Wednesday, September 3, 2014

d'Aulaires' Books (New York Review: Children's Collection)

When it comes to reading mythology, I have three trusted people to which I turn - Edith Hamilton and Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire. The former's book Mythology was a classic I read in high school and the husband and wife's Book of Greek Myths served as a jumping off point when I was younger. Recently, I have been discovering mythology in other cultures. Egyptian mythology has featured heavily in movies like Prince of Egypt, but lately Norse myth is gaining traction thanks to movies like Thor and The Avengers. Today, I am going to review two books that deal with Norse mythology, and possibly a third book by the same authors, if I have time, so let's get started!

D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths is a gorgeous hardcover that is approximately 12" x 9". It was originally named "Norse Gods and Giants" before New York Review Books reissued and renamed it. The book is over 150 pages long and is slammed with illustrations! On the inside of the front cover and back cover is an illustration that shows you the Nine Norse Worlds, with their original Norse names. For example, Hel & Nifl Heim is the Underworld. This illustration is very helpful in understanding Norse mythology. There is also a very useful glossary in the end with very detailed definitions, as well as page references for where the terms appear in the stories.

There are approximately thirty stories in this collection. As to be expected a great deal of them focus on Loki and Thor (two of the more well-known figures in Norse mythology). The first several stories are creation stories, which includes who the first gods were, how the world was created, and how man was created. I found these most fascinating, as I am a sucker for a good origin story. For example, man and woman were originally trees that three gods (Odin, Hoenir, and Lodur) gave life to. Unlike in Biblical accounts where people grew more sinful, in Norse mythology people grew better in every way. In fact, a disguised Odin walked among them teaching them how to behave. The book closes with the tale of "A New World." In this conclusion, there is a new sun and new earth and two people have survived. However, they don't worship the old gods anymore but God Almighty. Truly a fascinating book!

D’Aulaires’ Book of Trolls is a companion book to D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. Both books have the same dimensions (12" x 9"), which I greatly appreciate for vain shelf placement aesthetics. In this book, we see the nighttime side of Norse mythology, for everyone knows that trolls only come out when the sun goes down. There aren't many specific tales about trolls in this book, but it is more a guide to what trolls are, what they look like, customs, etc.

Some of the things I learned in this book is that the more heads a troll had, the harder it was for him to eat because all the heads were hungry and greedy. I also learned that the number of knots a troll could tie in his tail indicated his rank among trolls. Trolls are also very rich, because they own the gold and silver under the mountains. Lastly, trolls turn to stone and shatter in the sun. Most/all of the trolls probably turned to stone, and this is why you don't see them anymore. As an adult, I enjoyed learning and reading about trolls. From a child's perspective, I could see how it might be a little frustrating to have few clear stories and instead be presented with a FAQ on Trolls. It is still engaging and full of great illustrations, so if you buy D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths, you will definitely want to pair this book with it.

D'Aulaires' Book of Animals is an exquisite book that spans approximately 30 pages, but in reality is one long front and back page. The front page is in color and shows a variety of animals ranging from whales to elephants. These color pages show the animals in their natural habitat and contain few words at the bottom describing the location where they live (like North or South) and why they live there. The reverse side is black and white and shows you the same animals, but this time the text at the bottom tells you the different sounds the animals make. I've seen the age range on this book for children ages 2 to 5, but I would say 5 is the minimum age. More rambunctious children might tear or rip this illustrious foldout page. Still a very pretty book!

These books were provided to me for free by New York Review Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here, here, and/or here and click Yes!