students judge which personality and other traits are most advantageous overall and in which “battles” certain qualities would be beneficial. Frequent sidebars throughout provide additional information and, where applicable, gods’ media appearances are noted. VERDICT A clever, well-executed means for getting students stoked about mythology. Highly recommended for school and public collections.

Peterson, Megan Cooley. Alien Encounters Exposed! ISBN 9781666357059.
Simons, Lisa M. Bolt. Mind Myths Exposed! ISBN 9781666357103.
––––. UFO Sightings Exposed! ISBN 9781666357158.
––––. Urban Legends Exposed! ISBN 9781666357202.
ea vol: 32p. (The Unexplained: Fact or Fiction?). Capstone/Spark. Aug. 2022. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 3-6 –This four-volume series welcomes reluctant and striving readers with brief chapters and very short, terse sentences. Each title opens with an enticing introduction to the book’s theme, suggesting the imminent “expose.” In most cases, however, the series doesn’t deliver: readers learn little about the incidents, as few details are given. The limited number of sentences per page will appeal to striving readers, but generally there’s little for them to go on to make up their minds about the incidents one way or the other. At the end of the last stories in Alien Encounters and Urban Legends, readers get a chance to think about the “truth”; usually, though, there’s no such opportunity. Stories are mostly unexciting, end inconclusively, and, in most cases, land with a thud. There are no follow-up questions to help spark discussions. Illustrations fare better, as ­attention-grabbing, suspenseful, high-quality color photos and drawings enhance the stories’ ­mysteriousness. “Fact” sidebars add minimally more details or background to some incidents or give “another side” to them. However, very young students may misunderstand or be unable to discern what to make of the additional details because these factoids are also sometimes vague and don’t necessarily “clinch the case” about the incidents. Indeed, the word “Exposed” in each volume’s title is a misnomer at best and an exaggeration at worst because nothing is actually “exposed” in this series. The sparse details don’t allow for truths to shine through and for students to be able to judge those truths based on evidence. VERDICT A weak effort. Recommended as an additional purchase for school libraries only where needed for struggling readers.


Upper Middle School to High School

Nardo, Don. Gods of Creation in World Mythology. ISBN 9781678202644.
––––. Gods of Death in World Mythology. ISBN 9781678202668.
––––. Gods of Love in World Mythology. ISBN 9781678202682.
––––. Gods of Nature in World Mythology. ISBN 9781678202705.
––––. Gods of War in World Mythology. ISBN 9781678202729.
ea vol: 64p. (Mythology Around the World). ReferencePoint. Sept. 2022. Tr. $32.95.
High School –Besides myths from familiar traditions-Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian-this series includes stories from ­non-Eurocentric, nonwhite cultures, e.g., African, Chinese, Hindu, Polynesian, Middle Eastern, and Indigenous American. Greek and/or Roman myths appear in all volumes; Norse and Egyptian stories occur occasionally; stories from a few of the same non-Western cultures appear occasionally. The books are well written/researched/organized, smoothly paced, and executed intelligently, seriously for able readers. Chapters in each volume include several myths on the given topic so readers may compare/contrast stories told by the same culture. A mix of cultures within the series confirms that all peoples told/spread stories about similar concepts, confirming that humans held essentially similar beliefs for millennia. The author makes a compelling case for the influence of myths on other aspects of societies--science, religion, social customs, e. g--and, also, how myths influenced later cultures and how they, in turn, developed from earlier civilizations. Glossaries/pronunciation guides aren’t included--a problem when unknown personal/place names from unfamiliar cultures/languages appear; it would have been helpful for students to learn/respect/appreciate words in international languages. Attractive covers and colorful, labeled interior art representative of various cultures reflect the series’s global character. Sidebars within chapters feature names and roles of various gods; orange boxes include additional myths or details about them. VERDICT A notable, respectful series. Recommended for mature, serious students in school and public libraries.

Middle-grade cryptid fans will get a special kick out of and learn a lot from well-written, well-organized “field-guide” ­series, “Cryptid Guides” (Crabtree). The very colorful “Egyptian ­Mythology” series (ABDO) is a fine, fact-filled ­resource for middle graders. “Mythology Around the World,” (ReferencePoint) aimed at mature, serious older students, includes myths gathered from numerous non-Euro-centric sources in addition to familiar ­Western mythic traditions. “­Mythology Mashups” (Capstone) cleverly invites middle-school students to imagine figurative “bouts” between paired major mythological figures and determine the outcomes. “World of Mythical Beings,” (ABDO) is a charming series for students in younger and middle grades who appreciate perennially popular creatures such as dragons, elves, trolls, ­unicorns, werewolves, and wizards.

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