lauredhel: The Lad in a hat, animated, various expressions (ladanimated)
[personal profile] lauredhel posting in [community profile] dreams_library
Can anyone specifically recommend or disrecommend an English-language Encyclopedia of Mythology for a fairly high reading level eight year old? I'd like one that's strong on Egyptian, Greek and Norse but with plenty of others in there, one that is good on the mythical monsters and cool/gross stuff, and one that has fabulous, large, abundant illustrations. And one that's much more comprehensive and detailed than the usual stuff pitched at eight year olds, but that still has engaging text and a touch of storytelling flair, instead of dry encyclopedic droning.

Normally for well illustrated nonfiction I'd just grab whatever Usborne or DK floats to the top, but my searches aren't turning up something likely-looking from those sources. The page counts of their books makes me think they'll fail on the "comprehensive" criterion: they seem to be introductions and overviews, not books to look up minor players and get the whole story. I'm thinking along the lines of 500-1000 pages.

Should include plenty on gods/goddesses/heroes/beasts/cryptozoology in the first instance, perhaps more so than "fairy tales" (I have some separate faerie sources, we have Grimm etc, and Spiderwick does a decent magical-wildlife directory. We have a children's Bible and are working on suitable other volumes for the mythologies generally recognised as religions around here).

Initially it will be used to look up, say, manticores or minotaurs or Apollo or Artemis or Thor or Loki or the Asphodel Meadows or Anubis or Ammit or Ouranus or the cyclopes. Etc. (You can probably guess what we've been reading/watching lately just from that!) Then on from there for a broader view of world mythology. I'd love a book that includes American, Subcontinental and East Asian, and Islander & Australian mythologies, but could live without it and get those in separate volumes if there's a really really good Euro/North African/Middle East volume I should be looking at.

Should I settle on multiple DK volumes, one for each set of mythologies? Larousse has been mentioned - but is it well-illustrated enough and interesting enough for a child in lower primary school? Something else? Am prepared to pay a fair bit for a nicely presented suitable hardback, or multiple quality smaller volumes. Can import from USA or UK.

I'd appreciate any help!

Date: 2010-11-02 02:18 am (UTC)
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
From: [personal profile] melannen
Hmm. I can think of books that are well illustrated and aimed at children, or books that are comprehensive, but not both.

The best thing I can think of offhand is the Time-Life Enchanted World set; it would be on the upper end of readability for an 8-year-old (that is, when I was eight, I would have tackled it gleefully, but then I had also read Bullfinch's by that age) but I think it would certainly work for a bright 8-year-old, especially if he's got parental support. It's lavishly, beautifully, and gloriously illustrated, and it has a mix of stories from classical mythology, less-well-known fairy tales, folklore and urban legend, and other world mythology, and it has a great storytelling flair to it, and is very good at being creepy or gross when necessary (but in an 8-year-old-friendly way.)

Downsides: it's out of print - you'd have to find it used somewhere, and it's hard to get a complete set (the thing was sold by subscription). Also, it's not set up encyclopedia-style; each volume is themed, but it's difficult to just say you want to look up a particular monster and find it quickly. (It's also not great on citing its sources, but I suspect an 8-year-old wouldn't mind that as much as I do. ^_^) And while it does mix in stories from all sorts of cultures, it *is* significantly heavy on European myth and folklore (the volume titles make it seem a lot more fairy-tale focused than it is, though - under the themes they'll bring in all sorts of peripherally-related stories.)

For something set up as a reference book, Larousse's mythology is the best I can come up with that has the level of information I think you want and pretty pictures. It's got lots of color illustrations; more textbook-style than storybook-style, if you know what I mean; and the entries tend to be very...condensed and abridged, but you wouldn't be facing solid walls of text, and the style isn't overly dry or advanced. Whether it would have a given 'minor character' is a toss-up: trying to include all of world mythology in a volume that size means a lot got left out. I never found it spectacularly great (which is why I can't give you more detail; the copy I had in my collection went away) but I think it would be workable for what you want.

For actual minor characters, I would actually suggest Wikipedia. <_<

There's also (and this is another old, out-of-print set, unfortunately) the Library of the World's Myths and Legends. This is another one that I'm collecting a volume at a time used, so I can only vouch for the Egypt, Mesopotomia, and Mesoamerica volumes. It's reasonably well-illustrated, mostly with photos of artifacts, and probably about the same reading level as the other two, and it *does* go into a fair amount of detail about the minor players while still being set up encyclopedia-style for ease of looking things up. It also starts each volume with an overview of the way the mythology worked as a religion and a unified cosmology, and how it varied over time and place, which I really like.

Downside is mostly being quite noticeably out-of-date these days, which probably matters more for things like the Africa volume than the classical mythologies. This also means some names are transliterated in ways you never see anymore, so unless you get creative with spelling it can sometimes be difficult to find stuff. Oh, and it's definitely for grown-ups, it doesn't censor the sex stuff to any extent - there's no lascivious detail, but you'll get ithyphallic illustrations, and the stories that are about fellatio or necrophilia or incestuous threesomes actually do mention those things in a way you may or may not want to have to explain to your eight-year-old. ^_^ (The Time-life set usually manages to skate over it such that you might not have to explain; the Larousse tends to be condensed enough that it doesn't have to be too specific about those bits, but they do show up, of course. Unfortunately I don't know of any that are actually aimed at kids that are anything like reasonably comprehensive.... possibly because so many of the myths actually are about incestuous necrophiliac rape and such.)

...and finally, here's Librarything's tagmash on "mythology encyclopedia". I've only read about fifty of the books on that list, so I can't vouch for them all, but it might give you a few more titles to look at?

(Sorry, that may be tl;dr, I just happen to have been collecting encylopedias about that sort of thing since I was 11.)

Date: 2010-11-02 06:49 pm (UTC)
geeksdoitbetter: "you want to tempt the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing?" (toby rant!)
From: [personal profile] geeksdoitbetter
"the mythologies generally recognised as religions around here"

~snerk~

Date: 2010-11-02 10:53 pm (UTC)
archersangel: (party-time)
From: [personal profile] archersangel
http://edwardrhamilton.com/titles/7/4/0/7408935.html
THE ULTIMATE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MYTHOLOGY

Previously published in two separate volumes as The Encyclopedia of Mythology and The Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology. Comprehensive reference to the extraordinary tales and legends of the ancient world's most fascinating and beguiling mythologies. Offers over 1,000 alphabetical entries describing the central mythical figures of each culture and their importance to their civilizations.

Hardbound.
512 pages
Published by JG Press
Size(inches) 9 x 12
Item # 7408935
ISBN 1572154403
Remainder Your Price $19.95
Edited Date: 2010-11-20 01:53 am (UTC)

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