Legends: Beasts and Monsters by Anthony Horowitz

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Legends: Beasts and Monsters by Anthony Horowitz

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A republication of retellings of renowned legends by a reliable author.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0330510158

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When they say there is nothing new under the sun, they might use this book as evidence - but they'd only be half-right. The legends of the sphinx's riddle, and the capture of the gorgon's head, are as old as the Parthenon hill, but they have never been presented as they have here. They were published in a similar fashion in the 1980s, with a younger Anthony Horowitz offering a large compendium of folk stories, legends and tales of classical derring-do. With the attention span of the current under-twelve, however, to be considered, his publishers have allowed a sprucing up, and a reformatting - one book has been turned into six, with a brace each year from now til conclusion.

There’s something a bit Watchdoggy about me when I say I’d probably prefer one book with all the stories in, but there’s a lot of me that says ‘shut up, John, these are fine’. And they are fine. The black and white pen and paint illustrations included to brighten things up are great, bar a dodgy sheep or two. The large font does not mean we’re skimping on content, as the five stories in this launch volume read very nicely. And they do what the author and editor would have wanted, in that they run the whole gamut of legend.

Oedipus (delightfully described as quite a complex character) and the sphinx, and the travails of Perseus, should be well-known, but there’s a transformation tale from the North American plains, a Saint George telling that might well surprise many of the young target audience, and a slower tale from Celtic lands that only lacks a pronunciation guide to make it five stars on its own.

So the tales are commendable, but they’d be nothing without a good telling, and we get that. The humour is good, the clarity is commendable. I think a more traditional book of legends, such as the ones I grew up with, would perhaps strive for a greater variety in the telling, however – a first-person reportage one, or some such.

But the twee and the Reithian aspects of books such as mine also suffered from have been successfully banished, and we’re left with an entertaining and educational book of the old that is new for the young. I must thank the kind people at Macmillan for my review copy.

For a book with only one legend in for this audience, you still might struggle to best Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo. It’s one of our Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.

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Buy Legends: Beasts and Monsters by Anthony Horowitz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Legends: Beasts and Monsters by Anthony Horowitz at Amazon.com.


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