Myth Atlas: Maps and Monsters, Heroes and Gods from Twelve Mythological Worlds by Thiago de Moraes, publ. by Blueprint Editions (US), 2019 and Alison Green Books, (UK) 2018.
We read a lot of mythology in our house. A lot a lot. To say that this book has been pivotal in my son’s imagination is no exaggeration. He pores over it, eager to share, reads it with us, reads it to his little sister (fights over it with her), traces the pictures, draws from it. The layout pulls us all in – hugely detailed double-page maps showing the way the world was imagined in 12 different cultures. The illustrations are distinctive; the pictures intricate; the characters drawn with verve and humour. The storytelling is fun, walking that difficult line between playful and flippant with care. And the cultures chosen range across the world. We love Greek and Norse and Egyptian mythology, but how exciting to be discovering Yoruba mythology and learning about the orishas and the names of Shango’s three wives (Oya, Oba and Oshun). Having loved ‘Moana’, we can learn more about Maui and add Pele as one of our favourite goddesses. There are maps and stories from the Native American world, the Aztec world, the Yanomami world, Japanese, Hindu and Slavic. Obviously, no book can include everything, but this one is packed with detail and whets the appetite for more. Our son’s preferred dinner table game for months was ‘what gods and goddesses begin with?’ – guess the name from the first letter – any culture. With this book, he’s almost unstoppable.
Mythology has been a route into many other topics. The ancient civilizations themselves, of course, and to history and archaeology. And from there we talk about whose stories get told, and how we can know about the past – the recent past, the ancient past. And we remember that while the Egyptian gods are no longer worshipped, some of these gods still are, the ideas here are real for many people. Myths are not just good stories. So we start to talk about what we believe and what our families believe and how those are not always the same – and how that’s ok.
I first found Myth Atlas in the library in Nantwich, Cheshire when I was visiting family (as we used to do). So thank you, librarians, for stocking your shelves with books that spread our imaginations wide and give us a starting point to begin to talk about so much more.