Take five

10th November 2000 at 00:00

Tales retold

Enchantment: fairy tales, ghost stories and tales of wonder
By Kevin Crossley-Holland Illustrated by
Emma Chichester Clark
Orion Children's Books pound;12.99

There's little comfort in these 20 dark, mysterious tales from all over England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, gathered from the short, hard lives of generations past and some present.

Better-known retellings such as "Mossycoat" or "The Frog Prince", mingle with the
lesser-known but equally powerful, such as "The Cow That Ate The Piper" (the
shocking tale of a piper who steals a dead man's feet for the new shoes on them) and the gravedigger's dream "King of the Cats". Crossley-Holland's earthy, muscular prose is well matched by Chichester Clark's taut, evocative pictures.

Irish Myths: Finn MacCoul and his fearless wife
By Robert Byrd
Macdonald Young Books pound;4.99

The Names Upon the Harp: Irish myths and legend
By Marie Heaney
Illustrated by P J Lynch
Faber and Faber pound;14.99

Byrd's version of the Finn myth is a colourful, graphic, rousing account of the warrior's encounter with Cucullin, the giant of Scotland, and the intervention of Finn's brave wife, Oonagh. A light-hearted treatment of the text with plenty to smile at in the glorious illustrations.

Contrast this with the much more lyrical, heroic, bloody and dramatic retelling of early Irish literature by Heaney, wife of the poet Seamus, accompanied by the dark, brooding watercolours of Lynch.

This collection, which includes a previously unpublished poem, "Summer" by Seamus Heaney, is divided into the Mythological, the Ulster and the Fenian cycles set out by
literary scholarship. The savagery and power of these stories burst out in this admirable collection.

Roman Myths series
By Geraldine McCaughrean
Illustrated by Tony Ross
Orchard Books pound;6.99 each

An excellent series, with wonderful pairings of stories, such as Romulus and Remus and Stolen Wives or City of Dreams and Adventures in the Underworld, made wholly entertaining and accessible by McCaughrean's lively and lucid prose and Ross's quick-fire, expressive and witty line drawings. Newly fluent readers can benefit from this no-nonsense, refreshing approach to the myths that underpin much of Western literature. The latest batch of titles includes Athena and the Olive Tree and Zeus Conquers the Titans.

Parables: stories Jesus Told
By Mary Hoffman
Illustrated by Jackie Morris
Frances Lincoln pound;10.99

Hoffman tackles some of Jesus's most challenging parables, such as the story of the landowner who pays the same wages to the vineyard workers who do a little work at the end of the day and those who have laboured hard all day. The complexity of these stories is given powerful expression in Morris's beautifully composed, emotionally charged illustrations. Hoffman acknowledges that the meaning in some of these tales is "hard to accept", but offers a series of questions as a useful guide into the meat of them for key stage 2 pupils.

We Goddesses
By Doris Orgel
Illustrated by Marilee Heyer
Dorling Kindersley pound;12.99

A feminist perspective on the Greek myths in a series of personal accounts by Athena, goddess of wisdom, Aphrodite, goddess of love and Hera, goddess of marriage. Marilee Heyer's illustrations, derivative of Pre-Raphaelite art, aptly accompany the opulent,nbsp; sensual characteristics of the text. Informative, imaginative and often amusing.

Read Friday magazine in this week's TES for loads more book reviews covering history, business studies, curriculum guides, literacy and numeracy.
And... read 'Oscar Wilde centenary' - events to mark the 100th anniversary of Wilde's death


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