LibrarianLazyWeb: Books of mythology from current dominant religions?

I’ve been poking around looking for books of the basic Bible stories and of stories including the basics from the other current prevalent world religions, but (a) told in a form suitable and engaging for a primary school kid who loves science and monsters, and (b) told (explicitly or implicitly) as mythology, not as doctrine.

Not those pastel sickly Bible-story books of my youth. Something like the cool and well-illustrated Mythology books we have, but not confining itself to Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Extra points if it has stories/variations from non-dominant Christianities, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca, etc.

Any ideas?



Categories: education, religion

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18 replies

  1. I’d be interested in that type of thing too, if anyone knows of one.
    I’m going to quietly dispose of the book I read at bedtime last night (The Fox and the Crow Aesop’s Fable) because it’s been written so that the smart fox is male and the silly vain crow is female. Not something I want taking root in fertile little minds.

  2. Not those pastel sickly Bible-story books of my youth
    Uncle Arthur’s Bible Stories?

  3. Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions looks really good. It’s out of print, but they have second-hand copies available.
    The story of religion also looks good.
    And there’s a whole list here of good books on skeptism, humanism and evolution (and other sciencey things) for kids – some of them sound really, really good.
    Now, watch my post get eaten by the spamomator, cause it has three links, oh noes.

  4. Starhawk’s Circle Round has some great pagan tales in it adapted for children, as well as heaps of activities to reinforce the concepts of the myths.
    We read our daughter Australian Aboriginal myths from all different books as there doesn’t seem to be anything in one volume. I particularly like Bronwyn Bancroft’s illustrations and modern day legends. Unfortunately all the Dreaming from our local area has disappeared over time but there is still lore from other areas available.

  5. Have a look around for Larry Gonnick’s Cartoon History of the Universe. It’s got good stuff on most of the major religions, including the formative years of Judaism (though as he admits himself, in some passages, he basically lifts all of the good stuff from the Bible and doesn’t really bother with much other research!) As I recall it, Book 2 has Buddhism, some Hindu and Christianity, and Book 3 has Islam.
    Also included in the early parts are some good bits of Greek, Sumerian, and Egyptian mythology, with all their messy interconnections. Also a good deal of material on the big bang, evolution, neanderthals and cro-magnons, etc, so good for the scientifically minded.
    You might want to have a look over yourself before you buy as Gonnick doesn’t spare on the gory details (there’s some noteable biblical stories about massacres) and the more weird twisted stuff (he includes the Oedipus myth, for instance). But definitely a good buy. There’s some sample pages on the website. I still have all my copies of this book, it’s an old favourite now, and I’m currently hanging for No. IV to be finished!

  6. Anything by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso or Julius Lester. Lester’s books are re-imaginings of stories – “A Truly Cool World” is my favorite. Sasso’s books are not all directly related to bible stories, but I love her book about Noah’s wife, who saved all the plants.

  7. When I was at primary school the teacher would read us a kiddie version of the Norse myths every morning – I remember loving them, although I couldn’t comment as to whether they contain gratuitous sexism, etc.
    I don’t have a reference, but they are definitely worthwhile.

  8. I loved Kevin Crossley-Holland’s book of Norse myths when I was a kid (still do). Powerfully and carefully written (he uses words with Germanic origins wherever possible, and he shrewdly re-uses many of the phrases from the skaldic poetic sources in the modern English to good effect.) It also has a helpful glossary and introduction.
    Bullfinch’s mythology is also good but better for older audiences. It is one of those ubiquituous works from Victorian times, and you can probably find a well illustrated version after a little digging around.

  9. I also loved Norse myths as a kid. Odin, and runes, and, well, Odin.

  10. How can you not love a god who sacrifices himself to himself! Upside down and all.

  11. And he gave his eye in exchange for written language! Now that’s a price, and a worthy sacrifice!

  12. I’ll second the Larry Gonick “Cartoon History of the Universe Series”.
    If you are after picture books, I’d recommend some covering the Gilgamesh epic, which includes the not-quite-so-exagerrated (7 days not 40 in the ark) flood story – which makes it a good innoculation against abrahamism. It’s about as old as you can get in Western culture, and is probably the prototype of all western epics.
    From the notes to my ultra short version of Gilgamesh:
    A good primary children’s picture-book three-volume series (a few sentences per page, 30 pp per volume) has been written by Ludmila Zeman: Gilgamesh The King covers the story until Gilgamesh and Enkidu become friends, The Revenge of Ishtar, and The Last Quest of Gilgamesh.
    I’m coming back to this post – I want to know if anything new has come out in the years between my daughter and my grandson.
    There are lots of good tales in Norse mythology too. The fact that Loki helps humans by given them fire, get’s punished by the other gods for it, is probably a core bit of mythology (serpent in the garden, prometheus, etc).
    And by the sound of it, the classic Ray Harryhausen “Jason and the Argonauts” film is probably suitable (besides, as a feminist, you’d probably appreciate noting to your kid that Medea does all the hard work… but I’d avoid the sequel “Medea” for a few years, even the film with Maria Callas!). The kid’s version of “The Golden Fleece” ends “They didn’t live happily ever after, but that’s another story”.

  13. My favourite is The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me (http://www.jeanettewinterson.com/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=521) by Jeanette Winterson – perfect for Christmas and children.
    It tells the story of the Birth of Jesus from the vantage point of the donkey, full of spirit and without the religion.

    And every bed and every under-the-bed, and every chair and cushion and curtain and carpet, and every ledge, nook, shelf, cranny, gap, rack, cupboard and cart, squeezed and popped with arms and legs … My master Joseph was an optimistic man. He knocked at the door. The innkeeper opened it, and the boy who had been sleeping in the letterbox, fell out. ‘No room’ said the Innkeeper,

  14. Cartoon History of the Universe IS SO DAMN AWESOME.
    No help on the Bible-era stories, but when I was small I received “The Woman in the Moon and Other Tales of Forgotten Heroines” – awesome collection of woman-centric folk tales from around the world (as in, actually around the world, not just Eurocentric with a token Asian/North American story to “balance” things out):
    http://www.gale-martin.com/RiordanJames1.html

  15. I recently picked up a new edition of Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales – one of those omnibus editions that take several of the books previously published under her name and roll them into a big hardback edition. It’s handsome and of course Carter’s writing is second to none, with an explicitly feminist focus. (I don’t think she rewrites the fairy tales, but just selects the tales cleverly to suit this feminist focus)

  16. Boychild has Myths and Legends, “retold by Anthony Horowitz” no relation to the unctous David we hope. The stories are retold in a way that’s obviously aimed at bringing them to a younger generation and making them colloquial. I think the retelling adds too much, but have a browse and see what you think.

  17. Actually, augmenting Liz (comment 13), the Christian nativity story is told from Mary’s PoV in the Q’Ran (The Book of Mary/Maryam/Miriam a.k.a Sura 19). She even complains of labor pains! (And no donkey or Joseph in sight!)
    And thanks Cast-Iron-Helen (comment 16) for the tip on the Horowitz – his other books are VERY funny.

  18. Thanks, everyone. I’ve been making notes.
    Thanks also for the “traditional” mythology recommendations – can always do with more of those books, too!

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